Did You Know?

Over 70,000 species of plants and animals have been identified in Canada, and as of 2022, close to 600 species are listed under the Species at Risk Act.

Canada covers over 15 million square kilometres of land and water, containing approximately 24% of the planet’s wetlands, 20% of its freshwater and 8% of its forests.

Spanning 270 million hectares, Canada’s Boreal Forest is an ecosystem critical to biodiversity. It is one of the largest intact forest and wetland ecosystems remaining on earth. It is a major source of North America’s freshwater and contains over 140,000 plants, animals, and other species. This includes some of the planet’s largest populations of wolves, grizzly bears, woodland caribou, fish and birds. The forest’s wetlands provide filtration of water to remove impurities, and moderate water levels during floods and droughts. The trees within the forest provide erosion control and contribute to soil formation. The forest also assists in regulating climate by storing carbon in its trees, soil, sediment, and peat deposits.

Biodiversity is a term that refers to the variety of genetic material and species in the natural world. This includes all forms of life, for example fish, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, plants, fungi and even bacteria.

Biodiversity provides natural benefits that are essential to human life. These naturally occurring systems, also known as ecosystem services, offer fundamental human needs including clean water, fresh air, and fertile soil for our food crops. Humans also rely on thousands of species for survival as they provide us with food, medicine, and building materials.

Effects on biodiversity do not exist or act in isolation. Cumulative effects, or the combined effects of multiple factors, can intensify the overall effect on biodiversity in a region which could negatively impact vital ecosystem services.

Effects on Biodiversity

There are many factors that can negatively affect biodiversity, including:

  • climate change: caused by the increase of greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere; results include more severe storm seasons, rising sea levels and glacial retreats.
  • habitat loss and degradation: caused by natural events like forest fires or human activities such as deforestation; which could result in isolated, fragmented habitats instead of larger continuous areas.
  • pollution: caused by emissions to water, air or land; which can result in habitats that are less suitable for supporting species.
  • over harvesting: caused by taking more resources (e.g. fish, trees) from an ecosystem than it can replace, directly threatening the viability of species’ populations.
  • invasive species: caused by the introduction of a new organism to an ecosystem; which could result in that organism outcompeting the native species for resources and taking over habitats.

Species that are at risk of extinction in Canada can be federally listed for protection under the Species at Risk Act – a piece of legislation that Canada uses to protect biodiversity. This act is one of federal, provincial, territorial and international laws that share the goal of protecting wildlife (which includes animals and plants). Rich biodiversity is essential to healthy and resilient ecosystems and the people and cultures that depend upon them.

Biodiversity in Canada: Conserved Areas and Priority Places

The map below shows examples of the data available through the Open Science and Data Platform.

The “Canada's Conserved Areas” dataset provides the amount and proportion of Canada's terrestrial (land and freshwater) and marine area that is conserved, represented on the map by the areas in green and blue. Conserved areas include protected areas (national/provincial/territorial parks, Indigenous protected areas, national wildlife areas, migratory bird sanctuaries and marine protected areas) and other effective area-based conservation measures.

The “Priority Places for Species at Risk Projects” dataset identifies priority places, represented on the map with various coloured dots. A priority place is an area of high biodiversity value that is seen as a distinct place with a common ecological theme by the people who live and work there. As part of the Pan-Canadian approach to transforming species at risk conservation in Canada, a total of 11 priority places were affirmed by federal, provincial and territorial governments in December 2018. The places selected have significant biodiversity, concentrations of species at risk, and opportunities to advance conservation efforts. In each priority place, the federal and provincial or territorial governments are working with Indigenous Peoples, partners and stakeholders to develop conservation action plans. More priority places will be added as they are identified.

This map is for illustrative purposes. The markers represent the approximate locations based on available data. The Government of Canada shall not be held liable for any third party’s interpretation of the Information. The Government of Canada reserves the right to change or revise the Information at any time.

Access Biodiversity Content

The Open Science and Data Platform provides information about biodiversity, along with other topics, providing access to a broad range of data and science to understand the interconnected nature of cumulative effects. Click the button below to explore biodiversity content.

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Open Science and Biodiversity

Work in the area of cumulative effects benefits from information sharing and collaboration between multiple interested parties. Below are several examples of data made available by environmental non-government organizations.

  • The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) developed the Wildtrax Platform which provides open data from a variety of wildlife monitoring programs, particularly for birds.
  • NatureCounts is one of the world’s largest biodiversity data repositories and provides over 100 million data records on birds in Canada, with a variety of decision support tools providing detailed information on distribution and abundance, and how they are changing over time for a wide range of species.
  • NatureServe provides distribution data on rare and endangered species and ecosystems in the Americas for over 100,000 species and ecosystems.