Learn about cumulative effects

What are cumulative effects?

The definitions of cumulative effects can vary across jurisdictions. For example:

  • The Canadian Council of Ministers on the Environment developed the Canada-wide definition in 2014 as cumulative effects are defined as the changes in the environment caused by multiple interactions among human activities and natural processes, which accumulate across time and space.
  • The Province of British Columbia defines cumulative effects as changes to environmental, social and economic values caused by the combined effect of past, present and potential future human activities and natural processes.

Human activities

Human activities are actions that we take, such as transportation, construction, and industrial processes that can influence our environment.

Natural processes

Natural processes are occurrences in the environment, such as wildfires or extreme weather, that can leave a footprint and have an impact on the ecosystem.

The cumulative effects of human activity, in combination with natural processes, have long been recognized as some of the most challenging environmental issues to understand and manage. See the Cumulative Effects Assessment, Management and Monitoring page to learn more.

Explore the following topics to discover the data and information that is relevant to cumulative effects and development activities in Canada: