for Conservation of Biodiversity
This issue of biodiversity
protection is an urgent one because the loss of wild places is occurring
extremely rapidly. In Canada, we are losing over 100 hectares of wilderness
an hour. This
is putting a lot of strain on the populations of over 300 000 species
of plants and animals found in Canada. Each population of these organisms,
in turn, relies on a combination of physical and biological features,
its own special habitat, to survive. For example, the Monarch butterfly
needs milkweed plants on which to reproduce; caribou need to feed on
lichens and mosses of tundra plains, the carnivorous sundew plant needs
moist, acid soil found in bogs; the endangered piping plover requires
a nesting site on moderately sloping beaches strewn with rocks and shells
(Reid, 1996). Therefore,
the question often arises: "Is it better to protect individual
species or to protect ecosystems and habitats?"
Often, by protecting
the habitat of one species, we end up protecting the habitat for many
different species. This is the rationale for using "umbrella" species
to gain public awareness (e.g. beluga whales in the St. Lawrence, spotted
owl in the Pacific Northwest)
There are some limitations
to a species-oriented protection scheme. A species at a time is too slow;
at least 5% of vertebrates and 30% of plant species in Canada are rare,
threatened or endangered and there are 307 species listed by COSEWIC as
at risk. It is not feasible to protect them on a case-by-case basis.
other approach to biodiversity consrevation is to protect different
types of ecosystems and habitats. The first step is, this, to classify
the habitats in an area. Indeed, a great deal of research has been devoted
to this task.
There are many different ways
to classify Canada's terrestrial ecosystems. For example, each province
has its own classification scheme, which WWF used to stitch together a
Canada-wide network of 486 ecosystems. At the other extreme, Parks Canada
classified terrestrial systems into 39 different zones. For the purpose
of this discussion, we talk about the land classification developed by
the Canadian Government in 1996, called the National Ecological Framework
for Canada. The purpose of the framework was to develop a uniform, ecological
approach to terrestrial ecosystem classification and mapping. For more
information on the framework, visit
the EMAN website.
; WWF Canada Endangered Spaces Report
Advantages of system protection
Canada's National Ecological
Framework classifies the country into 15 ecozones and 217 ecoregions.
Each ecoregion is ecologically and physically distinct and thus contains
different types of organisms and has different functions. It is important
to protect a portion of each of these ecosystems because many are being
altered by human activity, be it habitat destruction, fragmentation, or
overharvesting of species.
Simply stated, the most effective
way to conserve biodiversity of species and genes is to conserve the variety
of ecosystems that have permitted this diversity to emerge and survive.
In the event of population fluctuations or even local extinctions, the
environment would still be able to support the regeneration, return and
success of its plants and animals.
Adequacy of Canada's and
Quebec's protected areas network.
Establishing a system of protected
areas is important for the protection of biodiversity in a region. Ideally,
protected areas should be high-quality (species-rich) cores connected
in a network with buffer zones of compatible land uses around them so
that entire ecosystems or habitats can be protected. (
CBIN Website )
Canada's protected areas presently do not meet the above criteria. Of
a total of 2800 protected areas in Canada, 61% are strictly protected
but 80% are very small (<10km2). The WWF has found that as of 1998, only
8% of Canada's natural regions are adequately protected.
Of Quebec's 75 natural
regions, none are adequately represented by protected areas, five
are moderately represented, and ten are partially represented, 60
regions remain unrepresented, two-thirds of which are in Northern
Quebec. For more information on provincial and federal conservation
efforts, see the section on Conservation
Terrestrial protected areas
in Quebec cover about 6.5 million hectares. Two new Parks and 37 new ecological
reserves have been established since the Endangered Spaces Campaign began
in 1989. (Endangered
Spaces Progress Report ; WWF Canada
Endangered Spaces Report)
of system protection
While establishing a protected
areas network is an important goal, it must also be followed by sustainable
use of the surrounding landscape in order to protect biological diversity.
