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Ecological Framework of Canada
Defining the Framework


The release of Canada's Green Plan (Government of Canada 1990) in December of 1990 outlined the government's commitment to new policy thrusts to manage our resources prudently and to encourage sensitive environmental decision making. One cornerstone of the Green Plan was the direction to think, act and plan in terms of ecosystems; to move away from an emphasis on individual elements towards a more comprehensive approach to monitoring and reporting on the environment. A nationwide ecological framework was required to provide standardized, multiscale geographical reporting and monitoring units. The use of such a framework of standard ecological units should allow for common communication and reporting between different jurisdictions and disciplines. The federal government has further endorsed the use of an ecosystem approach to manage and report on the sustainability of both the forestry (Forestry Canada 1993) and agriculture (Federal-Provincial Agriculture Committee on Environmental Sustainability 1990) resource sectors.

To this end, in 1991, a collaborative project was undertaken by federal government agencies with a wide range of stakeholders to revise the terrestrial component of a national ecological framework. This national framework has been revised to enhance the capability of both government and nongovernment organizations to assess, and report on, environmental quality and the sustainability of ecosystems in Canada. This classification system has evolved from previous national efforts and is part of an ongoing development of small-scale ecological mapping in Canada. This report: i) integrates the most recent ecological information (maps and reports); ii) contains narrative descriptions of each ecozone and ecoregion, iii) includes a relational database in a structure that facilitates further linking to federal and external databases, and iv) the framework provides a direct link to the Soil Landscapes of Canada digital map series. The national and regional map coverages have been created on a widely used commercial geographic information system with the ability to export to other software.

This spatial framework was built on consultation, collaboration and compromise. As such, not all boundaries of the framework will be to the full satisfaction of all Canadian ecologists. It is presented for use to a wide range of users. National classifications evolve as knowledge is gained and ecological perspectives change. Following use and feedback, it is intended that in the future this framework will again be revised to better reflect our understanding of the Canadian landscape and the sustainability of natural resources.

This report describes the methods used to construct the spatial ecological framework, the concepts of the hierarchical levels of generalization (ecozones, ecoregions and ecodistricts), their linkages to various resource data sources, and some examples of applications of the framework. A copy of the corresponding 1:7 500 000 scale national map and narrative descriptions of each ecozone and ecoregion are also included.

Scott Smith, Project Leader, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Ian Marshall, Project Leader, Environment Canada

Ottawa, June 20, 1995