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Technical Thematic Report No. 14. - Trends in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in Canada, 1986-2006

Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+

Agricultural landscapes

The agricultural landscapeFootnote8 comprised close to 10% of the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ in 2006 and was characterized by generally small scale farming that included, beef, hog, and poultry production, dairy operations, and the growing of vegetables, fruits, and berries. With the exception of a few areas of higher production located in the Prince Edward Island, Annapolis Minas Lowlands, Saint John River Valley, and the Appalachians ecoregions, agriculture made up a relatively small component of the broader landscape (Figure 2) and consisted of a diversity of cover types that included a considerable amount of natural and semi-natural land.

Figure 2. The percentage of agricultural land within the Soil Landscapes of Canada(SLC) polygons of the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+, 2006.

map

Long Description for Figure 2

This map shows the percentage of agricultural land within the SLC polygons of the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ in 2006. With the exception of a few areas of higher production located in the Prince Edward Island, Annapolis Minas Lowlands, Saint John River Valley, and the Appalachians ecoregions, agriculture made up a relatively small component of the broader landscape.

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From 1986 to 2006, the total agricultural landscape shrank by about 6% (2.20 to 2.08 million hectares). Figure 3 shows the total agricultural area and the amount of land per cover type in 1986, 1996, and 2006. All Other Land was the dominant land cover type in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ making up close to half of the total agricultural landscape in all 3 years. Over twenty years, the share of All Other Land declined from approximately 49 to 47% of the agricultural landscape. Tame Hay was the second most abundant cover type expanding its share from 21 to 26%. Both Improved Pasture (9 to 5%) and Unimproved Pasture (9 to 6%) declined. The share of Other Crops expanded from 2 to 3% mainly due to increased potato production in Prince Edward Island and the Saint John River Valley.

Figure 3. Total agricultural land area, the amount of land per cover type (chart), and the relative percentage of each cover type (table) for the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ for 1986, 1996, and 2006.

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Long Description for Figure 3

This graphic presents a stacked bar graph showing the following information:

Percentage of agricultural land (hectares)
Cover Type198619962006
Oilseeds1037192,265
Pulses154185161
Soybeans2,2554,44714,017
Berries11,78423,64120,865
Improved Pasture196,264130,244108,401
All Other Land1,072,0791,063,783979,019
Summerfallow18,5433,2942,976
Unimproved Pasture194,269204,362127,699
Cereals162,100171,670167,272
Corn17,95420,37243,646
Tame Hay456,701489,075533,195
Other Crops51,57369,88667,282
Fruit Trees6,1654,9264,158
Vegetables8,7408,5035,547
Winter Cereals6,2926,1407,646

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Potential wildlife use of agricultural land

A total of 292 species (215 birds; 52 mammals; 9 reptiles; 16 amphibians) potentially used agricultural land in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+. The considerable natural and semi-natural land component of the agricultural landscape supported many species and was the primary reason for the generally high habitat capacity within the ecozone+. All Other Land was clearly the most important land cover for wildlife as 88% (257) of species associated with agricultural land could use it to fulfill all the breeding and feeding habitat requirements. In sharp contrast, only 17% (50) of species can fulfill both breeding and feeding requirements on cultivated land.Footnote9 However, when natural land was present, 27% (79) of species are able to use cultivated land for at least a single habitat requirement (either breeding orfeeding).

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Wildlife habitat capacity

In 2006, average wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ was rated as high (88.7 ± 18.7) despite a significant decline since 1986 (93.2 ± 16.1) (ANOVA, F = 14.2, Tukey HSD p<0.05) (Figure 4). The spatial distribution of habitat capacity values for 1986 and 2006 are shown in Figure 5 and Figure 6. Over 20 years, habitat capacity decreased on 43% of agricultural land in this ecozone+, increased on 28%, and was constant on 29% (Figure 7).

Declining habitat capacity trends were associated with a number of ecoregions reporting more intensive agricultural activity. In the Prince Edward Island Ecoregion, habitat capacity fell from 57.6 ± 10.9 (moderate) in 1986 to 48.3 ± 7.9 (low) in 2006 to rank as the lowest in the ecozone+. Other ecoregions that had significant habitat capacity decline were the Saint John River Valley (85.9 ± 13.9 to 73.9 ± 22.0) and Appalachians (84.4 ± 12.7 to 77.0 ± 17.2) (ANOVA, Tukey HSD p<0.05). Among ecoregions with  more intensive agriculture production, only the Annapolis Minas Lowlands had constant habitat capacity (85.5 ± 14.0 to 85.6 ± 13.7).

Figure 4. The share of agricultural land in each habitat capacity category (bars, left axis) and the average habitat capacity for the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ in 1986, 1996, and 2006 (points and line, right axis).

graph

Long Description for Figure 4

This stacked percentage bar graph shows the following information:

Habitat capacity Categories

  • Very high 90->100
  • High 70-90
  • Moderate 50-70
  • Low 30-50
  • Very low <20-30
Share of agricultural land per habitat capacity category (percentage)
Habitat capacity
Category
198619962006
<200.000.000.00
20-300.000.000.00
30-400.022.402.98
40-503.904.114.78
50-606.219.3510.21
60-707.8310.089.50
70-8013.5311.5314.43
80-9033.9123.3528.88
90-10019.3722.7816.59
>10015.2216.4112.63

The average habitat capacity for the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+  was 94.17 in 1986, 93.17 in 1996 and 88.75 in 2006.

