Biodiversity is intrinsically linked to the health of our planet—and its people. Yet, increasingly, human activities are causing the extinction of species, degrading ecosystems, and reducing nature’s resilience to climate change and other threats. As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada has a legal responsibility to protect 17% of land and freshwater by 2020. Currently, Canada has protected ∼10% of its terrestrial lands, requiring a marked increase in the pace and focus of protection over the next three years. Given the distribution, extent, and geography of Canada’s current protected areas, systematic conservation planning would provide decision-makers with a ranking of the potential for new protected area sites to stem biodiversity loss and preserve functioning ecosystems. Here, we identify five key principles for identifying lands that are likely to make the greatest contribution to reversing biodiversity declines and ensuring biodiversity persistence into the future. We identify current gaps and integrate principles of protecting (i) species at risk, (ii) representative ecosystems, (iii) intact wilderness, (iv) connectivity, and (v) climate refugia. This spatially explicit assessment is intended as an ecological foundation that, when integrated with social, economic and governance considerations, would support evidence-based protected area decision-making in Canada.
Laura E. Coristine, Aerin L. Jacob, Richard Schuster, Sarah P. Otto, Nancy E. Baron, Nathan J. Bennett, Sarah Joy Bittick, Cody Dey, Brett Favaro, Adam Ford, Linda Nowlan, Diane Orihel, Wendy J. Palen, Jean L. Polfus, David S. Shiffman, Oscar Venter, and Stephen Woodley. Informing Canada’s commitment to biodiversity conservation: A science-based framework to help guide protected areas designation through Target 1 and beyond. FACETS. 3(1): 531-562. DOI: 10.1139/facets-2017-0102