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Study: Agriculture and wildlife: A two-way relationship, 2011

Released: 2015-03-30

Using data from the Census of Agriculture, wildlife habitat represented nearly one-third (30.2%) of all agricultural land in Canada, accounting for 19.6 million hectares in 2011. Wildlife habitat is any land that can be used as a shelter, breeding ground or a food source for wildlife.

Agricultural land provides important habitat to a variety of wildlife species, with natural land for pasture, woodlands and wetlands having the highest habitat value. Three-quarters of wildlife habitat reported by Canadian farmers was natural land for pasture (75.0%), while the remainder was woodlands and wetlands (25.0%).

Chart 1  Chart 1: Agricultural land use, Canada, 2006 and 2011 - Description and data table
Agricultural land use, Canada, 2006 and 2011

Chart 1: Agricultural land use, Canada, 2006 and 2011 - Description and data table

In 2011, two in five farms (40.3%) reported natural land for pasture. Beef operations had the largest proportion of farms reporting natural land for pasture (70.6%).

Half of all farms (49.9%) reported woodlands and wetlands in 2011. Woodlands and wetlands were most commonly reported on dairy farms (69.7%).

Wildlife supplies many ecosystem services to the Canadian agricultural industry, one of which is pollination. In total, there were 9.8 million hectares of crops in Canada that benefited from pollinators, accounting for 27.8% of total cropland area and 35.9% of all farms in 2011.

Wildlife habitat in the area surrounding crops can enhance pollination by wild pollinators and, thereby, increase yields. In Canada, wildlife habitat is present on 65% of the farms that benefit from pollinators.

There are several agricultural practices that are mutually beneficial to both farms and wildlife. Examples include rotational grazing, which was reported by 49.4% of farms with cattle and pasture land in 2011, down from 54.4% in 2006. Windbreaks or shelterbelts were found on 29.7% of farms in 2011, compared with 36.9% in 2006, and buffer zones around water bodies were reported on 20.7% of farms in 2011, a small increase from 19.6% in 2006. Tillage practices that retain most of the crop residue on the surface were used on 81.0% of tilled land in 2011, compared with 72.0% in 2006.

Overall, there was a 4.8% decrease in natural pasture land and an 8.8% decline in woodlands and wetlands area on agricultural land between 2006 and 2011.

  Note to readers

This study uses data from the 2011 Census of Agriculture to examine wildlife habitat available on agricultural land, benefits that agriculture receives from wildlife and mutually-beneficial farm practices.

Wildlife habitat refers to two agricultural land use categories identified in the Census of Agriculture: woodlands and wetlands, and natural land for pasture. The category woodlands and wetlands is a combined variable and it is not possible to determine the relative contributions of the two components.

The article "Agriculture and wildlife: A two-way relationship" is now available in EnviroStats, Vol. 9, no. 2 (Catalogue number16-002-X), from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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