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by Lina Cordero, Conservation Communications Intern, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada
Canada is a big place. There are tens of thousands of lakes in this country, including some of the largest in the world. It is home to forests with a combined area larger than India and has the world’s longest coastline at more than 200,000 kilometres, including along the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans. This much space means Canada is blessed with a huge abundance and richness of nature and human cultures.
Canada’s landscapes can be divided into ecozones that are shaped by climatic and landform differences that lead to often quite different characteristics. It is no wonder, then, that Canada is home to more than 80,000 species of plants and animals. The country’s varied landscapes are also the homelands of Indigenous Peoples, with many different languages, traditions, and a deep history of interacting with nature that has helped shape the landscapes and ecosystems we see today.
The sheer size of Canada alone makes it very important to the planet’s biodiversity and climate regulation. For example, boreal forests and peatlands in Canada are among the world’s largest intact (roadless) ecosystems and are one of the world’s most important carbon storage areas.
But while conserving Canadian nature is important to the entire world, it is very challenging to decide where action is most needed within the 10 million square kilometres of Canada’s lands and inland waters. A global partnership of scientists, governments, and conservation organizations has come up with a global standard for identifying the most critical places for the retention and safeguarding of nature.
The Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) standard helps us zero in on places that are of high importance to maintaining biodiversity and often at risk of disappearing. KBAs can vary in size from small patches of undeveloped land in some of our largest urban areas, which may represent the best remaining habitats for highly endangered species, including lichens or insects, to huge expanses of northern land that are vital for enormous bird aggregations and for species such as caribou and polar bears. They are a way of steering conservation attention to areas where impact will be greatest thanks to a scientifically rigorous assessment process.
The KBA Canada Coalition, a collaboration involving many organizations and sectors, is proud to have developed one of the world’s first comprehensive national programs to identify KBAs. Canada is the first country in the world to adapt the global KBA standard to a national level to identify sites of both global and national significance, leading the way for many other countries.
Here is just a glimpse of some of the 73 approved KBAs in Canada so far (with more than 900 other sites still being assessed), and some interesting facts about them.
Read the rest of the story here.
Photo credits: Banner | Lila Tauzer © WCS Canada