2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada

Goal C. By 2020, Canadians have adequate and relevant information about biodiversity and ecosystem services to support conservation planning and decision-making.

Target 14. By 2020, the science base for biodiversity is enhanced and knowledge of biodiversity is better integrated and more accessible.

Indicators:

  • Completion of a national assessment of biodiversity science required to address policy needs
  • The number of peer-reviewed reports written by 2020 which contribute to addressing key biodiversity science needs
  • Number of biodiversity monitoring programs contributing information to a national or provincial web portal
  • Number of taxonomically classified specimens in Canadian collections that are available for scientific use, and the proportion of those specimens with digital records

Why is this target important for Canada?

Information is key when it comes to understanding biodiversity. In order to improve our understanding of the benefits of ecosystem services and the impacts of biodiversity loss on the functioning of ecosystems and on society, information about biodiversity values, ecosystem processes, vulnerabilities, and the status and trends of Canada's ecosystems and species is needed, in a form that is easily accessible to decision-makers.

Our biodiversity and ecosystem services knowledge base is growing, through efforts to incorporate relevant information from multiple perspectives. Improved capacity to measure and monitor biodiversity is an important step towards increasing our comprehension of the effects human activities and management practices have on ecosystems.

Links to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020.
This target for Canada is linked with the global Aichi Target 19.

Meeting the target

Ongoing research will be vital to furnishing a deeper understanding of biodiversity. Advances in remote sensing, geographic information systems, bioinformatics and the internet offer unprecedented potential for developing and sharing data, setting the stage for a next wave of knowledge innovation. Improving our biodiversity knowledge base will involve harnessing the advantages of innovation, enabling greater potential for collaboration between governments, citizen-science initiatives, Aboriginal groups, universities and private sector organizations. New technologies are transforming the ways knowledge is created and shared and facilitating policy integration within and across sectors and jurisdictions. These technologies also provide the opportunity to develop a knowledge infrastructure with a shared science base, decision support tools, best practices and innovative governance. Biodiversity-sensitive decision-making from local to national levels will require just such an infrastructure to develop and thrive.

Key concepts

Science base for biodiversity/knowledge of biodiversity: Any information that has been processed to support dialogue on biodiversity and ecosystem services management and better decision making.

How will progress be measured?

The first three indicators proposed for this target rely on the cooperation of all jurisdictions to provide data. For the fourth indicator, data on specimens for species that occur in Canada will be gathered on collections housed at universities, important federal collections, provincial museums and the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Top of Page

Target 15. By 2020, Aboriginal traditional knowledge is respected, promoted and, where made available by Aboriginal peoples, regularly, meaningfully and effectively informing biodiversity conservation and management decision-making

Indicators:

  • Number of mechanisms in place for Aboriginal traditional knowledge (ATK) to inform decision-making
  • Case studies assessing effectiveness of established mechanisms for ATK to inform decision-making
  • Case studies illustrating best practices in promoting ATK or having it inform decision-making
  • Trends in linguistic diversity and number of speakers of Aboriginal languages

Why is this target important for Canada?

Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) can make important contributions to conservation planning and decision making. ATK and western science are complementary in the way they benefit biodiversity conservation and management in Canada.

As the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy (CBS) highlights: Many communities, families and individuals have accumulated traditional knowledge that is relevant to the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources. This knowledge may relate to harvesting resources, planting crops, using natural herbs and other material for medicinal purposes, and understanding changes that have occurred to local biological features and landscapes. Traditional knowledge can provide an excellent basis for developing conservation and sustainable use policies and programs.

Links to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020.
This target for Canada is linked with the global Aichi Target 18.

Meeting the target

Meeting this target will require continued efforts to raise awareness and understanding of the value of ATK, the promotion of ATK by Aboriginal peoples within their communities, as well as facilitating consideration of ATK in conservation management and decision-making while supporting the customary use of biological resources. Moreover, maintaining effective relationships between Aboriginal peoples and other parties involved in conservation management decisions is required in order to facilitate a meaningful exchange of knowledge. Pertinent protocols for accessing ATK need to be respected.

A number of mechanisms already exist to promote and consider ATK in biodiversity related work, such as species assessment and recovery (e.g. COSEWIC ATK Subcommittee, NACOSAR), park planning and management, research and capacity-building, and impact assessment. Individual initiatives, such as the Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy, provide examples in which ATK has informed decision-making. Protected areas agencies such as Parks Canada are bringing ATK into management and decision-making through, for example, the New Brunswick First Nations Advisory Committee, which ensures the interests of local Aboriginal communities are considered in the management of national parks and national historic sites, and through interpretation such as The Medicinal Plants Trail project, a collaboration between Fort Folly First Nation and Fundy National Park. Building on these successes, appropriate mechanisms have to be maintained and, where necessary, enhanced, and additional mechanisms will need to be established.