A protected area needs genetic material and organisms to flow in and out
of it to replenish genetic variability and populations of organisms. If
the surrounding landscape is severely altered or degraded, the protected
area can become an isolated island whose inhabitants are vulnerable to
genetic bottlenecks and population fluctuations, which increase the likelihood
of extinction. (
CBIN Website )
we protect species and landscapes?
of protected areas
A "protected area" can actually
be many different kinds of areas, all having been designated as protected
by law. The major classifications of protected areas are national
parks (e.g. Parc de la Mauricie), provincial parks ( e.g.
Parc du Mont Tremblant), managed wildlife areas (e.g. Parc de
la Verendrye), cultural heritage sites (e.g. Old Quebec - a UNESCO
World heritage Site), internationally designated areas (Mont
St. Hilaire - a UNESCO Man and Bioshpere Reserve) and protected landscapes
(there are currently none in Quebec).
In 1989, WWF Canada introduced
the Canadian Wilderness Charter to raise awareness among the Canadian
public about the need to protect Canada's wilderness. By 1992, Canada's
federal and provincial environment, parks and wildlife ministers all signed
the Statement of Commitment to the Endangered Spaces Campaign 2000, formally
endorsing WWF's initiative. The goal of WWF's Endangered Spaces Campaign
is to establish a network of protected areas representing all the natural
regions of Canada by the year 2000.
The goal of
the Endangered Spaces Marine Campaign is to have at least one-third of
Canada's aquatic natural regions adequately protected by the year 2010.
How are areas selected for
A number of steps are involved
in selecting areas for protection. First, the number, and types, of natural
regions are determined, and the enduring features of the region identified.
Enduring features are so called because even if the biological component
were removed, the landscape would remain unchanged and, over time, may
regenerate its previous characteristic natural communities. This is called
coarse scale selection. For more details about how natural regions are
selected and enduring features identified, see Hummel,
1995, Noss, 1995 and Kavanagh
and Iacobelli, 1995.
Once the enduring features
are identified, then one must look at the ecological integrity (finer
scale aspects) of the area. Maintaining ecological integrity of a protected
area factors in not only the inclusion of enduring features but also where
the protected area is drawn and land use surrounding the area. For example
a protected area occurring in a region of intact wilderness will likely
maintain its ecological integrity since populations can be replanished
from outside the area. Whereas a protected area within a region of intense
land use puts the ecological integrity of the area at risk since roads,
deforestation and other land use effectively create barriers for recolonization
and increase the probability that a local extinction will occur. Equally
important is to establish protected areas in zones of high biological
diversity, high endemism and high rarity in order to best
protect the ecological integrity of the protected area.
Finally, a map of existing
protected areas is superimposed over the map of enduring features and
areas important to the ecological integrity of the natural region to determine
which features are not included by protected areas. This is called Gap
Analysis and is the method used by WWF to determine the progress made
in the Endangered Spaces Campaign. Adequate protection of a natural region
requires that an example of every enduring features of that region is
protected and the unrepresented features are the "gaps" in the protection
system. This analysis helps to define what is needed to adequately protect
a given natural region. For more details see Kavanagh
and Iacobelli, 1995.
1996 ; Hummel, 1995 ; Noss,
Note of interest: Canada has
the world's longest coastline, the second largest continental shelf and
the world's largest system of freshwater lakes. (WWF,
97-98 Progress Report)
How are marine areas selected
There is a lot of interest
in establishing a comprehensive network of marine ecosystems for the purpose
of monitoring and protection. For instance, Parks Canada has broadly classified
29 natural marine regions. But there is as yet no comprehensive network
of marine ecosystems in the way that there is for terrestrial ones.
Marine protected areas are
needed for the same reason that terrestrial ones are: to conserve the
diversity of plants and animals within them. Part of WWF's Endangered
Spaces Campaign is to complete a network of marine ecosystems, in addition
to terrestrial ecosystems, by 2010. There is presently only one national
marine park in Canada: the newly established Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine
Park located at the confluence of the the Saguenay and St. Lawrence Rivers
in Québec. (http://parkscanada.pch.gc.ca/nmca/nmp_e.htm
There are measures undertaken
both federally and provincially to identify and promote the protection
of species at risk in Canada and Québec.
