Ecozones of Canada

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Canada has 20 major ecosystems—ecozones, comprising 15 terrestrial units and 5 marine units. These ecozones are further subdivided into 53 ecoprovinces, 194 ecoregions, and 1,027 ecodistricts.[1] These form the country's ecological land classification within the Ecological Land Classification framework adopted in 2017. They represent areas of the earth's surface representative of large and very generalized ecological units characterized by interactive and adjusting biotic and abiotic factors.[2]

Terrestrial ecozones[edit]

On November 20, 2017, Statistics Canada approved the Ecological Land Classification (ELC) framework as the official government standard in classifying the ecological regions of Canada.[3] This framework mirrors that which was originally established in 1995, but revises number of ecodisiricts to 1,027 in order to better align them with the Soil Landscapes of Canada (SLC) database of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Though this framework originally included 5 marine ecozones, these were never formally adopted by Statistics Canada.[1][4] It is based on a hierarchy with ecosystems nested within ecosystems. The Ecological Framework for Canada defines four levels of ecosystems as a nested hierarchy of areas:[2]

ELC Ecozones and ecoprovinces of Canada
ID Ecozone Total area (km²)
01 Arctic Cordillera 242,190
02 Northern Arctic 1,507,872
03 Southern Arctic 839,760
04 Taiga Plains 652,125
05 Taiga Shield 1,381,821
06 Boreal Shield 1,937,517
07 Atlantic Maritime 213,863
08 Mixedwood Plains 168,204
09 Boreal Plains 737,287
10 Prairies 465,094
11 Taiga Cordillera 265,375
12 Boreal Cordillera 467,870
13 Pacific Maritime 207,925
14 Montane Cordillera 487,896
15 Hudson Plains 373,718
Total 9,948,517

Marine ecozones[edit]

Canada is divided into 5 marine ecozones based upon the National Ecological Framework for Canada established by the Ecological Stratification Working Group in 1995 in accordance with the requirements of the CEC. The Canadian marine ecozones adjoin to each other, except for the Pacific ecozone which is adjacent to international marine ecozones and terrestrial Canadian ecozones. The largest is the Arctic Archipelago, which actually extends to subarctic regions.

Ecozone Area (km²)
Territorial waters
Area (km²)
Exclusive Economic Zone
Percentage of total area (for EEZ) Percentage of marine area (for EEZ)
Pacific Marine 102,920 457,646 3.1 8.3
Arctic Basin Marine 24,997 704,849 4.8 12.7
Arctic Archipelago Marine 2,051,393 2,178,998 14.8 39.3
Northwest Atlantic Marine 536,895 1,205,981 8.2 21.8
Atlantic Marine 72,144 996,439 6.8 17.9
Total 2,788,349 5,543,913 37.7 100.0


Ecological Framework of Canada 1995[edit]

In 1991, a collaborative project was undertaken by a number of federal agencies in cooperation with provincial and territorial governments to establish a common ecological framework for Canada. The resulting report, A National Ecological Framework for Canada, released by the Ecological Stratification Working Group in 1995, established the 20 ecozones (15 terrestrial and 5 marine), 194 ecoregions, and 1,031 ecodistricts of Canada. A second report published in 1999 established the 53 ecoprovinces of Canada in accordance with the requirements of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).[1][5]

Further developments[edit]

In 2009, Fisheries and Oceans Canada developed the 13 federal marine bioregions of Canada as the official spatial planning framework in classifying and preserving the ecological integrity of Canada's internal waters and exclusive economic zone.[6]

In 2010, Environment Canada published the report Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010 utilizing a modified hierarchy called "Ecozone+". Major modifications included adjustments to terrestrial boundaries to reflect improvements in ground truthing, the combining of three Arctic ecozones, and the addition of two ecoprovinces (Western Interior Basin and Newfoundland Boreal) and nine marine ecosystem-based units.[7]

Canadian Ecological Framework 2014[edit]

In 2014, the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA) released an update to the first digital version of the Canadian Ecological Framework (CEF). The new spatial framework was designed to replace the 1995 ecological framework as well as the Ecozone+ framework used in the Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010 Report. This new ecozone map includes 18 terrestrial, 12 marine and 1 freshwater ecozone, the latter two of which were derived from the marine bioregions outlined by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2009.[8][6]

This comprehensive framework is currently in use by Environment and Climate Change Canada to determine protected area coverage of Canada's ecozones.[9]

ID Ecozone Total area (km²) Percent protected (2019)[9]
CL01 Arctic Cordillera 233,619 22.5
CL02 Northern Arctic 1,481,481 7.1
CL03 Southern Arctic 957,139 17.1
CL04 Taiga Plains 554,013 10.9
CL05 Taiga Shield 1,322,786 10.0
CL06 Boreal Shield 1,897,364 9.9
CL07 Atlantic Maritime 110,590 8.5
CL08 Mixedwood Plains 116,206 2.0
CL09 Boreal Plains 779,471 8.7
CL10 Prairies 465,990 6.0
CL11 Montane Cordillera 437,761 18.8
CL12 Pacific Maritime 216,942 24.2
CL13 Boreal Cordillera 557,937 17.3
CL14 Taiga Cordillera 231,161 9.3
CL15 Hudson Plains 350,693 12.5
CL16 Tundra Cordillera 28,980 24.6
CL17 Atlantic Highlands 93,017 4.1
CL18 Semi-Arid Plateaus 56,434 9.4
CW19 Strait of Georgia 8,969 4.7
CW20 Southern Shelf 28,158 2.8
CW21 Offshore Pacific 315,724 3.3
CW22 Northern Shelf 101,663 16.4
CW23 Arctic Basin 752,053 37.8
CW24 Western Arctic 539,807 2.2
CW25 Arctic Archipelago 268,792 14.5
CW26 Eastern Arctic 782,636 14.7
CW27 Hudson Bay Complex 1,244,670 0.7
CW28 Newfoundland-Labrador Shelves 1,041,588 1.2
CW29 Scotian Shelf 416,296 1.4
CW30 Gulf of Saint Lawrence 246,648 2.4
CW31 Great Lakes 88,250 13.5
Total (land) 9,891,584 11.3

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (2018-01-10). "Introduction to the Ecological Land Classification (ELC) 2017". Retrieved 2020-11-09.
  2. ^ a b Biswas, A.K. (2013). Water Resources of North America. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 7. ISBN 978-3-662-10868-0. Retrieved 2023-02-13.
  3. ^ Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (2017-12-20). "Ecological Land Classification (ELC) 2017". Retrieved 2020-11-09.
  4. ^ Secretariat, Treasury Board of Canada. "Terrestrial Ecozones of Canada - Open Government Portal". Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  5. ^ "Introduction to Canada's Ecozones". Retrieved 2020-11-09.
  6. ^ a b Secretariat, Treasury Board of Canada. "Federal Marine Bioregions - Open Government Portal". Retrieved 2020-11-09.
  7. ^ "Ecological classification system for the ecosystem status and trends report (ESTR) | biodivcanada". Retrieved 2020-11-09.
  8. ^ admin (2014-05-22). "Ecozones Introduction | CCEA-CCAE". Retrieved 2020-11-09.
  9. ^ a b Canada, Service (2015-10-23). "Canada's conserved areas". aem. Retrieved 2020-11-14.

External links[edit]