How will progress be measured?

The first indicator proposed for this target would require federal, provincial and territorial governments to identify current mechanisms, in cooperation with Aboriginal organizations. All jurisdictions would need to report on existing governance structures that help ATK inform their biodiversity decision making framework. Case studies assessing effectiveness of established mechanisms would provide a qualitative complement to the first indicator. Case studies illustrating best practices in promoting ATK or having it inform decision-making will demonstrate successes and could serve as examples to others. Linguistic diversity and Aboriginal languages use are essential for the retention and use of ATK. Data on Aboriginal linguistic diversity and number of speakers is available through the Aboriginal Peoples Survey (Statistics Canada) and the Regional Health Surveys undertaken by Aboriginal organizations.

Top of Page

Target 16. By 2020, Canada has a comprehensive inventory of protected spaces that includes private conservation areas.

Indicators:

  • The establishment of a centralized comprehensive inventory
  • The number and/or nature of new elements and/or methods that are incorporated into Canada's protected spaces tracking and reporting system

Why is this target important for Canada?

Canada is a leader in protecting and conserving natural spaces. Across Canada there are thousands of protected areas managed by government agencies at various levels, co-managed protected areas, private protected areas, protected areas managed by non-governmental conservation organizations, and Aboriginal and local community conserved areas. The Canadian Council on Ecological Areas currently tracks and reports on the number and total area of federal, provincial and territorial protected areas, and on the number and extent of some co-managed and private conservation areas through the Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS). Areas reported in CARTS meet the international criteria for protected areas, however, this does not completely reflect the broader diversity of conservation areas that exist across the country and that complement the role of protected areas in conserving nature. Integrating data on all of Canada's protected spaces, including publicly and privately owned protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures on land and at sea is a key to understanding and sharing information on Canada's progress.

Links to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020.
This target for Canada is linked with the global Aichi Targets 11 and 19.

Meeting the target

A number of systems exist for tracking different conservation initiatives, and developing a comprehensive inventory will involve collaboration by all partners. Some provinces, territories, regional associations and communities have their own databases of parks, protected areas and other conservation lands, non-governmental conservation organizations maintain information on the extent of privately protected areas, and information on marine conservation efforts is maintained in still other databases. Working together, these organizations will enhance Canada's ability to report on our collective conservation efforts by contributing to a comprehensive inventory of protected spaces.

Key concepts

Private conservation areas: Privately owned areas that are legally protected in perpetuity for the purposes of conservation (e.g. conservation easements). These sites may or may not meet the IUCN criteria for protected areas.

Protected area: A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

Protected spaces: Areas set aside for the purposes of biodiversity conversations, either through government, private or co-managed efforts (see also Protected area, and, Other effective area-based conservation measures).

Other effective area-based conservation measures (OCM): Spatially explicit measures that are focused on long-term conservation, address threats to biodiversity, and provide a net conservation benefit, but are not formally designated protected areas. Canada is engaging in domestic and international conversations about how OCM will be tracked and reported.

How will progress be measured?

While data on the majority of Canada's protected spaces is currently available through the Conservation Areas Tracking and Reporting System (CARTS), being able to tell the whole story will require the integration of additional data on conservation areas that is not currently reported, either into a single database or into separate but related databases. Efforts to establish a mechanism to report on Canada's protected spaces comprehensively will be ongoing toward the target date. The first indicator for this target will reflect the achievement of this objective. As Canada's ability to measure and report on conservation areas is improved and expanded, the second indicator would be used to track and report on advances, which could include, for example, improved guidelines for applying IUCN protected areas categories, enhanced quality of maps of conservation areas, and increased specificity in the types of conservation areas tracked and reported.

Top of Page

Target 17. By 2020, measures of natural capital related to biodiversity and ecosystem services are developed on a national scale, and progress is made in integrating them into Canada's national statistical system.

Indicators:

  • The number of individual elements of natural capital for which Statistics Canada has published national-scale data tables
  • The number and extent of individual elements of natural capital for which Statistics Canada has published national-scale map layers
  • The number of ecosystem services for which there is national-scale data

Why is this target important for Canada?

