Wildlife Protection Assessment: A national habitat crisis
Just as we need housing, wildlife need somewhere to live. Half of Canada’s monitored species are in decline, by a staggering 83 per cent, and even wildlife protected under Canada’s Species at Risk Act are failing to recover. Wildlife simply can’t survive with increasingly degraded or destroyed habitats. They need to find food, mate, migrate and raise their young. Climate change only makes matters worse.
Canada is committed to protecting at least 17 per cent of terrestrial space and inland waters, and taken together these spaces should represent the different types of habitat wildlife need, creating a connected network of protected areas. This assessment reveals that while protected areas in Canada do carve out space primarily for nature, they do not protect the vast majority of habitats where most at-risk species live.
84 per cent of habitats with high concentrations of at-risk species are inadequately or not at all protected.
Widespread habitat fragmentation and loss is a double-whammy for wildlife since vital, natural spaces like forests, peat bogs and soils provide both habitat and an essential service: These natural areas store carbon and if protected, can help keep the climate in balance.
77 per cent of habitats with high densities of soil carbon are inadequately or not at all protected, and 74 per cent of habitats with high densities of forest biomass are inadequately or not at all protected.
Canada is warming at twice the global rate. This assessment provides a vital map for reducing biodiversity loss and limiting climate change at the same time. Given these crises, we need to ask more of our protected areas. It’s essential we prioritize protection in the spaces wildlife need, and in those areas that will provide nature-based solutions to help us reach our climate change goals.