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

Boreal Plains Ecozone+

Agricultural landscapes

The agricultural landscapeFootnote15 in the Boreal Plains Ecozone+ expanded from 1986 to 2006 (13.0 to 13.5 million hectares) to comprise around 21% of the ecozone+ (Figure 20). Figure 21 shows the total area for agricultural land and the amount of land per each cover type in 1986, 1996, and 2006. Unimproved Pasture was the dominant land cover but declined from 27 to 24% of total agricultural land over 20 years. The amount of Cereals was generally stable between 1986 and 1996 comprising around 26% of agricultural land then declined to 19% by 2006. Tame Hay (6 to 16%), Improved Pasture (8 to 12%), and Oilseeds (10 to 11%) gained a greater share while Summerfallow (9 to 3%) and All Other Land (14 to 13%) decreased.

Figure 20. The percentage of agricultural land within the Soil Landscapes of Canada(SLC) polygons of the Boreal Plains Ecozone+, 2006.

map

Long Description for Figure 20

This map shows the percentage of agricultural land within the SLC polygons of the Boreal Plains Ecozone+ in 2006. There are 13.5 million hectares, which comprise around 21% of the ecozone+, mostly along its southern half.

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Figure 21. Total agricultural land area, the amount of land per cover type (chart), and the relative percentage of each cover type (table) for the Boreal Plains Ecozone+ for 1986, 1996, and 2006.

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Long Description for Figure 21

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

Percentage of agricultural land (hectares)
Cover Type198619962006
Oilseeds1,247,7311,089,1431,452,132
Pulses69,916170,017162,528
Soybeans017311,343
Berries113487431
Improved Pasture994,5411,339,5641,662,527
All Other Land1,831,0191,663,4951,768,947
Summerfallow1,227,537708,448451,333
Unimproved Pasture3,443,8253,508,9063,193,971
Cereals3,323,4793,473,2512,589,999
Corn4,6005,96117,930
Tame Hay753,7791,797,7152,167,276
Other Crops26,17731,37825,011
Fruit Trees35134
Vegetables8771,1651,023
Winter Cereals72,10825,66641,854

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Approximately 75% of agricultural land in the Boreal Plains was found in the Boreal Transition and Peace Lowlands ecoregions. The share of both Cereals and Unimproved Pasture declined over 20 years (23 to 20% and 29 to 22%, respectively) but they remained the dominant land covers. Summerfallow decreased from 10 to 4% of total agricultural land area while the share of Tame Hay (6 to 15%) and Improved Pasture (9 to 13%) increased. All Other Land declined by less than 1% to make up just under 12% of the agricultural land. Overall, the share of cultivated landFootnote16 was stable throughout this period at around 55%. In the Peace Lowlands (21% of agriculture in the ecozone+), the share of Unimproved Pasture was stable at around 20% while the share of Cereals declined from 28 to 18%. The share of Summerfallow declined (13 to 4%) while Tame Hay (5 to 17%) and Improved Pasture (6 to 11%) gained a greater share of total agricultural land. All Other Land declined from 17 to just over 13%.

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Potential wildlife use of agricultural lands

A total of 313 species (235 birds, 63 mammals, 6 reptiles, 9 amphibians) potentially used agricultural land in the Boreal Plains Ecozone+. All Other Land was the most important land cover type for wildlife as it accommodated both breeding and feeding requirements for 89% (280) of species. Unimproved Pasture was the next most valuable wildlife habitat as it fulfilled both breeding and feeding requirements for 20% (62) of species. When other appropriate land cover provided for breeding habitat, 41% (127) of species were able to use Unimproved Pasture for feeding. Both breeding and feeding requirements for only 4% (11) of species were met entirely on Cropland. However, when other breeding habitat was present, 29% (90) were then able to use Cropland as feeding habitat.

