Over a century’s worth of shifting environmental policy means that today, maintaining Canada’s forests is as important as cutting them down. Tree planting is an essential part of this maintenance, and each year thousands of young Canadians trek through rough conditions and remote areas to replant thousands of trees.
Environment can be broadly defined as the natural world or the conditions in which a species lives. This collection gathers all of The Canadian Encyclopedia's articles pertaining to the environment, from pollution to various fields of scientific study. Image: Normand Gaudreault/CC flickr.
Many animals in Canada face the risk of extinction. The major factors that put Canadian animal species at risk include the conversion of forest and grassland to urban and agricultural uses, commercial timber harvesting, hunting, fishing and the pollution of lakes and rivers (see Water Pollution). As of 2017, a total of 735 species were considered at risk in Canada, including 502 kinds of animals. (Other species at risk include plants; see also Endangered Plants.)
The Canadian oil sands (or tar sands) are a large area of petroleum extraction from bitumen, located primarily along the Athabasca River with its centre of activity close to Fort McMurray in Alberta, approximately 400 km northeast of the provincial capital, Edmonton. Increased global energy demand, high petroleum dependency and geopolitical conflict in key oil producing regions has driven the exploration of unconventional oil sources since the 1970s which, paired with advances in the field of petroleum engineering, has continued to make bitumen extraction economically profitable at a time of rising oil prices. Oil sands are called “unconventional” oil because the extraction process is more difficult than extracting from liquid (“conventional”) oil reserves, causing higher costs of production and increased environmental concerns.
Climate change occurs when long-term weather patterns begin to shift. These periods of change have occurred throughout the Earth’s history over extended periods of time. However, since the Industrial Revolution the world has been warming at an unprecedented rate. Because of this, the current period of climate change is often referred to as “global warming.” Human activities that release heat-trapping greenhouse gases, such as the burning of fossil fuels, are largely responsible for this increased rate of change. The implications of this global increase in temperature are potentially disastrous and include extreme weather events, rising sea levels and loss of habitat for plants, animals and humans. In Canada, efforts to mitigate climate change include phasing-out coal-fired power plants in Ontario and instituting a carbon tax in British Columbia.
Canada has the longest coastlines of any country in the world (60 180 km excluding islands, 202 080 including all measurable islands). Canadian coastal waters support valuable biological resources (eg, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, marine mammals and seaweeds) and are important for transportation, recreation and the mineral and hydrocarbon resources in the seafloor beneath them.