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

Boreal Shield Ecozone+

Agricultural landscapes

Agriculture in the Boreal Shield Ecozone+ is limited to a few areas where soil quality and microclimate are suitable. From 1986 to 2006, approximately 193,000 hectares were removed from the agricultural landscapeFootnote 13 leaving just over 1.3 million hectares of agricultural land which made up less than 1% of the ecozone+ (Figure 14). Figure 15 shows total agricultural land area and the amount of land per each cover type for 1986, 1996, and 2006. All Other Land was the dominant cover type but declined from 40 to 30% of total agricultural land area. Unimproved Pasture and Improved Pasture declined (17 to 15% and 9 to 8%, respectively) while Tame Hay increased its share from 20 to 29%. Overall the share of agricultural land comprised of CroplandFootnote 14 expanded by around 15%.

Figure 14. The percentage of agricultural land within the Soil Landscapes of Canada(SLC) polygons of the Boreal Shield Ecozone+, 2006.

map

Long Description for Figure 14

This map shows the percentage of agricultural land within the SLC polygons of the Boreal Shield Ecozone+ 2006. There are just over 1.3 million hectares of agricultural land, which made up less than 1% of the ecozone+.

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Figure 15. Total agricultural land area, the amount of land per cover type (chart), and the relative percentage of each cover type (table) for the Boreal Shield Ecozone+ for 1986, 1996, and 2006.

graph

Long Description for Figure 15

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

Percentage of agricultural land (hectares)
Cover Type198619962006
Oilseeds15,82118,24320,651
Pulses2,1561,7141,708
Soybeans1841,49713,225
Berries1,7469,14312,587
Improved Pasture139,38692,293103,633
All Other Land610,541532,420402,249
Summerfallow30,24612,9706,228
Unimproved Pasture259,705274,554203,724
Cereals133,047139,705140,119
Corn14,35312,11420,388
Tame Hay297,201366,020379,451
Other Crops7,59011,28510,030
Fruit Trees132188309
Vegetables1,4451,7931,963
Winter Cereals1,7921,2875,679

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Potential wildlife use of agricultural land

A total of 349 species (249 birds; 60 mammals; 21 reptiles; 19 amphibians) used agricultural land in the Boreal Shield Ecozone+. All Other Land with its diverse natural and semi-natural land cover was the most important land cover as it provided both breeding and feeding habitat for 85% (298) of species associated with agricultural land. Unimproved Pasture provided both breeding and feeding habitat for 17% (59) of species and at least a single habitat requirement for 32% (112). Only 13% (46) of species could fulfill both breeding and feeding habitat needs entirely on Cropland while 26% (89) could utilize these cover types for a single habitat requirement.

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Wildlife habitat capacity

Wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Shield Ecozone+ declined significantly between 1986 and 2006 from 79.7 ± 13.4 to 63.8 ± 14.4 to rank as moderate (ANOVA, F = 88.6, p = 0.0001) (Figure 16). Figure 17 and Figure 18 show the spatial distribution of habitat capacity values for 1986 and 2006. Over this period, habitat capacity decreased on 71% of farmland, increased on 6%, and was constant on 23% (Figure 19).

Among the ecoregions with higher agriculture production, the Central Laurentians had the largest decline in habitat capacity (78.0 ± 15.4 to 59.4 ± 11.5) followed by the Southern Laurentians (83.4 ± 12.1 to 73.8 ± 14.8) and Lake of the Woods (58.0 ± 13.9 to 51.3 ± 9.8).

Figure 16. The share of agricultural land in each habitat capacity category (bars, left axis) and the average habitat capacity for the Boreal Shield Ecozone+ in 1986, 1996, and 2006 (points and line, right axis).

graph

Long Description for Figure 16

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
Categories
198619962006
<200.000.000.00
20-300.000.000.19
30-402.924.103.18
40-504.018.4018.54
50-6014.1913.7729.58
60-705.3821.2311.70
70-8032.3621.6520.63
80-9028.9323.7813.98
90-1009.606.441.31
>1002.620.620.87

The average habitat capacity for the Ecozone+ was 79.70 in 1986, 76.53 in 1996 and 63.87 in 2006.

Years with different letters differed significantly (ANOVA: F = 88.6, Tukey HSD p<0.05).

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Figure 17. Wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Shield Ecozone+, 1986.

map

Long Description for Figure 17

This map shows wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Shield Ecozone+ in 1986. Agricultural land to the west of the James Bay ranges from high to moderate wildlife habitat capacity, whereas agricultural land to the east of the James bay ranges from very high to high.

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 18. Wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Shield Ecozone+, 2006.

map

Long Description for Figure 18

This map shows wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Shield Ecozone+ in 2006. Agricultural land across the ecozone+ shows moderate to low wildlife habitat capacity, with the exception of patches of high capacity along the southeastern region of the ecozone+.

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 19. Change in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Shield Ecozone+ between 1986 and 2006.

map

Long Description for Figure 19

This map shows change in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Shield Ecozone+ between 1986 and 2006. Over this period, habitat capacity decreased on 71% of farmland, increased on 6%, and was constant on 23%.

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

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Interpretation

Agricultural land in the Boreal Shield Ecozone+ is a small component of the broader landscape making up less than 1% of total land area. Where agricultural land occurs, it is well dispersed among forested areas and has a high All Other Land component associated with it. As such, the impact of agricultural land on wildlife at the ecozone+ scale is low as considerable habitat options are available on and adjacent to agricultural land.

Within the agricultural landscape, declining habitat capacity was linked to a reduction in the share of All Other Land (40 to 30%). As the agricultural footprint shrank in the Boreal Shield, Cropland expanded its share of total agricultural land from 31 to 46%. This was primarily due to a 9% increase in Tame Hay. The combination of these factors reduced wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land from high to moderate.

Among the ecoregions with higher agricultural production, the Lake of the Woods consistently recorded the lowest habitat capacity primarily due to its relatively small and declining share of All Other Land (23 to 17%). In comparison, the share of All Other Land in the Central and Southern Laurentians, although also reporting declines, was higher (37 to 26% and 46 to 39%, respectively) offering greater habitat options for wildlife on agricultural land. The importance of All Other Land was evident as habitat capacity levels tracked availability of this cover type.

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Footnotes

Footnote 13

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 14

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

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