Comment le Canada protège-t-il son territoire et sa biodiversité?

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Canada

Publishing organisation: Radio-Canada

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-12-12

Language: French

Authors: Mélanie Meloche-Holubowski journaliste,
Melanie Julien chef de pupitre,
Francis Lamontagne designer,
André Guimaraes développeur
Mathieu St-Laurent développeur,
Martine Roy coordonnatrice


Our multidisciplinary team, with journalists, designers and developers, tackles complex issues using illustrations, analysis and other data visualizations to make digestible and captivating stories. We rely on original, innovative and/or interactive formats that shed new light on subjects of public interest, enlighten readers differently and engage in conversation with both neophytes and experts.

Mélanie Meloche-Holubowski is a data journalist for CBC/Radio-Canada in Montreal. She uses databases to create maps and graphics that help tell a story or explain a complex issue and that are accessible to all.

Project description:

In the lead up to COP15 in Montreal, we set out to explain with maps and graphics how Canada is doing in protecting its biodiversity and how much work needs to be done to achieve its objectives. Our goal was to illustrate the extent of protection across the country and to highlight the many different types of protections that exist. We chose to center the project around animated maps, letting the reader travel across the country’s diverse protected areas.

Impact reached:

We were able to give a comprehensive overview of the situation in Canada and go beyond just talking about the 30 % targets. The project was shared by many environmental groups and experts working in the field of biodiversity. A government employee from Resources Canada even wrote to us to ask how we created the maps.

Techniques/technologies used:

The maps were created using spatial data from the Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database, an open dataset from Environment Canada. The Coalition KBA provided us with spatial data for the Key biodiversity areas to us.

In the case of the Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database, the main challenge was the size of the files (over 125 MB). With over 12,000 areas to be mapped – some very large areas, and some extremely small – we had to be able to offer maps that were easily read on mobile devices.

Maps were produced with QGIS and embedded into SVG canvas. Those were then imported into the React.js framework and animated with the help of GSAP.

Context about the project:

Using this database helped us find interesting elements and areas to highlight in our story and helped us calculate statistics that were not necessarily readily available on the government’s website. This project shows that there is often open data available, but it is not always used to its full potential by journalists.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

This project was important because rarely have the Canadian media shown such an overview of protected areas in Canada. Mapping this data was a good way to explain a complex issue and make Canadians understand the complexities of protecting such a large territory. The issues we faced regarding the size of the files has helped us learn better optimization techniques for future projects.

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