Parks Canada requires applied and basic research and monitoring activities to make responsible decisions in its management, planning and operating practices, as well as to broaden scientific understanding. Research activities are encouraged and managed to ensure that commemorative and ecological integrity are maintained.

If you are interested in conducting research in a national park, the on-line Research and Collection Permit System can help you.

Studies in National Parks

National parks act as long-term ecological research sites, serving as ecological benchmarks, for the study of natural environments and their components in a relatively undisturbed state. Park based research is not only of value in assisting park management and interpretation, but contributes to the growing body of scientific knowledge concerning our natural world. Scientific studies in parks are seen as increasingly important because they can help reveal changes occurring in ecosystems as a result of human intervention or nature. Over the last year, a range of studies have been carried out in Canada's national parks.

Here are a some highlights:

Park planning - Determination of best ecological boundaries for the establishment and management of Canadian national parks

Planning is underway for a proposed National Park in the Interlake area of Manitoba. In order to assist in establishing a park with a size and configuration that takes into account a broad range of ecological considerations, a geographic-based analytical approach was used.

The approach queries ecological databases to achieve:

  • adequate representation of terrestrial and aquatic ecological targets at regional, coarse and local scales - representation in terms of both the occurrence and spatial distribution of biological and physiographic features; and
  • maintenance of ecological and evolutionary processes. This project aims at developing new approaches based on landscape ecology principles to define ecological boundaries for protected areas.

Traditional ecological knowledge and the management of natural resources: case studies from northern Canada

A project aiming at exploring how the commitment of Aboriginal groups, academics, government and non-governmental organizations to using or integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) into the decision-making is affecting resource management was launched in 2002. Through 4-5 case studies, the way aboriginal systems of management and knowledge are shaping the management structures will be documented. The usage of TEK terminology, concepts and procedures in the decision making-process will also be addressed.

The use of science and clam management in Kouchibouguac National Park (NB)

Since 1981, the local population around Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada (NB) have been allowed to practice traditional activities such as commercial fishing and soft shelled clam (Mya arenaria) harvesting in the park. Before 1993, no effective management system was in place to ensure the long term viability of the clam population under harvesting pressure. Clam population surveys conducted in 1993, 1994, and 1996 showed an overharvesting of the resource. Following those results, clam harvesting was banned for a two year period from 1997 to 1999, resulting in income loss for local harvesters. A new monitoring program collects data on clam beds during the surveys and also takes into consideration the traditional knowledge of local harvesters. Data are analyzed and mapped with a Geographic Information System (GIS), allowing the representation of clam beds with densities and age-class distribution. For the first time, managers have access to a spatial representation of clam beds. This method allows managers to implement a rotation type of harvesting by predicting, not only the beds ready for harvesting but also the recruitment level of each bed and therefore predict the year it could be open for harvest.

Advanced Very High Radiometric Resolution (AVHRR) Monitoring

In 2001-2002, a project to use large scale satellite images to accomplish three monitoring goals (quantify plant community fragmentation, measure the interval in which ice disappears from large lakes, and identify sites of early vegetation green-up in the largely inaccessible northern parks) was launched. Meeting all of these goals will help us understand the roles of large scale disturbance and global warming on the ecological integrity of the national parks network.

Monitoring the population status of Peary caribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi) on Ellesmere Island: factors affecting the current population level

Over the past four decades, the Peary caribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi) populations of the Queen Elizabeth Islands have suffered declines of more than 90%. The most recent drastic declines have been documented for Bathurst Island between 1994 and 1997 and the apparent cause of the decline has been attributed to severe winter and spring weather. An interdisciplinary project was launched in 2001-2002 to document Peary caribou population size and distribution in northern Ellesmere Island based on historical and more current data. The project also aims at identifying critical habitat/areas for Peary caribou using Advanced Very High Radiometric Resolution (AVHRR) satellite images (plant productivity indices). In parallel, the extent of population reduction will be assessed by genetic analysis (population bottlenecks).

Ecosystem management-Coastal British Columbia paleoecology: land sea interactions

A new research program was undertaken in 2001 to use paleoecological techniques to develop an understanding of the environmental factors governing ecosystem structure and the interplay among terrestrial, freshwater aquatic, and marine systems since the last continental glaciation. Emphasis is on understanding the structure and function of ecosystems prior to European settlement on the west coast of Canada and how it applies to issues pertaining to ecological integrity, biological conservation, and climate change. Changes in vegetation, aquatic organisms, and salmonid presence are examined using radiometrically dated sediment cores along the west coast of Canada and used as a measure of ecological integrity for Canada's protected areas.

Research in northern National Parks

The combined area of Canada’s national parks is just over 300,000 square kilometres, approximately the size of Italy. Most of this territory consists of roadless regions north of the 60th parallel and Parks Canada is responsible for monitoring these remote places. Learn more about research in northern national parks.