Recognizing the challenge and importance of protecting biodiversity across Nova Scotia, the protected areas program is built around a framework of 80 Natural Landscapes, which represent the diversity of the province's natural landforms and ecology.
Nova Scotia's landscape diversity is the result of its geographic position (a peninsula jutting into the North Atlantic at mid-latitude), and its complex geological and glacial history. Despite Nova Scotia's relatively small size (5.5 million hectares), it is a biologically-rich province.
Nova Scotia supports a complex mosaic of diverse flora and fauna. There are at least 6,000 species of plants and animals, ranging from northern boreal to southern Canadian and Alleghenian species, and from coastal plain to arctic-alpine species. To date, over 20,000 species of invertebrates have been identified. While species inventories are incomplete, scientists estimate that the number of vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants in Nova Scotia may approach 40,000. As well, there are many thousands of species of microorganisms. These species have not been systematically inventoried, and their numbers, although large, are essentially unknown.
What Are Natural Landscapes?
In the broadest sense, a landscape is simply an expansive area viewed from a particular point or perspective. Historically, landscape has been considered as an artistic or aesthetic concept, associated with landscape painting, photography and scenic viewing. Today, the idea of landscape reflects a new insight into an old concept, with a modern scientific approach viewing a landscape as being a mosaic of different but interacting ecosystems that are repeated in a similar pattern to form a distinct and definable land unit or area. A landscape is characterized by distinctive local environmental and biotic factors or elements (i.e. the local variety and distribution of landforms, vegetation communities, local climate, and local natural disturbance regime).
In general, Natural Landscapes vary in size from several to many square kilometers, and the ecosystems within them are defined by landforms, vegetation and other biological and physical factors.
How is this Ecological Framework Used?
Nova Scotia's Natural Landscapes framework is an important tool for planning and managing our protected areas. It provides a framework for selecting and protecting representative (or typical) portions of the distinctive Natural Landscapes that occur in Nova Scotia. Protecting groups of entire ecosystems within Natural Landscapes ensures that the natural processes which occur within and between these ecosystems are protected as well. This is an inclusive approach that incorporates the protection of both known and undiscovered species and processes.