Biosphere Reserves in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Biosphere Reserves in Canada

A biosphere reserve represents one of the world’s important ecosystems and is divided into three zones: a protected core zone (such as a park or wildlife area), a buffer zone around the core, and a transition zone that fosters sustainable economic and cultural activity. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves includes 686 sites around the world, 18 of which are in Canada. The network is part of the larger Man and the Biosphere Program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Biosphere reserves are designated by UNESCO to help conserve biodiversity, demonstrate sustainable development and build the local community’s capacity to deal with human and environmental issues.
Riding Mountain National Park
Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. Photo taken on 18 August 1998.
(courtesy Robert Linsdell/Flickr CC)

Biosphere Reserves in Canada

Designation of a biosphere reserve does not confer any legal status under Canadian law. People and agencies participate in biosphere reserve activities on a voluntary basis, and local communities generally co-ordinate these activities. National co-ordination is provided by a non-profit organization, the Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association. There are 18 biosphere reserves in Canada.

Name, Location

Year Est.


Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec 1978 Mont-Saint-Hilaire is located about 32 km east of Montreal. The area is home to some of the last old-growth deciduous forests in the province, which is, in turn, home to many rare and endangered species. The biosphere reserve includes a rich agricultural area on the Richelieu River, as well as a large urban region.
Waterton, Alberta 1979 The biosphere reserve contains Waterton Lakes National Park, ranch land and forest areas. The biosphere reserve has carried out many research and education projects on wildlife and ranching issues. Waterton is also a key part of the Yellowstone-to-Yukon corridor for wildlife migration.
Long Point, Ontario 1986 Biosphere reserve is based on a 32-km peninsula in Lake Erie. It includes a national wildlife area, small towns, farms, forests and recreation areas. The biosphere reserve is also home to some of the largest remaining tracts of Carolinian forest in the country, and a stopover point for many migratory birds.
Riding Mountain, Manitoba 1986 Biosphere reserve contains Riding Mountain National Park and almost a million hectares of surrounding land, primarily agricultural. Reserve activities include educational workshops for farmers and studies of landscape change and habitat.
Charlevoix, Quebec 1989 Biosphere reserve is located on the St Lawrence River and includes tidal marshes, mixed forests and mountain ecosystems. The economy is based on tourism, farming and forestry.
Niagara Escarpment, Ontario 1990 Biosphere reserve extends 725 km from the Niagara River to the end of the Bruce Peninsula. It contains federal and provincial protected areas, as well as recreation areas. Biosphere reserve activities include monitoring, tourism and education.
Clayoquot Sound, BC 2000 Biosphere reserve is on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and contains national and provincial parks and marine areas. The reserve’s temperate rainforests, water bodies and mountains are home to a number of endangered and rare species.
Redberry Lake, Saskatchewan 2000 Biosphere reserve is an agricultural area containing a federal migratory bird sanctuary and a provincial wildlife area. Redberry Lake itself is a salt water lake in an area otherwise characterized by freshwater.
Lac Saint-Pierre, Quebec 2000 Lac Saint-Pierre is an enlargement of the St Lawrence River that is surrounded by the largest freshwater floodplain in Quebec. The biosphere reserve consists of a Ramsar site (i.e. a wetland of international importance) and urban, agricultural and industrial areas.
Mount Arrowsmith, BC 2000 Biosphere reserve is on the eastern side of Vancouver Island and consists of temperate forest and important migratory bird habitat. Its core area includes provincial parks and national and provincial wildlife management areas.
Southwest Nova, Nova Scotia 2001 Biosphere reserve includes the five counties of southwestern Nova Scotia. Its core conservation area consists of two contiguous natural areas: Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site and the Tobeatic wilderness area. Activities include promoting sustainable forestry, tourism and other developments.
Frontenac Arch, Ontario 2002 The biosphere reserve is located in southeastern Ontario. The arch itself is a ridge of granite joining the Adirondack Mountains to the Canadian Shield. Where the ridge passes through the eastern portion of Lake Ontario and the beginning of the St Lawrence River it creates the Thousand Islands. Five forest regions are found within the biosphere reserve area, making it one of the most biodiverse locations in Canada.
Georgian Bay, Ontario 2004 The reserve encompasses the world’s largest freshwater archipelago. It includes numerous habitats such as islands, coves, open water and bedrock shores. Taken together, these habitats are home to over 100 species at risk. Georgian Bay is also home to a vibrant tourist industry.
Manicouagan Uapishka, Quebec 2007 The biosphere reserve extends north from the St Lawrence River at Baie Comeau, Quebec. The area features a circular lake created by a meteorite. Salt marshes in the region provide a resting spot for over 200 species migratory birds. Economic activity in the region includes forestry, agriculture, mining and commercial fisheries.
Fundy, New Brunswick 2007 Located in New Brunswick, the biosphere reserve extends north from the Bay of Fundy and includes Fundy National Park. The area is known for its mixed Acadian forests, extreme tides, and salt marshes. The reserve also includes the Greater Moncton area.
Bras d’Or Lake, Nova Scotia 2011 The biosphere reserve surrounds Bras d’Or Lake on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The lake is actually an estuary where fresh and salt water mix. The lake’s watershed makes up the rest of the biosphere reserve, including wetlands and bogs. Located on the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq, the biosphere encompasses four of Cape Breton’s five Mi’kmaq reserves.
Beaver Hills, Alberta 2016 Located east of Edmonton, the biosphere reserve area is characterized by its moraines (i.e. deposits of sediment left behind by glaciers). The landscape also includes mixed forest, grasslands and wetlands, and is home to bison, deer, moose and elk. Agriculture and recreation are the dominant economic activities.
Tsá Tué, Northwest Territories 2016 The biosphere reserve is on the traditional territory of the Sahtu Got’ine, or Bear Lake people and includes Great Bear Lake. The region is characterized by boreal forest and taiga, and is home to muskox, moose and caribou. The only humans in the biosphere reserve area live in Déline, a small community on the shores of Great Bear Lake.

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