Canada Target 5

By 2020, the ability of Canadian ecological systems to adaptGoal A to climate change is better understood, and priority adaptation measures are underway.


  • Completion of assessments of the vulnerability of ecological systems and biodiversity to climate change in sectors and regions across Canada that identify priority areas and species of greatest concern
  • The number and extent of management, land use and development plans completed and implemented that integrate explicit consideration of adaptation to facilitate or enhance the resilience and sustainable use of species and areas of greatest concern

About the Target

The effects of climate change are being experienced around the world. In Canada, temperatures are increasing with widespread impacts on terrestrial and marine ecosystems, including shifts in the range of ecosystems, altered migration and breeding times, changes in natural disturbance regimes, and shifts in the distribution, productivity and abundance of species. Changes in climate can affect biodiversity either directly or indirectly as a result of, for instance, temperature and precipitation changes, shifts in seasons, and frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and other natural disturbances such as fires. In addition to presenting new challenges, climate change exacerbates many of the most significant existing threats to biodiversity, such as habitat loss and the introduction and spread of invasive alien species (see Canada Target 11).

These ecological changes impact the social, cultural, health, and economic well-being of communities, businesses, organizations, governments and for Indigenous peoples across Canada. The sustainable management, conservation, and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems that are healthy, biologically diverse and climate-resilient, can also provide secondary benefits that help society adapt to climate change. This includes buffering from climate impacts including severe flooding, and through the provision of food, raw materials and natural resources, pollination, fresh water, recreation and natural ways to store carbon. Wilderness areas, working landscapes and seascapes, and urban ecosystems also provide important ecosystem services, such as natural cooling, improved air quality, water filtration, and mental health benefits.

A better understanding of the adaptive capacity of Canada’s biophysical systems can help in developing effective adaptation measures, as well as knowing where, when, and how to respond to be able to monitor and report on changes over time. A focus on implementing adaptive measures for priority areas and species of concern allows Canada to begin addressing the most pressing climate change impacts on biodiversity and enhancing ecosystem resiliency while recognizing that more needs to be done.

Canada Target 5 is linked with the following global Aichi target under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020:

  • Aichi Target 19 - By 2020, knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied.


2018 Interim Progress Assessment

On track to meeting target iconCanada is on track to meet Target 5. Broad and sustained efforts are underway at the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal levels which support progress. This includes scientific assessments on the vulnerability of ecological systems and biodiversity, as well as land use and management plans for key ecosystems, and decision-support tools for various sectors and regions.

The Government of Canada has undertaken four major science-based risk assessments covering four large aquatic basins (the Pacific Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Canada’s inland waters). These assessments focus on climate change projections and associated impacts on aquatic ecosystems and federal infrastructure. They also include national-scale assessments of climate change impacts on Canada’s economic sectors and its coasts. The Government of Canada has also launched a five-year project to assess the vulnerability of biodiversity in wetlands in the Great Lakes region to climate change.

Further, the Government of Canada is supporting long-term monitoring and research on selected wildlife species to help model and understand the potential impacts of climate change on their distribution and abundance. For example, a number of bird population monitoring and research programs have been supported, and research specific to key species such as boreal caribou, native bees and other pollinators has been undertaken.

A number of funding programs have been established to support these efforts. For example, the Indigenous Community-based Climate Monitoring Program supports community-led monitoring of key indicators such as wildlife and vegetation.

Decision-support tools developed by the Government of Canada include tailored climate and weather information for the agricultural sector, tools for forest management, as well as ocean and freshwater observations to help advance understanding and generate models to assist in responding to emergencies such as oil spills.

The Canadian Forest Service has developed a range of Forest Change Adaptation Tools to assess and manage climate-related risks and adaptation options. This includes updated Plant Hardiness Zone Maps to provide insights about what can grow where, reflecting shifts consistent with climate change. As well, a range of frameworks, guidebooks and tools help forest management practitioners better understand sources of vulnerability and potential ways to adapt. As an example, Canada’s National Forest Inventory monitors Canada’s forests on an ongoing basis to provide a continuous record of forest change. In addition, several multi-stakeholder forums exist to share knowledge and information on climate change adaptation to support resilient forest ecosystems, including the online Forestry Adaptation Community of Practice and the national Forestry Adaptation Working Group.

Adaptation tools have been developed jointly with other levels of government through Canada’s Climate Change Adaptation Platform, which includes representatives from governments, industry, Indigenous, professional, and not-for-profit organizations.

Provinces and territories are working on a range of reports and assessments consistent with Canada Target 5. For example, Alberta has examined the impacts of climate change on its forests and forest ecosystems, while Nunavut is conducting research on seabed habitats in the Arctic.

Provinces and territories are developing land use and development plans that aim to consider adaptation needs for species and areas of greatest concern. For example, New Brunswick’s climate change action plan integrates ecosystem services into its land use planning approaches, while climate change adaptation and mitigation measures will be incorporated into the Northwest Territories (NWT) Land Use and Sustainability Framework. In addition, Indigenous governments are actively engaged in the development of new legislation in the NWT for the establishment of conserved and protected areas, which may consider climate change impacts and adaptation on a regional basis.

Provinces and territories are developing decision-support tools that help incorporate adaptation considerations into decisions at all levels. For example, Alberta’s Biodiversity Management and Climate Change Adaptation project is providing knowledge and tools to support the management of Alberta’s biodiversity in a changing climate. British Columbia is also supporting adaptation-related tools such as stand establishment decision aids and seed transfer systems.

There are many initiatives underway in municipalities across Canada to better understand and adapt ecological systems to the impacts of climate change. These range from technical reports to strategic plans. For example, Vancouver’s Park Board has developed a series of strategies that aim to protect and restore natural areas, species, and ecological processes in the face of climate change.

Municipal decision-support tools are emerging. As noted under Canada Target 4, ICLEI Canada and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority have launched both a primer and a guidebook on urban biodiversity. The non-profit organization Ouranos has developed decision-making tools to facilitate adaptation and promote its integration into the conservation of biodiversity and environmental management and planning at all levels.


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