A defining part of Canada is its incredible natural heritage and long history of establishing parks and protected areas. Comprised of relatively untouched wilderness, national and provincial parks as well as community green spaces, these areas help protect our natural resources and provide safe havens for plants and animals. Increasingly, these areas are also being recognized for the important role they play in helping Canada adapt to the impacts of climate change. So you can better picture how these spaces are making a difference, we’ve chosen five examples of new and existing parks that are giving us a natural leg up on one of the biggest challenges of our time.
- Nunavut: Tallurutiup Imanga / Lancaster Sound
Tallurutiup Imanga, which is also known as Lancaster Sound, is an excellent example of a newly established park that will help build resilience in the Arctic. Covering an area of ocean double the size of Nova Scotia, Lancaster Sound will soon become Canada’s largest protected area. This traditional Inuit homeland supports communities across the region as well as an enormous diversity of wildlife including polar bears, whales, seals, and millions of migratory birds. It’s also where close to 75 per cent of the world’s narwhal spend their summers! To help protect this incredible wealth of biodiversity against unsustainable development and the impacts of climate change, the boundaries for this jewel of the north were established in 2017.
- British Columbia: Gwaii Haanas
What about expanding existing protected areas? Haida Gwaii is a great place to look. In 2010, the Gwaii Hanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve was established in the waters surrounding the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site (also known as Gwaii Haanas), stitching together a combined area of nearly 5,000 square kilometers of land and sea. This expanded site is part of a large system of protected areas that includes provincial parks, ecological reserves, and 11 heritage sites or conservancies. The area’s rich rainforests are home to bald eagles and bears, while the oceans are teeming with whales, porpoises and sea lions.
- Manitoba & Ontario: Interprovincial Wilderness Area
For a look at how the wild side of Canada helps adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change, it’s best to visit the boundary-busting boreal forest, the 9,400 square-kilometer Interprovincial Wilderness Area in particular. The area includes Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and the Eagle-Snowshoe Conservation Reserve in Ontario as well as Atikaki and parts of Nopiming Provincial Parks in Manitoba. With impacts from climate change including drought, wildfires and insect outbreaks already impacting Canada’s boreal forests, the idea behind managing this cluster of parks and wilderness as one land area is to strengthen its interconnectedness and enhance its capacity to adapt to environmental changes.
- Quebec: Parc National de la Gaspésie
Connected networks of protected areas are crucial for species of plants and animals to adapt to the impacts of climate change, especially in areas that permit the sustainable use of natural resources. Quebec’s Parc National de la Gaspésie is an excellent example of this. Home to a remnant heard of woodland Caribou that often ventures to areas outside of the park’s boundaries, park agencies and the province are looking at the best ways to sustainably manage forestry practices to give caribou and the other species that live there the space they need to adapt to change.
- Alberta: Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
Looking towards Calgary from Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
Located only 34 kilometers from downtown Calgary, the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park is an example of a park that has been created to preserve a unique environment that’s at risk of disappearing. Established in 2006, this park helps protect wild grasslands represent one of Alberta’s most fragmented and least protected ecosystems. But Glenbow isn’t being protected just because the grasslands are at risk of disappearing. It turns out that these wild grasslands are more resistant to drought and offer better soil protection than cultivated land. They are also better able to sustain biodiversity in a changing climate, hence their importance to the surrounding area.
To help raise awareness about the important role healthy parks and protected areas play in building climate resilience, we’ve launched Just 1 Tree, a new Mission that gives kids an opportunity to learn about how biodiversity is impacted by climate change and what they can do about it. This is in addition to other climate-focused Missions Flip the Switch, What’s at Steak, Operation Conservation, and Carbon Footprint Investigation.