22 reasons conservation in Canada matters to the planet

May 22, 2022 | Actions

Daniel Kraus

Daniel Kraus

Director of National Conservation at Wildlife Conservation Society Canada

I have a confession. When I was first learning about conservation biology and global environmental issues, I didn’t think Canada mattered that much. We didn’t have the tropical rainforests of Brazil, there weren’t any lions, tigers or gorillas, and no global biodiversity hotspots. From the perspective of the planet, Oh Canada seemed like a bland spot on the conservation map.

It wasn’t until later in my conservation career that I came to realize that the nature we have in Canada is important, and that both what we conserve and how we conserve it matters to the planet. While there are myriad actions that need to be taken to help conserve biodiversity in Canada, one simple action we can all take today is to learn a little more about nature where we live.

Biodiversity Day is held annually on May 22 to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. Learning about nature is critical for conservation. The knowledge we gain can help to inform issues and debates and awareness can spark wonder and passion for protecting the natural world.

Canada has been both a global leader and laggard when it comes to nature. We continue to be a conservation innovator, but we are continuing to lose nature. The wild species and spaces that we celebrate as part of our Canadian identity are increasingly at risk as we continue to push development into these last wild areas.

Here are 22 reasons why conservation in Canada matters for the future of this country, and our planet.

Pictured: Tadoussac, Quebec

1. Longest marine coastline.

At almost 250,000 km, the three coastlines in Canada are than twice as long than the coasts of the US, Russia and China combined.

Pictured: Tadoussac, Quebec

2. North America’s songbird nursey.

Each fall 3-5 billion birds migrate from the boreal forests in northern Canada to the lower US, Mexico and Central and South America.

Video: The amazing migration of the Blackpoll Warbler, by PBS
Pictured: Mer Bleue Peat Bog, near Ottawa, Ontario

3. One-quarter of the world’s wetlands.

Canada has about 1.29 million km2 of wetlands, mostly in the north. This is about one-quarter of the wetlands left on Earth.

Pictured: The entrance to Mer Bleue Peat Bog, near Ottawa, Ontario

4. Peatlands.

Peatlands store more carbon in their soils than any other type of ecosystem. Canada is responsible for 25% of the planet’s share of these carbon-rich wetland habitats. 

Video: What are peatlands and why are they under threat? By CBC Saskatchewan
Valley of the Five Lakes, Lynsey Grosfield

5. Freshwater lakes.

Approximately 60% of the freshwater lakes found on Earth are in Canada — more than all other countries combined.

Photo: Valley of the Five Lakes near Jasper, Alberta, by Lynsey Grosfield

6. Intact forests.

The northern forests in Canada are the largest region of intact forests left on Earth.

Photo: Boreal forest and peatlands in Northern Ontario, by Lorna Harris
Hudson Bay Lowland peatlands, Lorna Harris
Newfoundland marten (Photo by Bailey Parsons)

7. Endemic species.

There are over 300 plants and animals that occur in Canada and no other country.

Photo: A Newfoundland pine marten, by Bailey Parsons. These cute mustelids are only found in Newfoundland.

8. Alvars.

Alvars are globally rare habitats that occur on limestone plains. They are mostly found in Ontario, but have also recently been found in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Video: The largest pavement alvar discovered in Saskatchewan, near Cumberland Lake, by Michael Rudy, Meander Photography

9. Islands.

Officially, Canada may rank behind Scandinavian countries, but many of the northern islands in this country have not been counted. The Great Lakes have more freshwater islands than anywhere else on Earth. 

Video: The Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area, by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The 5 Islands are located off the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island, British Columbia

10. Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas. 

Indigenous-led conservation, such as in the Fawn River Watershed in Ontario, is rapidly becoming one of the most important ways to protect nature in Canada.

Video: What are Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas? By the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership

11. Last free-flowing rivers.

Only one-third of the planet’s longest rivers are not dammed. Of those in North America, 73% are in Canada including the Ekwan River in Ontario. 

Video: Canada’s Wild Rivers by National Geographic

12. Temperate rainforests.

British Columbia is home to about one-quarter of the remaining temperate rainforests left on Earth.

Video: The Upper Columbia: Irreplaceable old-growth forests, by Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y)
Fraser Snow Geese by Tom Middleton

13. Rivers of birds.

There are still places in Canada, like the Fraser Delta, where you can see hundreds of thousands of birds in a single day during migration.

Photo: Snow geese on the Fraser Delta, by Tom Middleton

14. Deltas and estuaries.

The meeting place of rivers with lakes and oceans are biologically rich. Both the largest freshwater delta (Lake St. Clair) and estuary (St. Lawrence River) in the world are in Canada.

Video: Protect the Fraser River Estuary, by Nature Canada

15. Wood Buffalo National Park.

Canada’s largest national park and adjacent conserved areas are the largest protected boreal forest in the world. Unfortunately, it remains threatened from upstream industrial development and climate change.

Video: Whooping Cranes in Wood Buffalo National Park, by Parks Canada

16. Polar bears, narwhal and beluga.

More polar bears, narwhal and beluga and other iconic Arctic mammals are found in Canada than any other country.

Photo: Counterclockwise from top-left: polar bear, narwhal, and beluga
Polar bear, narwhal, beluga
The endangered Wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta), endemic to North America.

17. More endangered than pandas.

There are over 70 species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species that are found in Canada assessed at a higher extinction risk than the giant panda.

Photo: The endangered Wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta), endemic to North America.

18. Last great land animal migrations.

Land animals ranging from caribou to pronghorn to wolves still migrate thousands of kilometres each year in some parts of Canada.

Video: North America’s largest herd of caribou on the move, by CBC

19. Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs).

Canada is leading the world in identifying Key Biodiversity Areas to help ensure we conserve the most important places for nature.

Video: Identifying Key Biodiversity Areas in Canada, by Wildlife Conservation Society Canada

20. High ambition for protected areas.

Canada has committed to protected 30% of our lands by 2030. This is an area more than four times the size of Texas.

Video: Canada’s 30×30 Leader’s Pledge, by Boreal Conservation

21. Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary.

Established in 1887 it was the first bird sanctuary in North America, and the first protected area established solely to protect wildlife.

Video: Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area by Environment and Cimate Change Canada

22. Urban National Parks.

Over 80% of Canadians now live in cities. Canada’s new initiative to create urban national parks has great promise for fostering a love and appreciation of nature. 

Video: Discover Rouge National Urban Park, an Urban Escape, by Parks Canada

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