Canada's ecozones and population change, 1981 to 2006

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Doug Trant and Giuseppe Filoso, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division

Ecozones are areas where plants, animals, people, soils, water and climate interact to form distinct ecological systems. There is wide natural diversity in Canada, with 15 broad ecozones dividing the country into areas of common biophysical characteristics (Table 1) (Map 1).

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Table 1
Biophysical characteristics of terrestrial ecozones

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Map 1
Terrestrial ecozones

Ecozones are a useful unit for assessing natural assets. They are also useful for monitoring the impact of both natural- and human-sourced stress on the environment. Analyzing socio-economic trends by ecozone provides insight on areas where environmental pressures and related environmental changes may be occurring.

Population by ecozone

Between 1981 and 2006, Canada's population increased by 30%, growing from 24.3 million to 31.6 million people. 1 Using detailed data from the Census, population density and population change can be calculated for each of Canada's ecozones, effectively linking people to the ecological system that supports them.

Canada's three largest cities, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are located in the two most densely populated ecozones, Mixed Wood Plains (08) and Pacific Maritime (13). Populations in these ecozones increased by 36% and 60%, between 1981 and 2006. In absolute terms, populations increased by 4.4 million in the Mixed Wood Plains ecozone and by 1.2 million in the Pacific Maritime ecozone (Table 2).

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Table 2
Population, by terrestrial ecozone, 1981 to 2006

Over this same time period, trends in Canada's more isolated ecozones varied widely. Population actually dropped by 210 people on the Hudson Plains (15). Conversely, the highest percentage increases in Canada's ecozones (95% and 93%) were observed in the Southern Arctic (3) and Northern Arctic (2) ecozones (Map 2).

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Map 2
Population change in Canada's ecozones, 1981 to 2006


  1. Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 153-0037 - Selected population characteristics, Canada, provinces and territories, every 5 years, (accessed May 5, 2008)