The Value of Nature to Canadians Study

What is the Value of Nature to Canadians Study?

Value of Nature to Canadians Study is an umbrella initiative launched in 2009 through the joint work of Canada's Federal-Provincial-Territorial governments working group on biodiversity. The study's purpose is to identify the social, cultural, and economic values of biodiversity and ecosystem services to Canada, in support of government policy and decision making, and public awareness initiatives.

Why is the Value of Nature to Canadians Study being prepared?

Canada's Biodiversity Outcomes Framework, approved by a council of Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Ministers in 2006, provides a vision and mission for sustaining Canada's natural assets and enriching the lives of Canadians. It identifies desired outcomes to be achieved through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, including their "benefits for people":

  • Clean air, water and soil and provision of ecological services essential for human well-being
  • Sustainable yield of food and fibre, and cultural, aesthetic, spiritual and recreational values
  • New food varieties, pharmaceuticals, bioenergy, increased production, and resistance to pests and disease
  • Healthy, prosperous communities, sustainable livelihoods, traditional lifestyles

Major international initiatives such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity provide comprehensive evidence that nature is the foundation for human well-being and healthy economies. Understanding and communicating the specific ways that nature is valuable to Canadians is the task of the Value of Nature to Canadians Study, through completion of case studies, development and testing of analysis methods, collection of primary data on the importance of nature, and preparation of guidance for environmental managers.

Who is involved?

Photo of a Monarch butterfly

Photo: © Environment Canada.

The Value of Nature to Canadians Study is directed by a Federal-Provincial-Territorial Assistant Deputy Ministers biodiversity steering group. A task group with representatives from each province and territory and several federal government departments implements the program of work. Environment Canada leads the initiative. Inquiries about the initiative can be sent to vncs@ec.gc.ca.

What are the components of the Value of Nature to Canadians Study?

The study is designed as a set of modules to be completed in phases which began in 2009. Phase 1 focused on scoping new information needs and the most efficient methods to satisfy them. It included a gap analysis of existing government research, cross-jurisdictional needs assessment, and a literature review. The literature review's executive summary is available on the Valuing Nature Documents page, and an electronic copy of the full review can be requested by emailing vncs@ec.gc.ca.

Phase 2 included hosting the Nature Matters! national youth essay (video and written) contest in celebration of the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity, with the theme of "why nature matters to me". In addition, three case studies on different aspects of ecosystem services were completed: an economic analysis of the unaccounted-for benefits of ecosystems to some of the natural resources sectors, an assessment of tall-grass prairie for carbon sequestration, and an assessment of the contribution of marine ecosystems to a coastal economy. Abstracts for each of are available on the Valuing Nature Documents page and electronic copies of the full reports can be requested by emailing vncs@ec.gc.ca. A secondary review of existing Canadian public opinion research about nature for the period 1999 to 2009 was also completed.

The 2012 Canadian Nature Survey was the highlight of Phase 3. Details and a report on the results of the survey can be found on the survey page. The VNCS also partnered with Statistics Canada during Phase 3 to include a set of questions about Canadians' nature activities at home in the 2011 Households and the Environment Survey. Results of the "Nearby Nature" module of questions will be made available as a separate document through this website in Summer 2014.

In Phase 4 the Value of Nature to Canadians Study task force is developing a guidance document to help environmental managers understand and assess the ecological, sociocultural, and economic values of ecosystem services using an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to support policy and decision making.