Years with different letters differed significantly (ANOVA: F = 14.2, Tukey HSD p<0.05).

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Figure 5. Wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+, 1986.

map

Long Description for Figure 5

This map shows wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ in 1986. The Appalachian region is generally in the high category, with some patches of moderate and very high habitat capacity, as is the St. John River Valley region. Southern New Brunswick and Annapolis Minas Lowlands regions are both mainly categorized by very high habitat capacity. Prince Edward Island shows mostly moderate with some areas in the low habitat capacity category.

HC means average Habitat Capacity for the ecoregion. All SLC polygons with >5% agricultural land were included in the analysis.

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Figure 6. Wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+, 2006.

map

Long Description for Figure 6

This map shows wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ in 2006. The Appalachian region is characterized by a mix of very high to moderate habitat capacity throughout. The St. John’s River Valley region ranges from low to high. Southern New Brunswick and the Annapolis Minas Lowlands region have predominantly very high habitat capacity, with the exception of a patch of high to moderate in the centre of the lowlands region. Prince Edward Island is largely in the low category with some patches of moderate habitat capacity.

HC means average Habitat Capacity for the ecoregion. All SLC polygons with >5% agricultural land were included in the analysis.

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Figure 7. Change in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ between 1986 and 2006.

map

Long Description for Figure 7

This map shows the change in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ between 1986 and 2006. Over 20 years, habitat capacity decreased on 43% of agricultural land in this ecozone+, increased on 28%, and was constant on 29%.

ANOVA, Tukey HSD p<0.05. All SLC polygons with >5% agricultural land were included in the analysis.

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Interpretation

The relatively light agricultural footprint along with the presence of abundant, high value habitat on agricultural land presented considerable wildlife habitat options, both on and adjacent to, agricultural land in much of the ecozone+. As such, the influence of agriculture on habitat is much less here than in the major Canadian agricultural ecozones+. Still, agriculture’s occupation of the Atlantic Maritime’s most productive sites, especially river valleys, means that wildlife habitat availability is affected in these areas. Although the total area of agricultural land shrank by about 6%, the share of CroplandFootnote10 expanded from 33 to 42% and All Other Land was reduced from 49 to 47%.

The significant decline in habitat capacity between 1996 and 2006 resulted from a general expansion of the comparatively low habitat value Cropland component of the agricultural landscape (33 to 42%). As a result, there was a shift in the share of agricultural land with comparatively higher wildlife value land covers (All Other Land: 49 to 47%, Unimproved Pasture: 9 to 6%, Improved Pasture: 9 to 5%) to those with lesser values (Tame Hay: 21 to 26%, Other Crops (potatoes): 2 to 3%, Corn: 1 to 2%). Despite this decline, average wildlife habitat capacity in the Atlantic Maritime remained high.

The ecoregions with higher agricultural production, with the exception of Annapolis Minas Lowlands, all reported declines in habitat capacity. Habitat capacity decline in the Appalachians was primarily due to the loss of Unimproved Pasture (10 to 6%) and Improved Pasture (10 to 5%) as the share of Cropland increased from 32 to 41%. In the Saint John River Valley and Prince Edward Island ecoregions, expanding potato production (14 to 19% and 10 to 16% respectively) and associated rotational crops, along with concurrent losses of All Other Land (46 to 41% and 28 to 22%, respectively) were the main drivers of wildlife habitat capacity decline. In both of these ecoregions the share of Cropland expanded (Saint John River Valley: 41 to 51%; Prince Edward Island: 56 to 68%). With the exception of Prince Edward Island, wildlife habitat capacity in ecoregions with higher agricultural production still ranked high as natural and semi-natural continued to make up approximately half of total land cover. In Prince Edward Island, All Other Land made up a considerably smaller proportion of the agricultural landscape, declining from 28 to 22%. The net changes in land cover in the Prince Edward Island Ecoregion reduced habitat capacity from moderate (57.6 ± 10.9) in 1986 to low (48.3 ± 7.9) in 2006.

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Footnotes

Footnote 8

The agricultural landscape (or agricultural land), as discussed throughout this report, includes the “All Other Land” category from the Census of Agriculture, which is made up of areas such as wetlands, riparian zones, shelterbelts, woodlands, idle land/old fields, and anthropogenic areas (farm buildings, green houses, and lanes).

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Footnote 9

Cultivated land includes Summerfallow and annual crops (Oilseeds, Pulses, Soybeans, Cereals, Corn, Tame Hay, Other Crops, Vegetables, and Winter Cereals).

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Footnote 10

Cropland includes all agricultural land except for All Other Land, Unimproved Pasture, Improved Pasture, and Summerfallow.

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