WWF-Canada releases new report: The Nature Audit sets conservation priorities for the 21st century | WWF-Canada

WWF-Canada releases new report: The Nature Audit sets conservation priorities for the 21st century

Posted on 23 May 2003
“The Nature Audit reveals that many Canadian species and habitats are declining,” says WWF-Canada President Monte Hummel. “To use a financial analogy, we’re not protecting our savings, we’re not spending wisely enough, and we’re badly overspent in some parts of the country. That is having a real and measurable impact on nature’s bottom line.”

The Nature Audit is an innovative approach for the conservation community. No organisation – or government – has ever produced such a comprehensive estimate of the cumulative impact our activities are having on both wildlife species and their habitats. The Nature Audit graphically illustrates the extent of this human footprint and presents a regional look at how it is impacting the state of Canadian biodiversity. It also tells some positive stories of leadership being shown by governments, business, First Nations and conservation groups to soften our impact on nature – approaches that must become more widely adopted for Canada to meet its international obligations.

Kevin Kavanagh, Director of Biodiversity Conservation Reporting, led a team of scientists to conduct The Nature Audit. “By undertaking the audit,” he says, “WWF-Canada has assumed the role of an independent watchdog to measure how well Canada is fulfilling its commitments to conserve biodiversity and to protect its natural capital. As a result of this report, we are now in a better position to identify where resources must be more efficiently directed to address existing and growing areas of conservation concern. These include everything from newly arriving invasive species, such as West Nile virus, emerald ash borer and European green crab, to additional losses of economically vital natural resources, such as fisheries.

Kavanagh and his team used a ‘state-pressure-response’ model in The Nature Audit to:

  1. Measure the long-term changes in the abundance and distribution of 1,400 species (from whales to butterflies to orchids) and numerous habitats (from forests to grasslands to tundra) across Canada by comparing their current and historic states;
  2. Estimate the human footprint or pressure that Canadians are exerting on nature (e.g., impacts attributable to pollution, urbanization, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture and other industrial activities), including the critically important cumulative impacts these measures are having on nature; and,
  3. Audit what government, industry and others are doing to meet regional conservation needs in Canada – from protecting nature in advance of development, to restoring degraded habitats and preventing the arrival of invasive species, which can create significant economic and health costs.

The Nature Audit concludes with priority conservation actions for the 21st century. Among the ‘bottom-line’ messages in the report: the need to take advantage of remaining ‘conservation-first’ opportunities in Canada’s North, a significant increase in attention to marine conservation issues, and the urgent need for a national plan to prevent invasive species from entering Canada.

The Nature Audit will be released every two years. In the interim, WWF-Canada will work with governments, industry, First Nations, conservation partners and others to lighten our footprint on nature. Failing to do so will diminish the natural capital needed by future generations of Canadians.