Cumulative Effects Assessment and Management

In a world of increasing development pressures and changing natural processes, it is important to be able to assess and manage cumulative effects for the environment, socio-economic conditions and human health.

The Canadian Council of Ministers for the Environment defines cumulative effects assessment as “a systematic process of identifying, analyzing and evaluating cumulative effects.” Through an assessment process, the stressors that, together, are causing cumulative effects can be identified and their relative importance assessed. Stressors can be natural events such as forest fires or floods, human actions such as land clearing or pollutants and long-term effects such as climate change.

Based on the understanding from the assessment, cumulative effects can then be managed. Management is defined as “the identification and implementation of measures to control, minimize or prevent the adverse consequences of cumulative effects.” On-going monitoring can be an important part of assessing and managing cumulative effects.

The Open Science and Data Platform provides access to government data and scientific publications to support the assessment and management of cumulative effects.

Examples of data include:

  • Water quality and ecosystem health data from the Great Lakes Nearshore Waters Assessment, which includes data from various government and non-government agencies and organizations on water quality and ecosystem heath in order to identify areas of high quality and areas under stress.
  • Monitoring data under the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for the Oil Sands, such as the data from the Surface Water Quality Program which identified sources of pollutants, how much pollutants came from different sources, how the pollutants moved through the watershed and the final destination of those pollutants.

Examples of scientific publications include:

Government of Canada interim messaging on cumulative effects

The Government of Canada recognizes that cumulative effects is an important issue that requires collaboration and partnerships. The federal government, provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, stakeholders, industry and the public all have information and perspectives to contribute towards understanding, considering and managing cumulative effects. The Government of Canada further recognizes the important role of cumulative effects identification and management in supporting the continued meaningful exercise of Aboriginal and treaty rights.

To learn more, read the Government of Canada’s interim messaging on cumulative effects (2022).