Criteria for ecological corridors in Canada

Parks Canada launched the National Program for Ecological Corridors in April 2022. The program aims to create links between protected areas and other natural habitats. These links allow species to move, interact, and find food and habitat. Ecological corridors also help to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and to adapt to climate change. Parks Canada is identifying criteria and mapping priority areas for the creation of ecological corridors. We are also supporting conservation action on the ground.

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Developing a shared approach

Creating a shared understanding of ecological corridors is important to:

  • build support for ecological connectivity conservation
  • advance best practices for protecting ecological networks

Parks Canada is collaborating with numerous experts, Indigenous partners, other levels of governments, and stakeholders to build an approach to identify and create ecological corridors in Canada. This includes criteria for ecological corridors in Canada, a framework by which we can:

  • work collaboratively and effectively
  • inform decisions about where to support the creation of ecological corridors
  • create corridor initiatives that contribute to ecological conservation networks
  • ensure ecological corridors are managed/stewarded to maintain or restore connectivity

Collaborative process

Since March 2022, Parks Canada has held numerous workshops and meetings with conservation leaders, scientists, experts, national and regional conservation organizations, provincial and territorial governments and Indigenous partners to gather knowledge and perspectives on the Criteria for ecological corridors in Canada.

Definition of ecological corridors

To guide this work, Parks Canada defines ecological corridors in a similar way as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (PDF, 5.5MB). We have adapted the definition to be more inclusive and to better reflect the reality that Indigenous peoples have been stewarding the lands and waters since time immemorial:

A clearly defined geographical space where governance, management and stewardship over the long term maintain or restore effective ecological connectivity while upholding Indigenous stewardship values.”

(modified from IUCN, 2020)

Learn more about Indigenous stewardship values, and Parks Canada’s engagement with Indigenous peoples on ecological corridors

Ecological corridors are not protected areas. Rather, they form part of ecological networks for conservation along with Protected Areas (PAs), Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs) and unprotected natural habitat. The term “unprotected natural habitat” refers to areas with documented and recognized ecological and cultural values but that are not protected or conserved. Examples include, but are not limited to, Key Biodiversity Areas, Biosphere Reserves, Important Bird Areas, and other sites that are not under formal protection.

Interconnected networks of PAs, OECMs, and other natural areas are important for biodiversity conservation. This is especially true in the face of climate change. Ecological corridors help species adapt by allowing them to move from one area of habitat to another. They also provide vital ecosystem services to humans, such as food, clean air and water, as well as social benefits like sustainable livelihoods and opportunities to connect with nature.


The criteria for ecological corridors in Canada are aligned with the IUCN adapted definition. Each criterion is intended to evaluate important elements of the definition (bolded above). Corridors will often be created on lands and waters with a patchwork of ownership, governance and management. The corridor-scale criteria are intended to evaluate the entire corridor vision and stewardship plan. The property-scale criteria are intended to evaluate how each property (or group of properties) contributes to corridor goals, based on their governance and management/stewardship characteristics.

Detailed guidance on the use of criteria is available upon request.

Criteria at-a-glance

Summary of criteria for ecological corridors in Canada
Corridor-scale criteria Property-scale-criteria
Corridors are spatially-defined
Corridors have documented goals and objectives and monitored outcomes
Corridor lands and waters meet the governance and management criteria
Geographic space Corridor goals to: maintain or restore ecological connectivity; and uphold Indigenous stewardship values Management/stewardship intent
Publicly available map Effective means
Link between PAs, OECMs and/or unprotected natural habitat Corridor objectives Governing bodies and decision-makers
Monitoring corridor outcomes Long-term

Criteria description

A more detailed description of elements mentioned in the criteria at-a-glance section above.

