Are Canada's IBAs Protected?

In a minority of cases (e.g., countries within the European Union), IBAs are recognized and regulated as protected areas. In Canada, this is not the case. Here, IBAs are afforded varying degrees of mandated protection if they overlap with one of our officially designated protected areas (e.g., National and Provincial Parks, Wildlife Reserves, etc.). The degree of protection is directly related to the management objectives of our protected areas: some sites prohibit human access, while in others, natural resources can be harvested, etc. While it is true that unprotected IBAs are potentially subject to a wider range of human activities, many activities can be compatible with bird use, including hunting, ranching, farming, and recreational pursuits. Birds and people can and do co-exist in many cases. This is particularly true in northern IBAs, where aboriginal communities rely on the landscape as traditional hunting grounds.

The below graphs illustrate, on national and regional scales, the extent of overlap of IBAs by designated protected areas, and also the degree of protection afforded our IBAs based on the IUCN management classes of the overlapping protected areas. The results of these analyses underscore the need for local community involvement in conserving IBAs, and the need to consider IBA values in local decision making and land-use planning. The protection status of individual IBAs can be viewed from site summary pages.

Extent of Overlap (National)

Fig. 1

Extent of Overlap (National) is a national summary of the extent to which Canada's IBAs are overlapped by designated protected areas. Most IBAs are not protected: Almost 70% (402 IBAs) overlap very little (<20% by area) or not at all with protected areas, and just 8% (51 IBAs) are entirely overlapped by a protected area.

Extent of Overlap (Regional)

Fig. 2

Extent of Overlap (Regional) is a regional comparison of the extent to which IBAs are overlapped by designated protected areas. Example: In AB, 22 of 47 IBAs are overlapped to some extent by a protected area. 79% (or 37) of AB’s IBAs overlap very little (<20% by area) or not at all with protected areas.

Type of Protection (National)

Fig. 3

Type of Protection (National) is a national summary of the degree of protection afforded to those IBAs that overlap protected areas. Nationally, the extent and frequency of overlap is split almost evenly between protected areas offering the greatest degree of protection (~54%; IUCN Categories IA, IB, and II) and those offering the lowest degree of protection (~46%; IUCN Categories III to VI). See legend below.  

Type of Protection (Regional)

Fig. 4

Type of Protection (Regional) is a regional summary of the degree of protection afforded to those IBAs that overlap protected areas. IUCN management categories 1A, 1B, and II (green) offer the highest level of protection, whereas categories III to VI (blue) offer the lowest. See legend below.

Legend (Figures 3 and 4 above)

IA: Strict Nature Reserve (outstanding unaltered ecosystems/species; scientific research/monitoring permitted); IB: Wilderness Area (large unaltered/slightly altered protected areas; no permanent/significant habitation); II: National Park (managed mainly for ecosystem protection and recreation/tourism; may allow product removal/habitation); III: Natural Monument (1+ rare/unique natural or cultural features); IV: Habitat/Species Management (actively managed to maintain habitats/species); V: Protected Land/Seascape (historically human altered; managed areas); VI: Managed Resource Protected Area (sustainable use of natural products/services to meet community needs); N/D: Unclassified. Notes: International designations were not considered in the analysis. There may be multiple, overlapping protected area polygons within an IBA; therefore, percentages in Figures 3 and 4 refer to the share of cumulative overlap represented by each protection category at the national or regional level.

The IUCN management categories are recognized by international bodies and by many national governments as the global standard for defining and recording protected areas. Learn more.

Download spatial data for Canada's IBAs and Canada's designated protected areas.
Contact for more information.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Bird Studies Canada and Nature Canada.
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