Canada's natural resources play a significant role in generating income, exports, and employment. Natural capital – the physical land and ecosystems – is the context within which ecosystem processes and functions occur. Among the outcomes of these processes and functions are ecosystem services that provide essential benefits to humans. These services can be understood as a valuable result of Canada's natural wealth but most of them are rarely accounted for in resource management, which has resulted in significant, measured degradation and loss.Footnote2

Canada currently has no formally established system for measuring aspects of natural capital that extend beyond harvestable or extractable natural resources and some forms of land (which is bought and sold). Canada also does not currently have a system for measuring most ecosystem services. Internationally, this issue is being addressed in the System of Environmental and Economic Accounts (SEEA) Experimental Ecosystem Accounts, a project of the United Nations Statistics Division, as well as through the work of other organizations and research teams. The UN SEEA project attempts to define how countries could measure natural capital and ecosystem services using a range of measures that can be monetary, physical, and condition-based. The motivation for developing ecosystem accounts comes from a wide range of emerging demands for integrating information on the environmental aspects of sustainability and for information on the links between ecosystem functions and human well-being.

Recently, Statistics Canada has been working with partner departments to implement its new Framework for Environmental Statistics. This includes working towards implementing the United Nations recommendations on Environmental and Economic Accounting (UN SEEA Central Framework), and working with the federal policy departments and the international community to develop guidelines and data for ecosystem accounts (UN SEEA EEA). As a result, new data series have been made available recently such as data on land cover, biomass, wetland extent, natural land parcel size, and ecosystem goods and services valuation.

Links to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020.
This target for Canada is linked with the global Aichi Target 1.

Meeting the target

The objective of this target is to ensure the opportunity for the diverse values of biodiversity, its contributions to maintaining ecosystem services, and opportunities derived from its conservation and sustainable use, to be fully reflected in all relevant public and private decision-making frameworks. In a Canadian context, this could include any or all of: environmental statistics and national wealth accounts; indices of well-being; land use and resource management plans and development plans; environmental impact assessments and other similar assessments; and incorporation of biodiversity concepts and tenets in planning and monitoring regimes.

In 2013 Statistics Canada adopted a natural capital framework for collecting environmental statistics which will support this target. Statistics Canada currently measures selected stocks and flows related to natural capital in physical terms and, where feasible and appropriate, in monetary terms. They maintain a set of extensive, geo-referenced, national-scale databases on land cover and landuse, fresh water resources, marine resources, timber, and agriculture with which it is possible to measure and produce map layers of individual elements of Canada's natural capital. This work is ongoing and is already being published in sources such as their Human Activity and the Environment and Envirostats reports. As a result, Canada has already made progress on this target for all three indicators. Additional early progress on ecosystem services data will focus on fresh water, building on existing national data on the renewal of fresh water.

Key concepts

Natural Capital: Natural Capital is a term that was developed to help illustrate how the physical natural environment, including ecosystem functions and processes, is a valuable asset to human society and should be reflected in decision processes along with other assets. Natural capital produces what are referred to as “ecosystem services” which have benefits for humans. These benefits include essential life support and significant quality-of-life services.

Ecosystem Services: The natural processes of healthy functioning ecosystems (see Natural Capital) result in the provision of many essential benefits that humans depend upon, including basic life support and quality-of-life. These functions are said to “provide services” to humans because of the benefits that humans derive from them. Ecosystem services include the materials that ecosystems provide (“provisioning services” e.g. food, fuel, fibre, medicine); the ways that ecosystems regulate environmental conditions (“regulating services” e.g. clean the air and water, prevent soil erosion, reduce the spread of disease, mitigate impacts of climate); and their contributions to cultural life (“cultural services” e.g. education, recreation, inspiration, physical and mental health including cognitive development). The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment further defines “supporting services” as resulting from ecosystem processes and functions that underpin the other three categories. Supporting services include nutrient cycling, soil formation, and primary production.

How will progress be measured?

Information related to these indicators is primarily reported through Statistics Canada’s Human Activity and the Environment and Envirostats reports. Three initial indicators of progress towards achieving this target would be:

  1. The number of individual elements of natural capital for which Statistics Canada has published national-scale data tables.
  2. The extent/number of individual elements of natural capital for which Statistics Canada has published national-scale map layers.
  3. The number of ecosystem services for which there is national-scale data.

As work develops, Statistics Canada would, in collaboration with other federal, provincial and territorial government departments, assess the need for adapting these indicators to the improving state of knowledge and information being collected to support them.  Departments will begin by establishing a checklist of possible elements of natural capital to be included in the data tables and map layers in Indicators 1 and 2.