Summary of criteria for ecological corridors in Canada
Criterion Intended effect Description and rationale
Where and why (corridor-scale criteria)
Geographic space
Corridors are delineated on publicly available maps and build ecological networks for conservation
The corridor is delineated such that it links protected and conserved areas, and/or unprotected natural habitat, and guides the implementation of measures in support of corridor goals and objectives.
  • Ensuring that corridor mapping is publicly available supports:
    1. implementing conservation measures;
    2. accounting and reporting;
    3. identifying relevant governing bodies and decision-makers;
    4. enhancing transparency;
    5. raising public awareness of the corridor.
  • To address sensitivities related to data ownership, “fuzzy” boundaries are acceptable for publication, but precise boundary data must exist and be included in the corridor stewardship plan.
Goals, objectives and outcomes
Corridor goals and objectives are documented, and outcomes are monitored
Ecological connectivity is maintained or restored, and Indigenous stewardship values are upheld.
  • Clearly documented goals and objectives provide a roadmap and facilitate collaborative action for the achievement of corridor outcomes, through active restoration and stewardship, while also providing a basis for evaluation and monitoring.
How (property-scale criteria)
Management/Stewardship intent
The management intent is described and documented.
Management/stewardship intent is compatible with corridor goals and objectives.
  • Expression of intent is a clearly communicated statement or set of objectives for the property found in a mechanism or mean being used to manage/steward the property.
  • The management/stewardship intent of properties composing the corridor does not have to be explicitly or exclusively aligned with the corridor goals and objectives; however, it must not be in conflict.
Effective means
Means or mechanisms are in place and provide the ability to prevent, control or manage/steward what occurs within the corridor.
Only activities that are compatible with the corridor goals and objectives occur and are effectively managed/stewarded.
  • Means must exist to enable decision-makers to prevent incompatible activities and manage/steward activities compatible with the corridor goals and objectives.
  • Examples of legal means include Indigenous law, legislation, bylaws, policy instruments and contracts. Other effective means include non-legal tools such as voluntary agreements, incentive programs, negotiation, influence and recognized traditional rules.
Governing bodies & decision-makers
Decision-makers act in a manner that is compatible with the corridor goals and objectives.
Governing bodies and decision-makers have the ability to apply effective means to ensure that only activities compatible with corridor goals and objectives occur.
  • Having effective means is not enough to ensure that only compatible activities occur. Governing bodies and decision-makers must be able to apply them.
  • All relevant governing bodies and decision-makers must be identified, and where they exist, track records of success or failure of decision-makers in using the effective means should be considered.
Long term
Long-term means or mechanisms are in place and in effect year-round.
Corridor goals and objectives are maintained year-round and over the long term.
  • Means do not need to be permanent but should be intended to persist over the medium to long-term.
  • Measures that only provide protection during a specific seasonal timeframe do not, on their own, achieve corridor goals and objectives.

Download the PDF version of the Criteria for ecological corridors in Canada (PDF, 2.67 MB)

The need for criteria for ecological corridors in Canada

Agreed-upon definitions and criteria are important to create a shared understanding and build support for ecological connectivity conservation and corridors in Canada, and advance best practices for protecting ecological networks.

In addition, because corridors should not replace the establishment of new or expanded protected and conserved areas, having criteria in place can help determine if an ecological corridor is the right conservation tool to achieve the desired conservation outcomes or if other conservation approaches should be pursued.

Who these criteria are for

Applying or implementing the criteria for ecological corridors can be done by anyone.

Typically, conservation organizations, or voluntary groups and associations already leading a corridor initiative would have an interest in developing a stewardship plan that demonstrates how their project meets the criteria. Going through this process can help identify where potential improvements could be made to strengthen the governance and management mechanisms in place to achieve corridor goals and objectives.

Similarly, those leading nascent corridor initiatives can use the criteria as a tool to build a solid stewardship plan. This includes documenting where and why a corridor is needed, and how corridor lands and waters are/will be managed to achieve the corridor goals.

Criteria focused on governance and management

Sound governance and management are important to achieve connectivity outcomes, especially in the context of ecological corridors, which include diverse jurisdictions and stakeholders. The property-scale criteria help ensure there are effective means and clear decision-making processes in place across the corridor to enable and sustain the implementation of measures in support of the corridor goals.

Ecological considerations will vary for each corridor, based on the needs and characteristics of the species, ecosystems and stewardship values relevant to the corridor. As such, corridor-scale criteria are not prescriptive in terms of ecological considerations but require the identification of specific connectivity objectives and desired connectivity outcomes.

Recognition of ecological corridors

Meeting the criteria

A corridor could be recognized by Parks Canada as contributing to ecological networks for conservation if it meets the criteria. Details of the recognition process, as well as supporting material are still being developed and will be released at a later date.

Recognizing ecological corridors that contribute to strengthening the network of protected and conserved areas will help:

  • promote good stewardship practices on a variety of land tenures
  • raise awareness of the importance of ecological corridors to maintain, enhance and restore connectivity for effective conservation of biodiversity
  • inspire action for the creation of additional ecological corridors

Parks Canada’s approach

Parks Canada’s Criteria for ecological corridors in Canada are derived from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Guidelines for Conserving Ecological Connectivity through Ecological Networks and Corridors (PDF, 5.5 MB). They also align closely with the approach to identify and recognize Protected Areas (PA) and Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures (OECM) in Canada, although they were modified in response to engagement with Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners and stakeholders.

Parks Canada will not own or administer corridors but will collaborate with partners to:

  • advance corridor creation and stewardship
  • support and promote corridor initiatives on the ground

The creation of ecological corridors contributes to the effective management of existing and new protected and conserved areas, thereby helping address the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. In some cases, it may also lead to the identification of additional protected and conserved areas that could count towards Canada’s biodiversity commitments to conserve 25 percent of land and inland waters by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030.

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