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Important Amphibian and Reptile Areas

Welcome to the Important Amphibian and Reptile Areas (IMPARA) website.
This site is part of the Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network.

Introduction and FAQ's

There can be no doubt that, in general, populations of amphibians and reptiles are declining in their size and occurrence in Canada. Some species have even disappeared completely from Canada. The rate of habitat loss far outstrips the rate of regeneration, due to our ever-increasing demand for forest products, agricultural land, and subdivisions. As amphibian and reptile habitat disappears, so do individual animals and entire populations.

Canadian amphibians and reptiles are doubly affected by habitat loss, because the areas with the greatest biodiversity, areas in the south of the country, also tend to have the greatest habitat loss. For example, over 90% of the original wetlands in extreme southwestern Ontario have been drained and developed (Snell, 1987). Many species at risk of extinction in Canada, such as the Queen Snake (Regina septemvittata) and the Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera), have a tenuous existence in this part of the country.

Conservationists need to identify critical habitats ahead of time, so that government agencies, developers, and the public are forewarned of areas important for conservation. CARCNET has created the Important Amphibian and Reptile Areas program (IMPARA) to do just that: to forewarn Canadians of places that have special significance for the conservation of amphibians and reptiles, so that these places can be protected.

We have endeavoured to answer any questions about Important Amphibian and Reptile Areas you may have below. If you have any further questions, please contact the IMPARA Coordinator.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are Important Amphibian and Reptile Areas?
Important Amphibian and Reptile Areas are areas that have special worth and significance for the conservation of amphibian and reptile biodiversity and endangered species. These areas have immediate relative conservation importance, because if they were lost (e.g., through habitat destruction), Canada's natural heritage of amphibians and reptiles would be substantially degraded. While all areas harbouring amphibians and reptiles have some conservation importance, Important Amphibian and Reptile Areas identify the most valuable and consequential areas.

What is the point in designating a site important to amphibians and reptiles?
As a national organization representing amphibian and reptile conservation, we hope that our endorsement of the site as important will carry some weight with policy makers and the public. For that reason, CARCNET will inform the following organizations that the site is important and should be protected:

  • Politicians: at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels, including provincial and federal wildlife ministers
  • Provincial and federal wildlife agencies
  • Non-governmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy of Canada and the World Wildlife Fund
  • Local naturalists clubs, hunting and angling organizations, and provincial naturalist federations

The reality is that even many of these wildlife-oriented organizations know little about amphibians and reptiles. Designation of your site as an IMPARA, at the very least, informs these groups about the significance of the area for amphibians and reptiles. In the best-case scenario, lobbying and promotion by CARCNET may help the site become protected from degradation.

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What makes an area important?
An area is considered important to the conservation of amphibians or reptiles if it:

  1. holds significant numbers of individuals of a species that is designated as at risk of extinction
  2. holds a high biodiversity of amphibians or reptiles;
  3. holds unusually large numbers of amphibians or reptiles that congregate for the purpose of some life history activity such as reproduction, hibernation, or thermoregulation

An important factor to take into consideration is whether the population is at the periphery of the species' range or is isolated from the main range.

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What is meant by "Areas"?
Important Amphibian and Reptile Areas must have clear boundaries (geographical, property, or political), and must be large enough to potentially support self-sustaining populations. However they should also be small enough that they form units amenable to locally oriented conservation and restoration. While areas that already protect amphibian and reptiles (i.e., parks and conservation areas) are obvious candidates for Important Amphibian and Reptile Area designation, it is also quite important to nominate areas that are not currently protected.

If you're unsure about whether your Important Area is large enough or small enough, contact the IMPARA Coordinator

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What protection does designation give an Important Amphibian or Reptile Area?
The designation of an area only identifies it as important to conservation; it does not afford any legal protection. The strength in taking this approach is that areas are identified entirely by their conservation value, and the factual integrity of this decision is not compromised by considerations of political issues or property ownership. Important Amphibian and Reptile Area designation is a tool to help communities advocate protection of important areas, by documenting this importance in a scientific manner.

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Who can nominate an Important Amphibian or Reptile Area?
Anyone with the necessary biological information can nominate a site. Typically this information can be found at provincial or territorial environment ministries, parks, or conservation organizations. You can also collect the information yourself: consult a respected guidebook for the proper methods.

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How are site nominations evaluated and approved?
Site nominations are evaluated by a panel of scientists from CARCNET's membership. This panel evaluates the facts and arguments presented in the site nomination, based entirely on how well the site is demonstrated to meet the criteria. The level of importance (national, provincial, or regional) is also taken into consideration. Affected parties such as land owners and area managers are informed of the site nomination, and any evidence they present is also taken into consideration before the site is approved as an Important Amphibian and Reptile Area. In general, it is the responsibility of the nomination compiler to prove that the site qualifies.

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Snell, E.A._ 1987._ Wetland distribution and conversion in southern Ontario._ Inland Waters and Lands Directorate._ Working Paper No. 48._ Environment Canada. 53pp.

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