Goal 15: Protect and recover species, conserve Canadian biodiversity
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Why this goal is important
As the second-largest country in the world, Canada is one of the few countries that still has relatively large, healthy natural ecosystems. This Goal's focus on protecting and recovering species and conserving Canadian biodiversity directly supports SDG Global Indicator Framework targets:
- 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services
- 15.2: By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally
- 15.3: By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world
- 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species
- 15.8: By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species
Canada's forests, wetlands, prairies and tundra provide habitat that all organisms, including humans, need to thrive. Many of these ecosystems are under pressure due to human activities and climate change. For example, wetlands cover about 13% of the land area of Canada. They were once abundantly distributed throughout the country. Recently, however, wetlands have become an increasingly scarce resource in settled areas of the country. Throughout Canada, wetlands have been adversely affected by land use practices that have resulted in vegetation destruction, nutrient and toxic loading, sedimentation, and altered flow regimes. In southern Ontario, 68% of the original wetlands have been converted from their natural state to support alternative uses such as agriculture and housing. Only about 25% of the original wetlands of the "pothole" region of southwestern Manitoba remain in existence.
Conserving these natural spaces helps promote biodiversity and maintain the ecosystem services that we rely on for our well-being, such as pollinating crops and vegetation, controlling floods, and filtering air and water. Managing for resilient forests, grasslands, and other ecosystems also helps to mitigate climate change by sequestering and storing carbon. Improved land use can increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Natural spaces also support adaptation to climate changes like extreme heat by providing shade, which can reduce temperatures.
Canada's lands and fresh water are an integral part of Canadians' natural and cultural heritage. In particular, many natural areas hold cultural, spiritual, and socioeconomic significance for Indigenous Peoples and support life-sustaining activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering. Nature provides physical and mental health and other well-being benefits for all Canadians.
Healthy ecosystems also contribute to our economy, including through nature-based tourism. Canada's national parks and national historic sites generate millions of dollars annually and provide thousands of jobs for local communities. Recreational fisheries, many of which are in inland lakes, rivers and streams, also contribute several billion dollars to Canada's economy.
Canada has a strong commitment to sustainable forest management. Forests play a central role—culturally, spiritually and economically—in the lives of many Indigenous communities across Canada. According to the 2016 census, 12,000 Indigenous people work in the forest sector, representing about 6% of the sector's workforce.
How the Government of Canada contributes
Budget 2021 committed to invest $2.3 billion over 5 years for Canada's Enhanced Nature Legacy to continue supporting nature conservation measures across the country, including Indigenous leadership in conservation. Taken together with $1.3 billion for the Nature Legacy Initiative announced in 2018, this represents the largest investment in nature conservation in Canada's history.
Canada plays an active role in international efforts for biodiversity, including protection of wetlands, mitigating the risk of international trade in endangered species, and collaborating for Arctic flora and fauna conservation. In particular, Canada is working with other Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to develop a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that is expected to be adopted in December 2022. Following the adoption of a new Framework, Canada will develop a domestic implementation plan in collaboration with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments, and stakeholders.
15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15)
Canada will welcome the world to Montréal in December 2022 for the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15), which will focus on protecting nature and halting biodiversity loss around the world. This important international conference will be a landmark event for Canada, with thousands of delegates from around the world gathered in Montréal to take action on protecting nature.
The government is committed to creating new national parks, national wildlife areas, freshwater national marine conservation areas, national urban parks, ecological corridors and to co-designate Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas. Collaborating and partnering with provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, local jurisdictions, and the private and non-profit sectors is an essential element of this work.
To help protect and restore migratory birds and promote compliance with the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, the government has amended the Migratory Birds Regulations (MBR), which were first enacted in 1918, through collaboration and consultation with Indigenous peoples, provinces and territories, partners, hunters, and other stakeholders. The amended MBR ensure that Indigenous peoples are accurately represented and that their existing harvesting rights, recognized and affirmed under the Constitution Act, 1982, are reflected. The changes also make it easier for Canadians to understand and comply with the regulations, and improve the government's ability to effectively manage migratory birds in Canada.
