The combined area of Canada’s national parks is just over 300,000 square kilometres, approximately the size of Italy. Most of this territory consists of roadless regions north of the 60th parallel.

Map of northern National Parks

Parks Canada is responsible for monitoring these large, remote places, in some cases for many decades, as with Wood Buffalo National Park, which was established in 1922. While the defining principles of this responsibility have not changed over the years, Parks Canada has been applying new tools to a challenging goal.

Using their traditional skills and knowledge, the indigenous peoples of these regions now play a major role in cooperatively managing these activities.

Innovative survey methods on the ground, combined with the latest imaging technology in space, are providing long-term insights into the diverse array of ecological systems within the parks system.

In this way, Canada is committed to caring for these special places today while preserving them for future generations.

Remote sensing

ParkSPACE: our ongoing search for innovation

Canada has nurtured substantial expertise in satellite technology since the 1960s, making it possible to conduct ongoing environmental observations that were unthinkable a generation ago. This growing capacity facilitates Parks Canada’s ability to manage some of the largest parks in the world.

More on remote sensing

Water

Parks Canada and the International Polar Year

Water, along with the many plants and animals that depend on it, is an integral component of Canada’s northern environment. It was also a key focus for Parks Canada scientists during the International Polar Year, a global initiative that explored all aspects of Canada’s arctic and sub-arctic landscapes and waters.

Ecological integrity: A view from the water

Land

Parks Canada and the International Polar Year

The well being of the terrestrial environment was a fundamental concept ushered in by the creation of Parks Canada early in the 20th century. It is a concept that continues to drive this agency’s activities, including investigations conducted during the International Polar Year, a global initiative that explored all aspects of Canada’s arctic and sub-arctic landscapes.

Ecological integrity: A view from the land

Watershed approach

Surveying the large northern parks on foot offers the greatest amount of detail about what is happening to the landscape, but it demands a significant amount of time and effort. Information about these vast areas can be quickly provided by orbiting satellites, although in less detail.

By integrating approaches on the ground and in the sky, much more can be learned about the entire state of the park. Researchers are therefore focusing their tundra, freshwater, and other sampling in a smaller part of the park, enhancing their findings with traditional knowledge of the area and then finally linking the results with data from satellite imagery.

More on the watershed approach: From "ground truth" to orbiting observatories