Canada Target 17

By 2020, measures of natural capital related to Goal Cbiodiversity and ecosystem services are developed on a national scale, and progress is made in integrating them into Canada's national statistical system.


  • The number of individual ecosystem types for which Statistics Canada has published national-scale data tables
  • The number and extent of individual ecosystem types for which Statistics Canada has published national-scale map layers
  • The number of ecosystem services for which there is national-scale data

About the Target

“Natural capital” and “ecosystem services” are metaphors used to focus attention on how the natural environment, including ecosystems, support human well-being. “Natural capital” is an economic way of characterizing the structures and processes within ecosystems as stocks of resources that provide flows of goods and services that human societies depend on. These include, among many other examples, food, water, biochemical materials, natural infrastructure functions such as flood mitigation and water purification, and support many aspects of human health and wellbeing. These ecosystem services can be understood as a valuable result of Canada's natural wealth but most of them are only beginning to be accounted for in the national statistical system. Improved accounting of natural capital and ecosystem services should contribute to better environmental and resource management decision making and a reduction in the significant, measured degradation and loss of natural capital related to biodiversity.

In 2011 Canada had no formally established system for measuring aspects of natural capital that extend beyond harvestable or extractable natural resources and some forms of land (which is bought and sold). Canada also had no adequate system for measuring most ecosystem services. Since then, work has started using the international System of Environmental and Economic Accounts (SEEA) Experimental Ecosystem Accounts as the basis for natural capital reporting. The SEEA-EEA is a project of the United Nations Statistics Division but which also involves the work of other organizations and research teams. The UN SEEA-EEA defines how countries can measure natural capital and ecosystem services using a range of measures that can be monetary, physical, and condition-based. The motivation for developing ecosystem accounts comes from a wide range of emerging demands for integrating information on the environmental aspects of sustainability and for information on the links between ecosystem functions and human well-being.

Canada Target 17 is linked with the following global Aichi target under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020:

  • Aichi Target 2 - By 2020, at the latest, biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are being incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems.


2018 Interim Progress Assessment

On track to meeting target iconCanada is on track to meet this target. Major strides have been made in achieving Canada Target 17 since 2011. Since that time, Canada has begun to develop a system for measuring ecosystem assets and services, informed by the United Nations System of Environmental and Economic Accounts Experimental Ecosystem Accounts (UN SEEA-EEA).

In addition, Statistics Canada continues to work on incorporating an increasing body of ecosystem-related data and elements of natural capital within the national statistics system. This includes releasing data through Statistics Canada’s online database, as well as publishing tables, charts, maps and analysis in its annual report: Human Activity and the Environment. Recently, this report has focused on (1) landscape change in and around Canadian census metropolitan areas, (2) freshwater supply, use, and condition of freshwater ecosystems, (3) agriculture in Canada, and (4) forests in Canada.

Some provincial governments, such as Alberta, are explicitly integrating diverse values of ecosystem services into regional land use plans and policies. Federal, provincial and territorial governments have also collaborated to develop and publish a detailed technical guide to ecosystem services assessment to build capacity for incorporating these values into decision-making processes.

In early 2017, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments of Canada collaboratively published a comprehensive technical guide entitled the Ecosystem Services Toolkit: Completing and Using Ecosystem Service Assessment for Decision-Making: An Interdisciplinary Toolkit for Managers and Analysts. This toolkit is a practical, step-by-step guide on how to consider and incorporate ecosystem services in a variety of different policy contexts such as spatial planning, environmental assessment, and wildlife management. The toolkit is designed to enhance users’ understanding of ecosystem services and to support analysis and decision-making by:

  • outlining reasons for using an ecosystem services lens;
  • guiding users through the six steps of an ecosystem services assessment;
  • offering advice on how to address ecosystem services considerations in various policy and decision-making contexts;
  • providing innovative tools, advice and resources to support assessment and analysis; and,
  • illustrating the uses of ecosystem services assessment with Canadian examples.

The Ecosystem Services Toolkit supports Target 17 by providing governments and others with tools to gather data on biodiversity and ecosystem services so that they can be integrated into statistical, planning, and other systems at various scales.

Canada also contributes to global efforts in a number of ways. Canada is actively involved in the revision of the UN SEEA-EEA and participates in the work of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Canadian officials have provided training in national environmental accounting to other countries such as China, Malaysia and Chile.


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