Whether you go camping all the time, hike every so often or plant a garden on your balcony; you can’t deny that Canada is home to a rich source of biodiversity and natural resources. From coast to coast to coast, we have kilometers of intact forests, beautiful wetlands, abundant amounts of fresh water and thousands of fascinating and bizarre plant and animal species, all of which make up the biodiversity that Canada is known for. Biodiversity is such an important part of our everyday lives and provides so many benefits, it provides the food we eat, the clean air we breathe, and we can’t forget the fact that biodiversity has inherent value and beauty. It’s such a regular part of our lives that we often don’t notice it’s there, but we do notice once it’s gone. 

What is the biodiversity loss crisis?
Right now, we’re dealing with a global biodiversity loss crisis, which is the decline, loss or extinction of species worldwide and at an alarming rate. In Canada, this has meant the decline of species, such as the polar bear and caribou, due to the impacts of climate change, habitat loss, the unsustainable management of natural resources and more. There are a lot of things that put our biodiversity at risk and it’s important to understand what’s happening and why it’s happening so we know what we can do about it.

What is Canada doing?
Canada has taken part in many national and international agreements which has led to some important strategies and big promises. In the last 30 years, Canada has created key documents, such as the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy and the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets, which are meant to guide conservation action and targets.

Although these documents are meant to make conservation action easier, the Canadian Biodiversity strategy was written in 1995 and no longer addresses Canada’s environmental and conservation needs almost three decades later. And when Canada had to reflect on the 2020 targets for biodiversity, we were forced to acknowledge that we failed to meet some of them. The biodiversity loss crisis is increasingly becoming a bigger threat each year and learning from our mistakes and why we failed to meet certain targets will be so important going forward if we want to improve how we protect our biodiversity.

Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs)
Canada’s response to the biodiversity loss crisis is complex, and definitely isn’t perfect. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore all of the good things Canada is doing to protect biodiversity. Some of Canada’s greatest biodiversity successes have been tied with the establishment of key biodiversity areas (KBAs). KBAs are important areas that support vulnerable biodiversity and threatened habitats. In Alberta, the Long Point Peninsula & Marshes is known to support a number of endangered species and migratory birds, such as the Fowler’s toad and Tundra Swan.

Since it’s designation as a KBA, there has been success in combating the invasive grass species, Phragmites australis, that would have otherwise continued to dominate the delicate marsh habitat. Combating invasive species, such as P. australis, makes sure that we can protect and restore habitats for native species, and the designation of Long Point as a KBA was such an important step towards achieving this. Every year, more and more KBAs are being recognized, which is helping to move the needle forward and achieve some of Canada’s wider conservation goals.

Nature Based Solutions (NbS)

In recent years, Canada has also been working to implement Nature-based Solutions (NbS), which are actions that protect, sustainably manage and restore our ecosystems in a way that addresses human and environmental needs. These actions can be anything from environmental restoration and reforestation projects, the introduction of green infrastructure, implementing sustainable management plans and more.

In 2020, the Tŝilhqot’in Reforestation Project was announced which focuses on reforesting land impacted by wildfires that have been slow to regenerate, or haven’t regenerated at all. By planting thousands of native tree species, habitats for wildlife, such as moose and deer, can be reestablished all while creating employment and economic opportunities for the Tŝilhqot’in community. Using a Nature-based Solutions approach is a great way to make sure we can protect the environment while also uplifting and meeting the economic, cultural and social needs of communities and individuals. In general, NbS are still fairly new to Canada, and there are so many opportunities for innovative and creative projects. It’ll be exciting to see what comes next and how we can use these approaches to improve both natures’ and society’s needs.

Looking forward
Thinking about the future is important as we work towards ensuring there is biodiversity 10, 20 and even 100 years from now. With the newly announced budget for 2021, Canada has promised to invest 4.1 billion dollars into the recovery of nature and has committed to protecting over 1 million km2 of land and freshwater by 2025. This is in addition to increasing protected marine areas! Canada has also signed onto the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which is a global commitment for countries to protect 30% of land and marine areas by 2030. With so many new commitments and initiatives happening, JGI Canada is looking forward to supporting and amplifying Canadian conservation actions in any way possible.

What can I do?
While the biodiversity loss crisis seems overwhelming, little actions add up, and there’s a lot you can do.
Here are some ways to get involved and help:

  • Get out and learn about the biodiversity in your area
  • Plant native plant species for pollinators
  • Pick up litter when you see it
  • Start a Roots & Shoots program at your school
  • Write to your government or community leader about the importance of protecting biodiversity
  • Donate or volunteer with a conservation or wildlife rehabilitation centre

In the words of Dr. Jane, “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”

Photo Credits: All photographs pictured are credited to the incredible, award-winning wildlife photographer Michelle Valberg

References:

http://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/long-point-peninsula-and-marshes-iba-canada
https://longpointphragmites.ca/phragmites-faq/
http://www.kbacanada.org/
https://naturecanada.ca/news/blog/2021-turnaround-year-for-global-biodiversity/
https://www.tsilhqotin.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2020_11_12_PR_TNG-Shell-Reforestation-Project.pdf
https://wwf.ca/media-releases/budget-2021-the-right-commitment-to-nature-and-biodiversity-at-the-right-time/
https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/news/2020/09/canada-joins-the-high-ambition-coalition-for-nature-and-people.html
https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/biodiversity
https://wwf.ca/wildlife/
https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/dan-kraus/canada-biodiversity_b_16883892.html
https://www.cbd.int/doc/world/ca/ca-nr-04-en.pdf
https://www.wcscanada.org/Intact-Forests.aspx

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