Biological Diversity Ecosystem Condition and Productivity Soil and Water Role in Global Ecological Cycles Economic and Social Benefits Society's Responsibility
Ecosystem Diversity Species Diversity Genetic Diversity
Indicator 1.1.1 Area of forest, by type and age class, and wetlands in each ecozone Indicator 1.1.2 Area of forest, by type and age class, and wetlands in each ecozone

ELEMENT 1.1

Ecosystem Diversity

Ecosystem diversity is the variety and relative abundance of ecosystems and their plant and animal communities. Maintenance of the variety and quality of the earth’s ecosystems is necessary for the preservation of species. Without sufficient quantities of their natural habitats, species become vulnerable to extinction.

Canada’s National Forest Strategy, 2003–2008 (NFSC 2003) states that Canada’s natural forest should be managed by using an ecosystem-based approach that maintains forest health, structure, functions, composition, and biodiversity. This includes conserving old-growth forests and threatened forest ecosystems and completing a system of representative protected areas. Element 1.1 uses two indicators to track and measure the diversity of the forest tree composition and the physical components of forest ecosystems to capture overall ecosystem diversity.

Indicator 1.1.1 describes the area of forest by type and age class, as well as the area of wetlands in each ecozone. Canada’s National Ecological Framework divides the country into 15 ecozones on the basis of geological, landscape, soil, vegetation, climate, wildlife, water, and human factors. Tracking the diversity of landscapes in each ecozone is essential for maintaining ecological integrity. Native bird and animal species tend to be associated with particular forest types and successional stages, and measuring the forest type and age-class distribution indicates the availability of habitat for these species. Wetlands are also an essential component of the ecological integrity of most forest ecosystems in Canada. They provide habitat for many species and regulate and stabilize hydrological flows in the ecosystem. In addition, information on the extent of wetlands is essential for understanding the carbon cycle in the forest as these wetlands are major sinks for carbon storage.

Indicator 1.1.2 measures the area of forest types, age classes, and other physical components of forest ecosystems in protected areas. The National Forest Strategy calls for the implementation of a national network of protected areas representative of the country’s major forest ecosystems. This indicator shows that over 31 million ha (almost 8%) of Canada’s forest and other wooded land are protected. These areas contain many examples of the variety of forest types, age classes, wetlands, and soil types that make up Canada’s forests. Furthermore, more than three quarters of this protected area, over 23.5 million ha, are considered strictly protected where no resource extraction is allowed.