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

This report is also available in PDF format. Technical Thematic Report No. 14. - Trends in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in Canada, 1986-2006 (PDF, 7.3 MB)

Document Information

Trends in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in Canada, 1986-2006

cover page

S.K. Javorek and M.C. GrantFootnotea

Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010
Technical Thematic Report No. 14
Published by the Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Trends in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in Canada, 1986-2006.

Issued also in French under title:
Tendances de la capacité d’habitat faunique des terres agricoles du Canada, de 1986 à 2006.
Electronic monograph in PDF format.
ISBN 978-1-100-19924-5
Cat. no.: En14-43/14-2011E-PDF

Information contained in this publication or product may be reproduced, in part or in whole, and by any means, for personal or public non-commercial purposes, without charge or further permission, unless otherwise specified.
You are asked to:

  • Exercise due diligence in ensuring the accuracy of the materials reproduced;
  • Indicate both the complete title of the materials reproduced, as well as the author organization; and
  • Indicate that the reproduction is a copy of an official work that is published by the Government of Canada and that the reproduction has not been produced in affiliation with or with the endorsement of the Government of Canada.

Commercial reproduction and distribution is prohibited except with written permission from the Government of Canada’s copyright administrator, Public Works and Government Services of Canada (PWGSC). For more information, please contact PWGSC at 613-996-6886 or at

This report should be cited as:
Javorek, S.K. and Grant, M.C. 2011. Trends in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in Canada, 1986-2006. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Thematic Report No. 14. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. vi + 46 p.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2011
Aussi disponible en français


Footnote a

Both authors are with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Return to reference a

Top of Page


The Canadian Council of Resource Ministers developed a Biodiversity Outcomes FrameworkFootnote1 in 2006 to focus conservation and restoration actions under the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy.Footnote2 Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010Footnote3 was a first report under this framework. It assesses progress towards the framework’s goal of “Healthy and Diverse Ecosystems” and the two desired conservation outcomes: i) productive, resilient, diverse ecosystems with the capacity to recover and adapt; and ii) damaged ecosystems restored.

The 22 recurring key findings that are presented in Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010 emerged from synthesis and analysis of technical reports prepared as part of this project. Over 500 experts participated in the writing and review of these foundation documents. This report, Trends in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in Canada, 1986-2006, is one of several reports prepared on the status and trends of national cross-cutting themes. It has been prepared and reviewed by experts in the field of study and reflects the views of its authors.

Top of Page


The authors are grateful to Warren Eilers, Robin MacKay, Luella Graham and Alex Lefebvre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) for assistance in preparation of this Agri-Environmental Indicator and to the AAFC National Agri-Environmental Health Analysis and Reporting Program (NAHARP) for support of this work. We would also like to thank the three reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions toward an improved version of the report.

Top of Page

Ecological Classification System – Ecozones+

A slightly modified version of the Terrestrial Ecozones of Canada, described in the National Ecological Framework for Canada,Footnote4 provided the ecosystem-based units for all reports related to this project. Modifications from the original framework include: adjustments to terrestrial boundaries to reflect improvements from ground-truthing exercises; the combination of three Arctic ecozones into one; the use of two ecoprovinces – Western Interior Basin and Newfoundland Boreal; the addition of nine marine ecosystem-based units; and, the addition of the Great Lakes as a unit. This modified classification system is referred to as “ecozones+” throughout these reports to avoid confusion with the more familiar “ecozones” of the original framework.Footnote5

Ecological classification framework for the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report for Canada.


Long Description for Ecosystem Status and Trends Report for Canada

This map of Canada shows the ecological classification framework for the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report, named “ecozones+”. This map shows the distribution of 15 terrestrial ecozones+ (Atlantic Maritime; Newfoundland Boreal; Taiga Shield; Mixedwood Plains; Boreal Shield; Hudson Plains; Prairies; Boreal Plains; Montane Cordillera; Western Interior Basin; Pacific Maritime; Boreal Cordillera; Taiga Cordillera; Taiga Plains; Arctic), two large lake ecozones+ (Great Lakes; Lake Winnipeg), and nine marine ecozones+ (North Coast and Hecate Strait; West Coast Vancouver Island; Strait of Georgia; Gulf of Maine and Scotian Shelf; Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence; Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves; Hudson Bay, James Bay and Fox Basin; Canadian Arctic Archipelago; Beaufort Sea).

Top of Page

Agri-environmental indicators

As part of the National Agri-Environmental Health Analysis and Reporting Program, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has developed a suite of science-based agri-environmental indicators. These were first reported in 2000 (for 1981 to 1996), updated in 2005 (for 1981 to 2001), and most recently reported in 2010 (for 1981 to 2006) (Eilers et al., 2010). Three of these indicators are presented by ecozone+ as part of the Technical Thematic Report Series for Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010. They are soil erosion on cropland (McConkey et al., 2011), residual soil nitrogen (Drury et al., 2011), and this report on wildlife habitat capacity.

