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 1.2.1 Status of forest-associated species at risk Indicator 1.2.2 Population levels of selected forest-associated species Indicator 1.2.3 Distribution of selected forest-associated species Indicator 1.2.4 Number of invasive, alien forest-associated species

ELEMENT 1.2

Species Diversity

Species diversity refers to the number and relative abundance of species found in an area. The maintenance of native species diversity in forest ecosystems provides multiple benefits, such as a continued flow of ecological goods and services. The status of forest-associated species is often used as a surrogate to monitor ecosystem and genetic diversity, as well as forest structures, patterns, and key ecological processes. Their status may indicate an imbalance in a biological system that may lead to long-term ecosystem productivity losses.

Through the National Forest Strategy, the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, and other initiatives, Canadians have indicated that the conservation of forest composition and biological diversity should be a priority. This includes not only the conservation of species diversity, but also taking appropriate management measures to minimize the adverse impacts of invasive alien species on forest ecosystems. Element 1.2 relies on four indicators to assess the state of forest biological diversity in Canada’s forests. The information presented in the indicator reports suggests that biological diversity in Canada’s forests is being conserved, although there are areas of significant concern. The reports describe efforts underway to address specific threats and concerns.

Indicator 1.2.1 describes the status of forest-associated species at risk in Canada and identifies threats to these species. An important milestone in protecting species and habitats in Canada was achieved with the adoption of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2002. The SARA’s List of Wildlife Species at Risk (Schedule 1) listed 306 species, which are afforded special protection. The SARA list is based on the national list of species at risk prepared by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), an independent body that evaluates candidate species suspected of being at risk on the basis of the best scientific information available. Arecovery strategy for a threatened species must be prepared within two years once it is placed on the SARA list. For endangered species, recovery strategies must be prepared within one year. Stewardship and public participation are important components of the species recovery action plans.

The number of forest-associated species at risk has increased since the last C&I report. In addition, some of the forest-associated species that were known to be at risk in 2000 have been moved to categories of greater risk since then. However, these changes should be interpreted with caution. The reasons for changes in risk category are not currently documented by COSEWIC and increases in the number of species at risk may simply reflect the greater number of species assessed since the last report rather than impacts from forest management.

Indicator 1.2.2 measures population levels of selected forest-associated species. The populations of most of the species of large mammals, small furbearers, and birds that are regularly monitored in jurisdictions across Canada are stable or increasing, which is often considered a sign that an ecosystem is in good condition, functioning properly, and that human activities carried out within the ecosystem are being managed sustainably. However, Indicator 1.2.3 shows that some species that are sensitive to forest fragmentation, such as caribou, or that live in island habitats, like marten and goshawk, are experiencing reductions in their distributions. Provinces and territories have taken steps to address these reductions.

Indicator 1.2.4 examines the number of invasive, alien forest-associated species in Canada. Alien or nonnative species are those introduced by human action outside of their natural, past, or present distribution. Alien species become invasive when their introduction or spread threatens the environment, the economy, or society, including human health. The National Forest Strategy calls for management measures to avoid or mitigate the sometimes devastating adverse impacts of invasive species on forest ecosystems and the multiple values they hold. The introduction of the emerald ash borer and the Asian long-horned beetle are examples of the increase of these impacts over the last five years. Governments have responded by developing a national strategy and various action plans to address this threat.