The Committee on the Status
of Endangered Wildlife in Canada was created in 1977 with the mandate
of developing a national listing of species at risk, based on the best
scientific evidence available. COSEWIC has no legislative or management
role, it can only recommend to provincial and territorial governments
the appropriate actions. The list of species at risk is updated yearly.
The current list of species has been detailed in section 3.2 of the chapter
on Conservation of Biodiversity in Canada.
The current Chairperson of
COSEWIC is Dr. David Green, who is also the curator of vertebrate zoology
at the Redpath Museum. (COSEWIC
Provincial protection of
has no legislative power, Quebec has enacted laws to protect its species
at risk and their habitats. These laws are also addressed in section 2.1
of the chapter on Conservation of Biodiversity in Quebec. Briefly, the
most important law is the Loi sur les Espèces Menacées ou Vulnérables
(L.R.Q., c. E-12.01), created in 1989.
Of the COSEWIC list of
species at risk, approximately 53 are found in Québec. The province
of Québec, however, has compiled a list of over 450 species which
are susceptible to being designated as "at risk" in our province under
the the Loi sur les Espèces Menacées ou Vulnérables. Management of
endangered species is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment
and Wildlife of Québec (MEF) and data about species at risk are compiled
and disseminated by the Québec Natural Heritage Data Center (Centre
des données sur la patrimoine naturelle du Québec). More information
about the Center can be found on the web at: http://www.mef.gouv.qc.ca/fr/environn/dev_dur/centre.htm.
to learn about the species at risk in Quebec
vs Biodiversity - different conservation goals?
Does biodiversity equal
Biodiversity and nature are
both terms that are difficult to define. But when pressed, most conservation
biologists will admit to seeing little difference between the two. The
difference may be in application. Biodiversity is a buzzword coined
in the 1980's to evoke concern for species diversity, its decline and
the need to protect it (in reality, biodiversity encompasses much more
than just species diversity!). It is a term used to focus efforts to
protect diversity of living things, even though these living things
are considered as nature. (Takacs,
Does wilderness equal
Wilderness, like nature, and
biodiversity, is an ill-defined concept and subject to the perspective
of the user. A trapper from Northern Quebec may consider Mont Tremblant
to be civilization, whereas a vacationer from the Montreal area considers
it to be wilderness.
The 1964 US
Wilderness Act defines wilderness as a place "in contrast with those areas
where man and his own works dominate the landscape [..] [Wilderness] is
hereby recognized as an area where the Earth and its community of life
are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."
(US Wilderness Act, 1964)
Wilderness is also sometimes
defined by size. The US Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission
defined wilderness as a wild place that consists of a roadless area of
at least 100 000 acres.
Wilderness, then, seems to
be a place where nature and natural forces have more influence on the
land than humans do. Essentially, wilderness does equal nature. (Nash,
Does biodiversity equal
This is where the lack of definition
for all three terms becomes obvious. Biodiversity is considered the same
as nature and wilderness is considered to be the same as nature. Is, then,
biodiversity the same as wilderness?
were defined for management purposes. And relative to their management
goals, they are not necessarily the same, although wild areas may often
overlap with areas of high biodiversity or high rarity (for example, Parc
des Escoumins, Quebec).
parks and other protected areas may be created because the protected
area is "sublime" and may or may not be an area of interest biologically
(e.g. Banff National Park, Canada's first national park established
in the 1880's) or because the protected area is of great diversity or
rarity (e.g. wetlands), though not necessarily a scenic or spectacular
landscape. Parks Canada National Park System Plan and the Endangered
Spaces Campaign take both of these factors into consideration.
Further reading on this issue
of wilderness versus biodiversity conservation: Sarkar,
1995; Nash, 1967.