All three of these agri-environmental indicators use data from the Canadian Census of Agriculture database. This database categorizes the agricultural landscape into four main cover types: Cropland, Pasture (broken down into Improved and Unimproved Pasture), Summerfallow, and All Other Land (All Other Land includes, for example, barnyards, woodlots, lanes, windbreaks, marshes, and bogs) (Huffman et al., 2006; Statistics Canada, 2008). The soil erosion and residual soil nitrogen Technical Thematic Reports focus on the agricultural land in production and therefore only use the first three cover types in their calculations (Unimproved Pasture is not included in the soil erosion analysis). This report, on the other hand, includes the All Other Land cover type when reporting on wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land. The definition of “Cropland” in the soil erosion report differs from that used by the Canadian Census of Agriculture in that it includes the Census of Agriculture categories of Cropland, Improved Pasture, and Summerfallow when referring to “Cropland”. For these reasons, numbers presented for the total amount of agricultural land or Cropland or proportions of different cover types for an ecozone+ or region may differ slightly between the three agricultural reports prepared as part of the Technical Thematic Report Series for Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010. Additional discrepancies may exist due to the methodology used to maintain anonymity of the data (see Eilers et al., 2010 for more information).

Top of Page


The Wildlife Habitat Capacity on Agricultural Land Indicator provides a multi-species assessment of broad-scale trends in the potential ability of the Canadian agricultural landscape to provide suitable habitat for populations of terrestrial vertebrates.

Top of Page


Wildlife habitat capacity was investigated on all land within the agricultural landscape of Canada for the years 1986, 1996, and 2006. The analysis was restricted to land reported in the Canadian Census of Agriculture (hereafter referred to as agricultural land) which included Cropland, Summerfallow, and Pasture, as well as woodlands and wetlands reported by farmers as part of the agricultural landscape (Statistics Canada, 2008). All data were assembled and analyzed at the Soil Landscapes of Canada (SLC) polygon level which is the base unit of the Canadian Ecological Stratification Hierarchy.

Wildlife was initially linked to 31 cover types (habitats) within the Canadian agricultural landscape by constructing habitat association matrices for 588 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians associated with agricultural land in Canada. For each species the matrices contained information on habitat use (breeding, feeding, cover, staging/migration, and wintering) and habitat value (primary, secondary, or tertiary). Primary habitat refers to land cover on which a species is dependant or is strongly preferred. Habitat was considered secondary if a species used it but was not dependant on it. Tertiary habitat is not needed, but a species is occasionally found there. Habitat values were incorporated into the analysis as modifiers to weight habitat use (primary = 1, secondary = 0.75 and tertiary = 0.25). The nested structure of habitat categories in the matrices allowed them to be rolled up to align with proportional land cover data derived from the Canadian Census of Agriculture yielding 15 habitat categories (Cereals, Winter Cereals, Oilseeds, Corn, Soybeans, Vegetables, Berries, Fruit Trees, Other Crops (potatoes, tobacco, millet, caraway, ginseng, coriander), Pulses, Summerfallow, Tame Hay, Improved Pasture, Unimproved Pasture, and All Other Land) for habitat capacity analysis. Land cover types in the All Other Land category included wetland (with margins, without margins, and open water), riparian (woody, herbaceous, and crop), shelterbelts (including natural hedgerows), woodland (with interior, without interior, plantation), idle land/old field, and anthropogenic (farm buildings, green houses, lanes). Individual species and their habitat use information were spatially linked to Census of Agriculture land cover data by rectifying distributions to SLC polygons.

For each SLC, species-specific habitat availability (SSHA) was calculated for breeding and feeding requirements, by generating a weighted average of habitat use based on the relative proportion of cover types used and the value of that habitat to the species as follows:

SSHAbf = ∑ (%LCb × HUVb) + ∑ (%LCf × HUVf)

Where: %LC = the percentage of SLC polygon occupied by a particular land cover category used by the species and HUV = Habitat Use Value for breeding (b) and feeding (f) (primary = 1, secondary = 0.75, tertiary = 0.25).

Habitat Capacity based on breeding and feeding is the average of SSHAs per SLC polygon.

The “status” of habitat capacity on agricultural land in Canada for 1986 and 2006 was determined by generating ten categories (Very Low: <20, 20-30, Low: 30-40, 40-50, Moderate: 50-60, 60-70, High: 70-80, 80-90 and Very High: 90-100, >100) based on the national distribution of habitat capacity scores from all reporting SLC polygons.

Trend was determined through an analysis of Variance followed by pairwise comparison of means (Tukey’s HSD) to detect significant changes (p<0.05) in habitat capacity for SLC polygons among years.


Footnote 1

Environment Canada. 2006. Biodiversity outcomes framework for Canada. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. 8p.

Return to reference 1

Footnote 2

Federal-Provincial-Territorial Biodiversity Working Group. 1995. Canadian biodiversity strategy: Canada’s response to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Environment Canada, Biodiversity Convention Office. Ottawa, ON. 86 p.

Return to reference 2

Footnote 3

Federal, Provincial and Territorial Governments of Canada. 2010. Canadian biodiversity: ecosystem status and trends 2010. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. vi + 142 p.

Return to reference 3

Footnote 4

Ecological Stratification Working Group. 1995. A national ecological framework for Canada. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Branch, Centre for Land and Biological Resources Research and Environment Canada, State of the Environment Directorate, Ecozone Analysis Branch. Ottawa/Hull, ON. 125 p. Report and national map at 1:7 500 000 scale.

Return to reference 4

Footnote 5

Rankin, R., Austin, M. and Rice, J. 2011. Ecological classification system for the ecosystem status and trends report. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Thematic Report No. 1. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON.

Return to reference 5