Enhancing the implementation of the Species at Risk Act is also a priority for the Government of Canada. The Act ensures legal protection for federally listed species at risk, preventing them from becoming extirpated or extinct, and providing for their recovery.
To protect and recover species at risk, the government is implementing the Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Species at Risk Conservation in Canada in partnership with most provinces and territories, Indigenous Peoples, and other partners. This approach focuses collaborative action on a national set of priority places, species, sectors, and threats across Canada. It is guided by commitments for increased collaboration between partners, evidence-based decision making, and improved monitoring and reporting. It is yielding results through strengthened partnerships, greater returns on investments, and increased co-benefits for biodiversity and ecosystems. Since 2018, federal, provincial and territorial governments have:
- Collectively established 11 federal-provincial-territorial priority places covering nearly 30 million hectares in habitats and ecosystems with high concentrations of species at risk and other biodiversity. Actions implemented in priority places will support the protection and recovery of hundreds of species at risk and other biodiversity
- Identified 6 priority ecologically important species (Barren-ground Caribou; Greater Sage-grouse; Peary Caribou; Wood Bison; Caribou, Boreal population; and Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population) that are distributed over 561 million hectares of Canada. Protecting and recovering priority species and their habitats will address multiple barriers to recovery and provide co-benefits for species throughout their ranges
- Initiated dialogue for 3 priority sectors (agriculture and the forest sector, as well as urban development). Collaborative action in these sectors will address common broad-based threats to multiple species and promote sustainable practices
For aquatic species, a Framework for Aquatic Species at Risk Conservation is under development to guide multi-species, place-based and threat-based approaches to species at risk recovery and protection. Since 2018, as part of the Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk, 11 priority places, 2 priority marine threats, and 3 priority species have been identified across Canada as a focus for targeted multispecies recovery and protection stewardship actions. In these areas, 36 projects have been funded that target 70 populations of aquatic species at risk.
Work is underway on a shared, national 5-year strategic and operational plan to support and implement the goals identified in a Pan-Canadian Approach to Wildlife Health. The government is also working to promote the implementation of the One Health approach to address emerging risks from the human-animal-environment interface.
The 2020 Wild Species: the General Status of Species in Canada report and associated indicator, which is published every five years with progressively enhanced coverage of Canadian species, will be released in late 2022 and will provide the conservation status of more than 50,000 species from 46 taxonomic groups. The 2025 report is anticipated to cover nearly 60,000 species, representing about three-quarters of the species known to occur in Canada.
At the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2021, Canada joined 128 nations in a pledge to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation. The countries signed the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forest and Land Use backed by USD$19.2 billion in public and private funding to help developing nations restore degraded land. In addition, Canada, along with 11 other countries, endorsed the UK‑led Global Forest Finance Pledge that aims to provide collectively USD$12 billion for forest-related climate finance from 2021 to 2025.
Finally, the Government of Canada is taking action to support sustainable forest management and an innovative forest sector, including by supporting provincial and territorial collaboration, promoting innovation in the forest sector, and supporting increased Indigenous participation.
Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park expansion
Through $5.3 million in funding under the Canada Nature Fund, the Mikisew Cree First Nation is working with the province, industry, and land owners to expand the existing Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park in Alberta. This collaboration expands the park by 1,438 square kilometres and significantly adds to the largest connected area of protected boreal forest in the world.
The newly protected area will expand protected habitat for species at risk, including the threatened Ronald Lake wood bison herd and boreal caribou, as well as the endangered whooping crane. The expanded portion of the park also fulfills an objective of the Mikisew Cree First Nation's land use plan to conserve an ecologically and culturally important watershed.
Stakeholder perspective: Habitat and Biodiversity Assessment Tool for agricultural producers
With funding from the Canada Nature Fund, the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (CFGA) developed the Habitat and Biodiversity Assessment Tool (HBAT), building upon existing work in Alberta. The HBAT is a province-specific online tool for agricultural producers to assess habitat and biodiversity on their land. It will provide guidance on which beneficial management practices are most relevant to the habitats on their farms and help them integrate the needs of multiple native species in the management of the land. CFGA has developed and tested the tool for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, with work underway to expand the tool to Ontario, New Brunswick and British Columbia.