World Facts

Oldest Biosphere Reserves in Canada

The oldest biosphere reserve in Canada was established in 1978.

Canada is a North American nation which extends from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. On the northern side, it stretches to the Arctic Ocean. Canada has about two million lakes and eight distinct forest areas. Therefore, to protect the beautiful terrains and ecosystems in Canada, UNESCO designated a number of biosphere reserves in the country with the latest being Tsa Tue and Beaver Hills in 2016. Some of the oldest biosphere reserves in Canada are outlined below.

5. Mont Saint-Hilaire Biosphere Reserve

Mont Saint-Hilaire is a small mountain about 19.9 miles east of Montreal for which this biosphere reserve is named. It hosts the last remnants of an old deciduous forest and various other endangered, rare species. The 2,718 acres reserve was designated is 1978, making it the oldest biosphere reserve in Canada. The reserve is near a main urban region with a population of over 3.5 million. The ever increasing development near the reserve has resulted in an increase in disturbances and fragmentation of the forest.

There are over six hundred vascular plant species which thrive on the hill, and 30 of them are endangered. It hosts numerous amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The park has over thirty mammal species, and some of them can be seen on the hilltops and roadsides like raccoons, eastern chipmunks and grey squirrels. It is also a notable bird watching site with over 200 species present.

4. Waterton Biosphere Reserve and National Park

Waterton Biosphere reserve is in southwestern Alberta. It includes a part of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains which extends from the Canadian Great Plains to the continental divide. UNESCO designated the 164,970 acres as a biosphere reserve in 1979. The environmental gradient from the prairies to the continental divide creates a unique rich mosaic of habitats. The reserve includes freshwater wetlands, lakes, cliffs, alpine tundra and meadows, subalpine forests, aspen groove forests, and prairie grasslands. There is a permanent population of approximately 279 people in the biosphere reserve. In 1999 the reserve had a seasonal population of 2,250 people during summer. The primary source of income within the reserve is tourism and agriculture which includes sustainable forest use and livestock rearing.

3. Long Point Biosphere Reserve

The Long Point Biosphere Reserve is in the southern part of Canada on the shores of Lake Erie. The reserve has a mosaic of ecological systems which are associated with the split formation and erosion deposits around the Great Lakes region. UNESCO designated the 100,325 acres reserve in 1986. The different habitats in the reserve support rich flora and fauna which includes a migration stopover for birds and a waterfowl staging region. Long Point Reserve has one of the most iconic landscapes in Canada with a sand spit formation which extends about 25 miles into Lake Erie.

The surrounding habitats of the reserve are composed of lake shores, beaches, meadows, ponds, marshes, dunes, bluffs, and woodlands. The Long Point Inner Bay occupies an area of about 30 square miles from the northern shore of Lake Erie to the split. It is a diverse sports fishery and a critical staging region for migratory waterfowl. Adjacent to the reserve is a terrestrial area of oak savannas, Conifer plantations, and the Carolinian broadleaf forest. It has over 1,384 plant species, four mammal species, 102 fish species, 370 bird species, and 91 butterfly species. Some of them include Channel darter, Acadian flycatcher, American badger and American ginseng. BirdLife International recognized the reserve as a Ramsar Site and a vital bird region.

2. Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve

The Riding Mountain Reserve is one of the largest biospheres in the world, occupying about 3,288,973 acres. UNESCO designated Riding Mountains a biosphere in 1986. It is located 186.4 miles to the northwestern part of Winnipeg in south-central Canada. Riding National Park occupies approximately 1,158 square miles, and this includes the rough fescue prairie, eastern deciduous forest, and mixed-wood forest.

The reserve also has an agricultural region which was previously grassland or forest. The park also maintains an interpretive center which has a vast variety of informative materials for the public. The people living in the Riding Mountain Reserve depend on the agricultural economy which is supplemented by the tourism sector. The only people who live within the core regions are the wardens and their families, but the number reduced in 2000 after some of these stations were closed. In summer majority of the cabin owners come to the town thus increasing the population to 15,000 during peak periods.

1. Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve

Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve comprises of coniferous and mixed forests, rivers, agricultural areas and stunted vegetation ecosystems. The 3,187,659 acres area was designated in 1988. The St. Lawrence River borders the reserve on the northern side. The biosphere is approximately 49.71 miles to the east of Quebec City.

Charlevoix was home to over 30,000 people in 1988, and the population relied on the sea and river (fisheries, marine construction, and coastal navigation) for survival. Currently, the economic structure has diversified, and the primary source of income includes tourism, agriculture, silica mining and forestry. Les Palissades (forest education center) and Port-au-Saumon (ecological center) are the key environmental education institutions in the region. Some of the animals in this biosphere reserve are the North American cougar, boreal woodland caribou, wolf, and beluga whale.

Oldest Biosphere Reserves in Canada

RankNameProvince/TerritoryEstablishedSize (hectares)
1Mont Saint-Hilaire Biosphere ReserveQuebec19781100
2Waterton Biosphere Reserve and National ParkAlberta197966761
3Long Point Biosphere ReserveOntario198640600
4Riding Mountain Biosphere ReserveManitoba19861331000
5Charlevoix Biosphere ReserveQuebec19881290000
6Niagara Escarpment Biosphere ReserveOntario1990194555
7Clayoquot Sound Biosphere ReserveBritish Columbia2000349947
8Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve Saskatchewan2000112200
9Lac Saint-Pierre Biosphere ReserveQuebec2000650490
10Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere ReserveBritish Columbia2000118592
11Southwest Nova Biosphere ReserveNova Scotia20011546374
12Frontenac Arch Biosphere ReserveOntario2002220973
13Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve Ontario2004347270
14Manicouagan – Uapishka Biosphere ReserveQuebec20075480000
15Fundy Biosphere ReserveNew Brunswick2007432310
16Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere ReserveNova Scotia 2011356788
17Beaver Hills Biosphere ReserveAlberta2016159560
18Tsá Tué Biosphere ReserveNorthwest Territories20169331300

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