Canada Target 7
By 2020, agricultural working landscapes provide a stable or improved level of biodiversity and habitat capacity.
About the Target
Agricultural production benefits from the ecosystem services biodiversity provides, such as nutrient cycling, soil formation, water purification and pollination. At the same time, agricultural working landscapes can support biodiversity, providing important habitat for wildlife in Canada. Agricultural areas in Canada often contain many different habitat types, including cropland, pastures, grasslands, forests, wetlands and water bodies, including many areas of natural or semi-natural vegetation. Declines in the capacity of Canada’s agricultural lands to support the habitat needs of species have been due in large part to the conversion of natural areas to cropland and agricultural intensification on existing farmland. Improving biodiversity on agricultural lands is key to sustaining natural systems, maintaining water quality and quantity, supporting pollinators, improving wildlife habitat and connectivity, and making agro-ecosystems better able to recover and adapt to environmental stresses such as drought.
Progress toward this target involves continued improvement of the management of agricultural landscapes at a number of levels. At the farm level, Canada's farmers can implement practices that increase diversity on their farm such as planting shelterbelts and windbreaks and the use of riparian buffers, and integrating practices like crop rotation, strip cropping and agroforestry which also benefit production. Municipal and Provincial governments can influence biodiversity through land use planning in the broader agricultural landscape while responding to ongoing pressures from agricultural landscape conversion, urban encroachment, transportation, industry and other uses in these landscapes that impact biodiversity. The federal government can continue to promote biodiversity conservation and foster better opportunities for farmers and all Canadians through agricultural research and innovation. At the same time, industry can continue to develop and champion agro-environmental technologies and practices that support productivity and biodiversity – such as the practices recognized by the Canadian Cattleman's Association's annual Environmental Stewardship Award.
Canada Target 7 is linked with the following global Aichi target under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020:
- Aichi Target 5 - By 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced.
- Aichi Target 7 - By 2020 areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.
2018 Interim Progress Assessment
Canada is on track to meet Canada Target 7. One of the key indicators used to assess progress on agricultural working landscapes is the Wildlife Habitat Capacity on Farmland Indicator. This indicator provides a multi-species assessment tool to understand trends in the capacity of agricultural landscapes to provide habitat. This information can then be used to avoid further habitat degradation and encourage improvements where possible.
Recently Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has developed a national, earth observation-based version of the Wildlife Habitat Capacity on Agricultural Land indicator. Using this data, which is collected annually, allows for quicker reporting turnover and better tracking of land cover (habitat) change and its potential impact on wildlife biodiversity.
An assessment using this method found that, between 2011 and 2017, potential wildlife habitat capacity remained stable on almost 94% of the Canadian agricultural landscape and increased on 3%. Where decreases in capacity were identified (on roughly 3% of agricultural lands), these were associated with increases in annual crops, expanding urban footprints, and agricultural expansion resulting in the loss of shrub and woodlands.
Another important tool to support biodiversity within agricultural working landscapes is the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP). Environmental farm planning is a voluntary, confidential self-assessment tool designed to help farmers enhance their environmental management. With support from experts, farmers create an EFP, which includes a list of on-farm agri-environmental risks and an action plan detailing the beneficial management practices (BMPs) required to mitigate those risks.
Typically, farmers with a completed EFP are then eligible for funding to reduce these risks and implement applicable BMPs. This funding is cost-shared under Canada’s federal-provincial-territorial agricultural policy framework, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Eligible BMPs typically include establishing or managing riparian buffers and woodlots; converting marginal cropland to permanent cover; planting or maintaining shelterbelts and hedgerows; delaying haying; and conserving wetland, wetland buffers, and natural and semi-natural lands – all of which directly or indirectly support biodiversity on agricultural lands.
While more recent statistics were not available in time for inclusion in Canada’s 6th National Report, the 2011 Farm Environmental Management Survey found that 35% of farms in Canada had a formal written EFP, which accounts for 50% of Canada’s agricultural lands. Of these farms, 95% had either fully or partially implemented the practices recommended in their EFP.