Management for park purposes differs markedly from that of other lands, where effort may be directed toward modifying or controlling nature, producing crops or extracting natural resources. Within national parks, efforts are directed at maintaining ecosystems in intact ecosystems of native species (native species are species that naturally occur in a given ecosystem). This goal has important implications in that many concepts and practices that are relevant or essential to successful resource management on other lands are inappropriate in national parks.
Highway road in Terra Nova National Park of Canada
© Parks Canada / Barrett & MacKay / 01.10.08.02(31), 1985
Within the context of the management plan , sustaining the integrity of park ecosystems will be a major challenge in the coming years. Parks seldom contain complete or intact ecosystems. This, combined with increasing and cumulative stress from sources such as adjacent land use, downstream effects of air and water pollution, invasion by exotic species and climate change can result in irreversible degradation of park ecosystems, and the loss of biodiversity.
Ecosystem management provides a conceptual approach for the protection of park ecosystems. It involves taking a more global view of the natural environment and ensuring that land use decisions take into consideration the complex nature of ecosystems. It is also important to keep in mind that park management will have effects on surrounding lands and their management.
To be effective, ecosystem management must be long-term and at large-scales. Ecosystem approaches must have a broad base of support, which will be achieved through public consultation on management planning . In particular it requires understanding and collaboration among all those partners whose activities influence the ecological integrity of the park. Parks Canada must demonstrate leadership by working closely with other land management agencies to develop a better understanding of the relationship between exiting land use practices and their effects on the natural environment. National parks are becoming increasingly important in national and international efforts to maintain biodiversity and genetic resources. Consequently, Parks Canada negotiates specific agreements with provincial and territorial planning and conservation agencies and also supports involvement in the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program as a means of integrating regional planning around parks.
Ecosystem management must be credible and therefore solidly based in science. Thus, the concept of partnerships is particularly important since universities, conservation organizations and the private sector have much to contribute towards research and ecosystem monitoring initiatives within national parks.
Prescribed Burn in La Mauricie National Park of Canada
© Parks Canada / J. Pleau / 05.51.14.01(05), 1997
Canada's national parks belong to the people of Canada; visitors are welcome to visit them. However, when research confirms that the structure and function of park ecosystems have been seriously changed and that reliance on natural processes alone cannot achieve ecological restoration objectives, direct action may be required. Since management action to restore ecosystems will have long-term effects, caution must be exercised. Management must be guided by the establishment of clear, practical and measurable objectives that are consistent with the park management plan and by the strict application of science in the collection and interpretation of research and monitoring data.