In a three-component protected areas strategy, each type of protected area performs a different function. The three components in the framework are:
These are the largest elements in our protected-areas framework. Their size, greater than 1000 km2, enables them to provide the best protection for wilderness and biodiversity, maximizing ecological security.
The area and location of Component 1 reserves are determined using the habitat needs of a high-level, wide-ranging native mammal species. Ideally, this animal is at the top of the food chain, and so its habitat contains a variety of natural ecosystems.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, using the top mammal in the food chain-the black bear in Newfoundland or the wolf in Labrador-is problematic or impossible. There is simply not enough known about these animals' populations and ranges to draw reserve boundaries with certainty. Caribou, on the other hand, have for the most part been carefully studied. So in the Province's protected areas strategy, Component 1 reserves are identified using caribou as the defining wide-ranging animal. A close association exists between wolf and caribou population densities, so it is hoped that using caribou safeguards critical parts of wolf habitat in Labrador as well.
The three major caribou types in the province are Labrador barren-ground caribou, Labrador woodland caribou, and Newfoundland woodland caribou. This means six Component 1 reserves are needed in the province-based on protecting two herds of each type.
The following criteria are also critical for designing effective Component 1 reserves:
To fulfill its role in the protection framework, a Component 2 reserve must capture all of an ecoregion's or subregion's enduring and definitive features. In some cases, it must also capture distinctive combinations of features (such as the rich forest on limestone that is characteristic of the Northern Peninsula Forest ecoregion-Beaver Brook Limestone subregion).
The size of a Component 2 reserve-from 50 to 1,000 km2-must also be sufficient to ensure the ecological integrity of the area.
The lines that separate one ecoregion from the next are never as well-organized on the ground as they can be on a map. Ecoregions don't simply start and stop-they blend together. The distinctive characteristics of all ecoregions appear most frequently at their cores. Near their edges-ecotone areas that can cover hundreds of square kilometres-elements of all adjacent ecoregions are found. Ecotones are areas of high variety and biodiversity, but are not generally areas that that could be considered representative of a single ecoregion.
To make Component 2 reserves technically representative of a single ecoregion requires analyzing each ecoregion's two-dimensional landscape profile, which contains all the ecoregion's enduring features, and ensuring that these elements are captured in the reserve.
The smallest members of the three-component framework are Component 3 reserves, which protect sites where the following natural elements occur:
Component 3 reserves are called for when such features are not, or cannot be, protected in Component 1 or 2 reserves.
The size of each Component 3 reserve is determined by the nature of the species or phenomenon it protects, and is generally less than 50 km2. The smallest include seabird islands, fossil sites, and small, discrete plant or invertebrate communities.
These reserves are usually established in order of the significance, fragility, and endangerment of their special features-and whether or not they are protected elsewhere.
The number of Component 3 reserves in the province will grow over time, as new natural discoveries are made, and as conservation needs change-responding to pressures on species exerted by human activity, for example.