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Principles and Guidelines for Ecological Restoration in Canada's Protected Natural Areas

Ecological Restoration in Canada

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VIDEO: Ecological Restoration in Canada



The beauty of Canada is truly breath taking. Our natural and cultural heritage is admired around the globe and the environment has always been an integral part of the lives of Canadians.

At the same time, some of our ecosystems, even in our national parks and other protected areas, are not as healthy as they could be.

Ecological restoration attempts to stop and reverse the harm that has been done to an ecosystem.    Canadian protected areas agencies are working with partners to implement three key principles of good ecological restoration.  It should be ecologically effective, efficient, and also engaging for people.

From conducting prescribed burns to restore the ecological role of fire to controlling vegetation to restore species and ecosystems at risk; the types of projects undertaken are as vast and varied as Canada itself
They may include recreating natural stream flows and fish habitat; cleaning up waste sites to reduce contamination risk and restore natural ecosystems: or reconnecting fragmented habitat

Their goal is to re-establish healthy natural ecosystems and provide opportunities for Canadians to develop a positive and long-lasting sense of personal connection with nature, while respecting our cultural values and practices.

Josh Van Wieren, St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada:

Ecological restoration, I guess, in the most basic definition is assisting an ecosystem recover from some sort of degradation, be it a man-caused thing or something else.  If a system starting to be degraded it sometimes has the resilience to recover itself but sometimes it needs some assistance to get back to that healthy state.


The reintroduction of bison in Grasslands National Park has restored a native species and the  ecological role of grazing  in the prairie, while engaging the hearts of the local population and park visitors

Lyndon Tootoosis, Poundmaker First Nation:

I see the buffalo coming back as a seed that's going to grow and is going to create better understanding amongst our societies, our communities.


The collection of sunken logs from the bottom of lakes in La Maurice National Park has been effective in restoring the integrity of shoreline habitats for native fish.  The project, which has engaged visitors, local residents, and fly fishing enthusiasts, also makes efficient use of the wood by using it in construction projects in the park.

Blanding’s turtles are a species at risk in Canada and are protected by legislation.  In Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, with the help of scientists, the Aboriginal community and volunteers, they are getting a head start towards recovery.

Josh Van Wieren, St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada:

So the threes Es that we use for ecological restoration: effective, efficient and engaging, it's just a nice package that really lends itself to completing a project.  Its helping you take more holistic view of the project and understanding that you can't really complete a good restoration project without considering all three.  For example:  If you've done an effective job and restored it, and you've done it with a good use of resources very efficiently but you haven't engaged people, in the end it's going to fail.  It's only a matter of time until it gets degraded again.


St. Lawrence Island National Park’s Mallorytown Landing is an evolving ecosystem.  Restoration work here has restored both natural and cultural values of the area.  Originally a wetland that supported fish and waterfowl, by the turn of the century it had become a human health hazard because of poor water quality, and its man-made beach lacked the native plants and animals that are important parts of the park’s ecosystems.

Chris Bellemore, St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada
Well, this area that you are seeing here, is actually where the beach was when I was growing up as a child and as you can see, it's quite a different experience now.  Over here on the left we have a series of bulrushes that are naturally coming in and we've done some significant planting in this area to represent a natural repairian planting area as well.

Josh Van Wieren, St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada

The key is to have that monitoring in place ahead of time and to keep doing it afterwards for a long enough period that you are going to start to be able notice an increase in integrity of that site. 

The best way to know when it's time to kick in gear and do some restoration is if you have some really good data collected before hand and we start to understand what's normal and what is a degraded ecosystem.  If we can catch that trend and we realize something's happening, that's when the time, the flag goes up and it's time to do some restoration. 


For volunteers it is win-win. They connect with nature and, together with park staff, monitor and restore park ecosystems.

Ross Nichol, Volunteer:
By engaging in the citizen science, it's almost like a bridge between two different worlds.  Now I find out what's here, how it developed.  It's just fascinating to watch the process and be a part of it.


Stewardship programs also help volunteers and visitors become engaged with their protected areas. They build understanding and support for restoration efforts and help ensure restored ecosystems remain healthy.

Micheline Bastien, Volunteer
The islands belong to all of us in Canada I think, and we have to be proud of it because it’s really beautiful.

Chris Bellemore

In nature there are always changes. Everything's constantly changing.  There's nothing that can ever be static or ever be the same.  As long as we can demonstrate that we are being relevant to people and we keep listening to people, we keep involving them in the things we are doing, I think we've accomplished a lot. 


When ecological restoration consistently embraces all three principles of effectiveness, efficiency, and engagement it benefits both people and protected areas into the future.
Josh Van Wieren, St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada

It's important work for future generations, I guess in a couple of senses.  First, ensuring that our natural sites are still here for people to enjoy, and that's one of the keys to restoration – is trying to improve that.  But the other side of it – the engagement side is helping people reconnect with nature.  Helping them connect with the natural spaces and national parks so that they will pass that on to their children.  What people value is what stays protected in the long run.