Skip booklet index and go to page content

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

Montane Cordillera Ecozone+

Agricultural landscapes

The agricultural landscapeFootnote20 expanded from approximately 1.0 million hectares in 1986 to 1.4 million hectares in 2006 to comprise just over 3% of the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+ (Figure 32). Figure 33 shows the total agricultural land area and the amount of land per cover type for 1986, 1996, and 2006. The share of the dominant cover type, Unimproved Pasture, increased from 56 to 64% of total agricultural land. Tame Hay expanded from 9 to 13%. All Other land experienced the largest decline among cover types as its share fell from 21 to 11% over this 20 year period.

Figure 32. The percentage of agricultural land within the Soil Landscapes of Canada(SLC) polygons of the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+, 2006.

map

Long Description for Figure 32

This map shows the percentage of agricultural land within the SLC polygons of the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+ in 2006. There are 1.4 million hectares of agricultural land, comprising just over 3% of the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+.

Top of Page

Figure 33. Total agricultural land area, the amount of land per cover type (chart), and the relative percentage of each cover type (table) for the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+ for 1986, 1996, and 2006.

graph

Long Description for Figure 33

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

Percentage of agricultural land (hectares)
Cover Type198619962006
Oilseeds1,5161,4783,260
Pulses58312781
Soybeans000
Berries5811590
Improved Pasture93,22598,807122,380
All Other Land206,292252,803154,808
Summerfallow12,1758,2175,125
Unimproved Pasture549,648685,502879,101
Cereals30,75038,25037,523
Corn1,5139231,060
Tame Hay91,275158,413176,045
Other Crops297609544
Fruit Trees412467400
Vegetables270358289
Winter Cereals3,6262,1241,354

Top of Page

Potential wildlife use of agricultural land

A total of 351 species (254 birds; 78 mammals; 9 reptiles; 10 amphibians) used agricultural land in the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+. All Other Land accommodated breeding and feeding requirements for close to 90% (312) of species associated with agricultural land. Unimproved Pasture was the second most important agricultural cover type for wildlife as it supported the breeding and feeding needs of 89 species. In the presence of other complimentary habitat (primarily All Other Land) that provided partial habitat requirements, Unimproved Pasture could be used by 43% (152) of species for at least a single habitat use. CroplandFootnote21 cover types fulfilled both breeding and feeding life history requirements for close to 12% (42) of species and partial habitat requirements for 30% (91).

Top of Page

Wildlife habitat capacity

There was a significant decline between each reporting year signifying a negative wildlife habitat capacity trend on agricultural land in the Montane Cordillera (ANOVA, F = 85.2, p = 0.001) (Figure 34). From 1986 to 2006, average habitat capacity decreased from 71.0 ± 10.4 (high) to 58.6 ± 9.2 (moderate). The spatial distribution of habitat capacity values in 1986 and 2006 are shown in Figure 35 and Figure 36 , respectively. Over this period habitat capacity decreased on 48% of agricultural land, increased on 5%, and was constant on 47% (Figure 37). Among ecoregions with higher agricultural land use, the Fraser Basin (about 16% of agricultural land in the Montane Cordillera) experienced the largest habitat capacity decline (70.3 ± 7.4 to 56.2 ± 5.4). Habitat capacity also declined significantly in the Columbia Mountains and Highlands (75.5 ± 13.4 to 64.7 ± 15.4) (ANOVA, Tukey HSD p<0.05) but was stable in the Northern Continental Divide (58.0 ± 6.1 to 57.0 ± 4.5).

Figure 34. The share of agricultural land in each habitat capacity category (bars, left axis) and the average habitat capacity for the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+ in 1986, 1996, and 2006 (points and line, right axis).

graph

Long Description for Figure 34

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
20-300.000.450.00
30-400.000.000.46
40-500.933.132.70
50-6032.1319.8969.42
60-7028.5347.5822.92
70-8027.9117.203.61
80-907.9210.260.49
90-1002.301.490.23
>1000.280.000.16

The average habitat capacity for the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+ was 71.01 in 1986, 66.65 in 1996 and 58.60 in 2006.

Years with different letters differed significantly (ANOVA: F = 85.2, Tukey HSD p<0.05).

Top of Page

Figure 35. Wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+, 1986.

map

Long Description for Figure 35

This map shows wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+ in 1986. The wildlife habitat capacity is high for most of the scattered agricultural land, with the exception of some moderate capacity in the southern regions of the ecozone+.

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

Top of Page

Figure 36. Wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+, 2006.

map

Long Description for Figure 36

This map shows wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+ in 2006. The wildlife habitat capacity is moderate for most of the scattered agricultural land, with the exception a small region of high capacity in the southwestern portion of the ecozone+.

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

Top of Page

Figure 37. Change in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+ between 1986 and 2006.

map

Long Description for Figure 37

This map shows change in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in the Montane Cordillera Ecozone+ between 1986 and 2006. Over this period habitat capacity decreased on 48% of agricultural land, increased on 5%, and was constant on 47%.

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

Top of Page

Interpretation

In the broad sense, agriculture had limited impact on wildlife in the Montane Cordillera as it occupied only about 3% of the ecozone+. However, given that agriculture generally occurred along river valleys and adjacent slopes in a more mountainous landscape, it occupied a specific, more restricted ecotype in which its activities altered the availability of natural habitats.

Provincial policies that favored agricultural land contributed to the 28% increase of agricultural land in the Montane Cordillera (Grant, 2007). The vast majority of agricultural growth resulted from an approximately 40% expansion of the dominant cover type – Unimproved Pasture. Deforestation on agricultural land contributed to declines in habitat capacity as woodland was replaced with land cover of lesser value for wildlife. The overall moderate habitat capacity in 2006 was related to Unimproved Pasture being the dominant cover type comprising close to 65% of agricultural land in the ecozone+ providing both the breeding and feeding habitat requirements for over 25% of species. Sixteen percent of total agricultural land was comparatively poor-value Cropland, up slightly from 1986 where it made up close to 13%. This was due to an increase in the amount of Tame Hay.

Consistent with the ecozone+ overall, significant habitat capacity declines in the Fraser Basin and Columbia Mountains and Highlands were due to declines in the share of All Other Land (28 to 15% and 28 to 16%, respectively). In both these ecoregions, cover types comparatively less favorable to wildlife than All Other Land increased their share of the agricultural land. Unimproved Pasture increased by about 8% while Tame Hay increased 11 and 6% in the Columbia Mountains and Highlands and Fraser Basin, respectively. In the Northern Continental Divide habitat capacity was stable over this 20 year period as the relative share of cover types saw only slight changes. The habitat capacity rating for the Northern Continental Divide (moderate) resulted from the lowest share of All Other Land (6%) among ecoregions as Unimproved Pasture made up over 72% of agricultural land.

Top of Page

Footnotes

Footnote 20

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).

Return to reference20

Footnote 21

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

Return to reference21