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Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada

Ecological Integrity - Protecting our Park

Canada's national parks protect and preserve our natural heritage for the benefit of all Canadians, now and in the future. Our national parks are home to innumerable wild plants and animals, some of which are in danger of extinction. By keeping their habitats safe and intact, we can all help to ensure their future. Parks Canada manages National Parks to ensure ecological integrity. Ecosystems are deemed to have integrity when they have their native components intact, including: abiotic components (the physical elements, e.g. water, rocks), biodiversity (the composition and abundance of species and communities in an ecosystem, e.g. represent landscape diversity; foxes, brook trout and sugar maple represent species diversity) and ecosystem processes (the engines that make ecosystems work; e.g. coastal erosion and predation).

How do we maintain ecological integrity?

Park Management

Management of our national parks must be based on a clear understanding of ecosystems and of all possible stresses on them. To ensure the continuity or sustainability of our Park, we must view the natural environment as a whole, in which people are an integral part of the natural ecosystem. Prince Edward Island National Park’s objective is to allow people to enjoy the park as a special place without damaging its ecological integrity. Therefore, park management decisions must consider the interactions and dynamic nature of ecosystems, as well as their capacity to withstand and recover from stress.

To maintain the balance of nature, we must all be attentive to the impact we have on it.
To maintain the balance of nature, we must all be attentive to the impact we have on it.
© Parks Canada / J. Pleau

How do we maintain ecological integrity?

Our primary objective is to ensure “ecological integrity.”The Resource Conservation staff of Prince Edward Island National Park are in the process of developing an Ecological Integrity Monitoring Program. Four Ecological Indicators have been developed which include Forest, Wetland, Coastal, and Aquatic Freshwater ecosystems. For each ecological indicator, a suite of measures is being developed that incorporates all ecological elements in the Ecological Integrity Framework, including biodiversity, process and functions, and stressors. These measures will allow us to determine the status (where we are) of our indicators, and through long term monitoring, determine the trend (increase/decrease) of ecosystem health. Our ecological monitoring will determine if and where ecological integrity is decreasing or needs improvement, which will indicate where we need to focus our ecosystem restoration efforts and ecosystem research and priorities.

Stressors

Prince Edward Island National Park is subject to stresses from inside as well as outside its boundaries. These stresses may potentially alter the Park's natural resources if appropriate actions are not taken to prevent them. Some of those stressors, for which we have concern and made our priority for research and monitoring, are:

At designated beach access points, boardwalks or matting help to direct people to the beach.
At designated beach access points, boardwalks or matting help to direct people to the beach.
© Parks Canada / J. Sylvester

Visitor Use

Prince Edward Island National Park is one of the most visited national parks in Canada, concentrated in July and August. One way that we protect sensitive resources is through the national park zoning system. The zoning system is a resource based management tool used to establish the relative emphasis placed on resource protection requirements and visitor use of park land. Visitors can do their share by respecting the closed areas, staying on designated paths, and walking or cycling instead of driving.

Global Climate Change

Prince Edward Island is one of the country's most vunerable areas when it comes to the effects of global warming. The coast is highly sensitive to impacts from sea-level rise and increased storm severity. The combination will accelerate coastal flooding and erosion, alter sediment distribution, change the water table, and alter water chemistry in the inter-tidal and near-shore environment. As a result, the patterns of visitor use of certain beaches could change as well as the integrity of park infrastructure.

Habitat Fragmentation

Agriculture and forestry activities have resulted in a drastic reduction and fragmentation of much of the natural habitat of Prince Edward Island. Small mammals are particularly vulnerable to habitat fragmentation. Through restoration efforts, the park will decrease the fragmentation of forested habitats.

Activities Outside Park Boundaries

The national park cannot effectively manage for ecological integrity inside the park without considering the influence of land use occurring beyond park boundaries. As a result, the park collaborates (participates as a partner in working groups, programs, etc) with others beyond park boundaries, when addressing important issues within the park.