Protected Areas

Distribution and size of protected areas

Canada’s protected areas do not meet the Convention on Biological Diversity’s target to protect 10% of each of the world’s ecological regions. Although some terrestrial ecozones+ have greater than 10% protected, others, such as the Prairies and Mixedwood Plains, have a low percent protected, even though they have some of the highest biodiversity values in the country. No marine ecozones+ have 10% protected. The use of conservation corridors to enhance the biodiversity value of current protected areas in a fragmented landscape is an important and more recent conservation tool.

Map: percent area protected by ecozone+. Click for graphic descriptor (new window).

* 7% of the Taiga Shield Ecozone+ (eastern and western portions) is protected.
Source: Environment Canada, 20092

Size of terrestrial protected areas

Number and area of protected areas by size category
Graph: size of terrestrial protected areas. Click for graphic descriptor (new window).
Source: Environment Canada, 20092

Large protected areas are generally believed to have the greatest conservation value for the widest range of biodiversity. Less than 1% of Canada’s protected areas are larger than 5,000 km2, but these large areas comprise 59% of the total area protected. The 3% of protected areas larger than 1,000 km2 comprise 82% of the total area protected. In some places, adjacent protected areas create large protected area complexes. One of several examples is the Tatshenshini-Alsek/Kluane/Glacier Bay/Wrangell-St. Elias complex, which exceeds 98,000 km2 and crosses B.C., Yukon, and Alaska.

Small protected areas have a role in protecting rare species or species requiring specialized habitat. They can also serve as links between larger reserves. Most (72%) of the protected areas in Canada are less than 10 km2 in size. Altogether these small protected areas contribute less than 1% to the total area protected.


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