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Nature for Climate Change

Canada’s lands and oceans are part of the climate change solution. By protecting our ecosystems, we protect the carbon they store from being emitted by industrial exploitation. We are also giving those ecosystems, and all species that depend on them, a better chance of being resilient to and adapting to climate change. By protecting nature we are protecting ourselves and more than ourselves.

In March of 2016 our governments agreed to create a pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change. The framework will include actions to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases and limit temperature increases, and to foster climate change resilience and support adaptation efforts for our populations, ecosystems and economies.

In order to achieve these goals, actions to reduce emissions will need to be taken quickly, as the greater the changes in climate, the higher the stress on the ecosystems that store carbon and provide the ecosystem services that will allow us to adapt to climate change.

Biodiversity and climate change are closely linked. After habitat loss, climate change is the biggest threat to biodiversity.  In fact, 20-30% of species are at increased risk of extinction as climate change proceeds, including in our oceans. At the same time biodiversity is what gives our ecosystems the greatest chance of adapting to climate change to survive. As such we cannot ignore one or the other.


Part of the solution is protecting and restoring our ecosystems’ health

Across Canada, on our land and in our oceans, billions of tonnes of carbon are being stored, for example:

  • Canada’s Boreal forest stores about 186 billion tons of carbon, mostly within soils and peatlands.
  • Canada’s salt marsh sediments and soils, such as are found in the Bay of Fundy, sequester about 214 g C per m2, per year, which is almost 50 times more than is stored for the same area in boreal and temperate forests.

But when this carbon is released into the atmosphere by logging, mining, peat extraction, oil and gas and hydro-electric development, it contributes to global warming.

When these ecosystems are damaged, the ecosystem services they provide are also damaged -- including their ability to store carbon. These ecosystem services are vital for helping us and all species adapt to climate change. Healthy ecosystems are more climate resilient ecosystems, and those ecosystems are vital to our health and well-being.

Trees shading streams and rivers help to keep the waters cool enough for trout and salmon to spawn. As temperatures rise, these trees will become even more important if we want these species to continue to flourish. Maintaining and restoring riparian buffers is an important ecosystem-based solution that will be important for food security, not only for humans, but all species that rely on these fish to survive.

When ecosystems are stressed by industrial activities, they are less likely to be resilient to climate change, which puts them and us at even greater risk.


Photo credits: (left) Caledonia Spring NB - R. Clowater, (right) NB logging plantation - R. Thompson

Forests that are being managed to prioritize certain species of trees for industrial purposes are more likely to be vulnerable to natural disturbances that will increase with climate change and less likely to have the biodiversity needed to shift and adapt to climate change. The outcome could mean the loss of forests to other types of ecosystems, which will have significant impacts for all that relied on that ecosystem for livelihoods.

What does protecting and restoring ecosystems look like?

Protecting ecosystems can and will need to take many forms, including:

  • Creating and managing terrestrial and marine protected areas with ecological integrity and climate resilience are the key management objectives is the cornerstone of both a biodiversity and a climate mitigation and resilience strategy. See here for a report by the Canadian Parks Council for more on the multiple values parks have in Canada for addressing climate, including for economic resilience.
  • Creating conservation corridors. Conservation areas in the working landscapes that allow the movement of species between different protected areas will be key for protecting nature that is on the move as a result of climate change. North- South corridors will be especially important.
  • Protecting climate resilience in all landscapes. Land managers can do a lot to promote biodiversity as part of their management practices, whether in forests, grasslands or other ecosystems. Part of the solution is to promote these practices via different approaches, whether recognizing the value of robust certification processes like FSC or directly supporting the implementation of more robust practices. 
  • Including climate impacts in environmental assessments. In particular land and marine emissions and loss of climate resilience resulting from ecosystem degradation should be calculated as part of the assessment, and options that could reduce emissions and increase biodiversity considered

What CPAWS is doing

CPAWS is working to find and promote nature based solutions across Canada, including:

  • Working with all governments to create new terrestrial and marine protected areas that are large enough to be resilient to climate change impacts
  • Working with forest manager to identify adaptation practices that will benefit forests, communities, and their businesses
  • Working with governments, local communities and others to find solutions for protecting carbon and iconic species, like the boreal woodland caribou, by improving our management of the boreal forest to reduce the fragmentation of landscape.
  • Compiling and submitting our receommendations for adaptation and mitigation of climate change to the federal government via


What you can do

  • Minister McKenna has been calling all Canadians to tweet her their best ideas for Canada’s climate change framework. Let her know that #Nature4Climate will be a key piece of the puzzle and tell her about what local solutions your community or province could be taking.
  • Register and submit your own ideas for Canada's climate change framework at

Take Action!

Help us protect caribou and their boreal home
Help us protect caribou and their boreal home
Help us demonstrate that Canadians care about our caribou and want them and their boreal home protected.
Read more | Sign the pledge!


CPAWS’ recommendations for Canada’s climate change framework, June 2016 (2016)
CPAWS Public Forest Carbon Briefing Notes, April 2009 (2009)
CAN discussion Paper on LULUCF Issues and Considerations (2008)

CAN discussion Paper on LULUCF Issues and Considerations

CPAWS letter in support of the Western Climate Initiative (2008)

CPAWS letter in support of the Western Climate Initiative

Wilderness Conservation and Climate Change: What’s the Connection? (2007)

CPAWS Fact sheet explaining the effects of climate change on the wilderness, some solutions and changes CPAWS is proposing to the government.

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