KEY FINDING 21. Long-term, standardized, spatially complete, and readily accessible monitoring information, complemented by ecosystem research, provides the most useful findings for policy-relevant assessments of status and trends. The lack of this type of information in many areas has hindered development of this assessment.
Biodiversity monitoring is the process of determining status and tracking changes in living organisms and the ecological complexes of which they are a part.1 Biodiversity monitoring is important because it provides a basis for evaluating the integrity of ecosystems, their responses to disturbances, and the success of actions taken to conserve or recover biodiversity. Research addresses questions and tests hypotheses about how these ecosystems function and change and how they interact with stressors. Ecological research provides the context for interpreting these monitoring results. Policy and management needs guide the development of monitoring.
A comprehensive review of the status of Canada’s ecological monitoring and information systems is beyond the scope of this report. This section presents observations and lessons learned about the strengths and weaknesses of information and its availability for assessing status and trends of Canada’s ecosystems.
Good to fair for some trends
Includes climate trends, some animal population trends, and trends that can be measured across large areas using remote sensing (like sea-ice extent and mountain pine beetle effects) or through national databases (like protected areas). Quality of data can vary with region – for example, the majority of stream-flow monitoring stations are in the southern half of the country and near population centres.3 There are excellent, valuable datasets for many local and regional trends. Some examples: geese arrival dates at Delta Marsh, acidity levels in Boreal Shield lakes, contaminants in Great Lakes fish, and status of commercially valuable fish species.
Poor for some trends
There are good data for some specific areas and time periods – but the big picture is often missing. Coverage is not good enough to understand some important trends at the biome level – such as changes in extent of coastal habitats and wetlands. Trends in many species groups and in ecosystem aspects important to biodiversity, such as permafrost, food web structures, and the spread of all but a few invasive species, are inferred from data from a few locations.
Missing for some trends
Includes trends in processes and species groups that are undoubtedly important for the maintenance of healthy ecosystems and that may be undergoing significant change. There is little to no information on trends in processes like decomposition and pollination and on trends for most non-commercial species, non-flowering plant species, invertebrates, and smaller organisms like soil bacteria. The result is that trends for these ecosystem components are not reported in this assessment.