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Wildlife habitat capacity

Average wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land decreased significantly from 1986 (49.8 ± 12.2) to 2006 (47.8 ± 11.7) when it ranked as low (ANOVA: F = 3.95, p = 0.014) (Figure 22). The spatial distribution of habitat capacity values in 1986 and 2006 are shown in Figure 23 and Figure 24. The overall declining trend resulted from significant decreases in habitat capacity on 13% of agricultural land, increases on 9%, and no change on 78% (ANOVA, Tukey HSD p<0.05) (Figure 25). Wildlife habitat capacity was stable in the Boreal Transition Ecoregion (43.4 ± 9.9 to 43.1 ± 9.1) but declined significantly in the Peace Lowlands Ecoregion (51.4 ± 10.5 to 46.3 ± 7.6) (ANOVA, Tukey HSD p<0.05).

Figure 22. The share of agricultural land in each habitat capacity category (bars, left axis) and the average habitat capacity for the Boreal Plains Ecozone+ in 1986, 1996, and 2006 (points and line, right axis).

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Long Description for Figure 22

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
20-305.116.497.12
30-4022.8825.7019.57
40-5030.8134.2134.33
50-6028.8424.4527.24
60-7010.277.8110.33
70-801.681.331.27
80-900.410.000.00
90-1000.000.000.00
>1000.000.000.12

The average habitat capacity for the Boreal Plains Ecozone+ was 49.75 in 1986, 47.90 in 1996 and 47.78 in 2006.

Years with different letters differed significantly (ANOVA: F = 4.25, Tukey HSD p<0.05).

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Figure 23. Wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Plains Ecozone+, 1986.

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Long Description for Figure 23

This map shows wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Plains Ecozone+ in 1986. Most of the agricultural land is in the moderate wildlife habitat capacity category, with an area in the very low range in mid-Saskatchewan. There is an area of low wildlife habitat capacity in northwestern Alberta, and an area of high capacity west of that in British Columbia.

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 24. Wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Plains Ecozone+, 2006.

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Long Description for Figure 24

This map shows wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Plains Ecozone+ in 2006. Most of the agricultural land is in the moderate wildlife habitat capacity category, with an area in the very low range in mid-Saskatchewan. There is an area of very low wildlife habitat capacity in northwestern Alberta.

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

map

Long Description for Figure 25

This map shows change in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Boreal Plains Ecozone+ between 1986 and 2006. The overall declining trend resulted from significant decreases in habitat capacity on 13% of agricultural land, increases on 9%, and no change on 78%.

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

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Interpretation

The low habitat capacity in the Boreal Plains resulted from a relatively small percentage of All Other Land (13%) combined with cultivated land that comprised over 51% of total agricultural land. The primary shifts in land cover that caused wildlife habitat capacity decline were: (1) a reduction in the share of Unimproved Pasture (3%); and (2) the loss of All Other Land (1%). Over this period, decreases in Summerfallow and Cereals while Tame Hay increased signified an improvement to the cultivated portion of agricultural land. Given that few species can fulfill habitat needs on Cropland cover types alone, these beneficial changes have little true value to wildlife without sufficient natural and semi-natural land that is required to support the life history requirements of most species.

The Boreal Transition had the lowest habitat capacity (43.2 ± 9.1) among ecoregions within the Boreal Plains Ecozone+. Over twenty years, the overall habitat capacity in the Boreal Transition Ecoregion declined by less than 1%. In the Peace Lowlands Ecoregion, wildlife habitat capacity declined significantly from 51.5 ± 10.5 to 46.3 ± 7.6 (ANOVA, Tukey HSD p<0.05). This was mainly due to a considerable decline in the share of All Other Land (17 to 13%). The Clear Hills Ecoregion comprised less than 2% of agricultural land in the Boreal Plains. Here, a reduction in the share of All Other Land (28 to 21%) was the primary reason for the significant drop in habitat capacity (61.0 ± 25.2 to 41.1 ± 22.6) (ANOVA, Tukey HSD p<0.05). Despite this decline, habitat capacity in the Clear Hills remained highest among ecoregions in the Boreal Plains Ecozone+.

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Footnotes

Footnote 15

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 16

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

Return to reference16