Discovering the SHAPE of nature in Canada
Wildlife Conservation Society Canada encourages Canadians to discover more about wildlife and wild places across the country. What you learn might surprise you.
Canada is a country that is still defined by nature. We have more lakes, intact forests and coastline than any other nation. Our northern hinterlands are some of the last wild places left on Earth that are not crisscrossed by roads and development. Vast northern peatlands and forests play a critical role in regulating the planet’s climate. There are still places that support healthy populations of animals like grizzly bears and caribou, and where you can witness tens of thousands of birds in a single day.
But we are also a nation with a growing nature deficit. Southern Canada has lost most of its natural habitats. From old growth Acadian forests in the Maritimes and grasslands of the prairies to Garry Oak ecosystems in BC, Canada’s wild species and wild spaces are under increasing risk. Each year our list of endangered wildlife grows, and species ranging from the mighty North Atlantic Right Whale to a tiny wildflower called Klaza Draba that only lives in Yukon are now on the edge of extinction.
Every person on Earth today has only lived on a planet that is losing nature. The crisis that erodes the diversity and richness of wildlife and wild places and the benefits that nature provides to people is happening faster than at any other time in our human history. It’s estimated our planet has lost over one billion acres (405 million hectares) of forest since 1990 and approximately 35% of the world’s wetlands were drained and filled between 1970 and 2015. Up to one million species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. Species ranging from bumblebees to barn swallows that were common just a generation ago are now rapidly declining.
We need to make important decisions and we need to make them soon. Later this year, countries from around the world will finish negotiations to update the Convention on Biological Diversity, a 30-year-old global agreement to stop the loss of nature. There will be new goals to establish more protected areas, stop extinctions, and integrate nature conservation into our economy and society. Canada and over 190 other nations will then develop national plans for how to meet these new goals.
But to help reach our new goals for biodiversity, we need to know the current state of nature and measure our progress. Tracking the biodiversity crisis is very different than tracking the climate crisis. We can understand our progress to fight climate change by monitoring the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But there is no one measure for the health of plants, animals and ecosystems. No single diagnostic test for the natural world.
Wildlife Conservation Society Canada has released a new tool to help everyone better understand how nature is doing and to discover more about the wildlife and wild places we still have in Canada. The SHAPE (Species, Habitats, Actions, Policies, and Evaluations) of Nature provides an accessible and comprehensive clearinghouse of information on nature and nature conservation in Canada. It shares research from Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, other scientists, and our partners, including NatureServe Canada.
The first materials were shared in the Biodiversity Week events surrounding International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22, a day that encourages us all to learn more about nature. SHAPE includes many important facts and findings about nature in Canada and why conservation here at home matters for the world. You might be surprised to learn about the thousands of species that remain to be discovered, which province has the most globally threatened species, or why laws to protect nature aren’t working. Perhaps most importantly, knowing more about nature can inspire us all to take action to conserve Canada’s wildlife and wild places.
Want to learn more about the SHAPE of Nature, and our evaluations? Contact:
10 Quick Facts about the SHAPE of Nature in Canada
Canada has over 100 species that are on the edge of extinction.
Canada has committed to protected 30% of our lands by 2030, for a total area four times the size of Texas.
BC, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta have the greatest number of species of global conservation concern.
Canada has 265 globally at-risk ecosystems.
The number of species at risk in Canada may be 30 times more than the number currently recognized under the Species at Risk Act.
Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store, but only about 10% of peatlands in Canada are in protected areas.
Six provinces and territories don’t have specific laws to protect endangered species.
Since 2002, the number of new species at risk has increased by an average of 4% each year.
Nova Scotia, southern Quebec and Ontario, and large areas of the prairies have virtually no roadless areas left.
There are over 300 plants and animals that are only found in Canada.
Photo: Newfoundland marten, by Bailey Parsons. This unique subspecies of American marten lives only on the island of Newfoundland.