All About EMAN

The EMAN Basics

What is EMAN?

The Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN) is made up of linked organizations and individuals involved in ecological monitoring in Canada to better detect, describe, and report on ecosystem changes. The network is a cooperative partnership of federal, provincial and municipal governments, academic institutions, aboriginal communities and organizations, industry, environmental non-government organizations, volunteer community groups, elementary and secondary schools and other groups/individuals involved in ecological monitoring.

Environment Canada’s Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network Coordinating Office (EMAN CO) is mandated to work collaboratively with the EMAN partners in improving the effectiveness of ecosystem monitoring to ensure informed decision-making and to create environmental awareness among Canadians.

Why was EMAN created?

Many types of government in Canada have mandates that include the monitoring of environmental variables.  Coupled with this are various universities, environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), and citizen science groups who actively conduct long-term monitoring.  These groups invest much effort and time in monitoring large areas of Canada, however, due to different priorities and monitoring protocols, the aggregation of such data for the purpose of looking at ecosystem level or national trends becomes quite difficult.

To address this challenge, Environment Canada initiated the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network Coordinating Office (EMAN CO), which would facilitate integrated monitoring, research and assessment across these various agencies and organizations without directly funding monitoring sites or duplicating initiatives already underway.

The Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN) was established in 1994 as a national network to provide an understanding and explanation of observed changes in ecosystems. When formally established, the mandate was to coordinate integrated ecosystem monitoring and research to provide an understanding and explanation of observed changes in ecosystems.

EMAN was established with the following four objectives:

  • to provide a national perspective on how Canadian ecosystem are being affected by multitude of stresses on the environment;
  • to provide scientifically defensible rationales for pollution control and resource management policies;
  • to evaluate and report to Canadians on the effectiveness of resources management policies; and,
  • to identify new environmental issues at the earliest possible stage.

Surveys of recent ecological literature show that the overwhelming majority of studies are based on two species in less than two square metres and for less than three years. This does not provide for a regional, provincial or national picture of the status of, or processes within Canada’s environment.  The need to encourage and support long-term ecosystem monitoring is evident. EMAN is in a unique position to contribute to meeting this need on behalf of Environment Canada (EC) and other agencies by providing cross-disciplinary and cross-jurisdictional assessments of ecosystem status, trends and processes based on the coordination of data interpretation and communication among its partners and sites.

EMAN and Environment Canada

Environment Canada responds to the needs of Canadians by focussing on three broad lines of business:

  • Clean Environment
  • Nature
  • Weather and Environmental Predictions.

The facilitation of the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN) by the EMAN Coordinating Office (EMAN CO) falls under the Nature business line by contributing to developing scientific knowledge and tools needed to understand and respond to the effects of human activities on ecosystems. EMAN CO is accountable to the federal Minister of the Environment, the Canadian public and also to EMAN partners.

Goals and Direction

The main goal of the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN) is to improve understanding of ecosystem changes in Canada – what is changing and why by examining integrated data and knowledge sets. The network is moving towards the ability to report on ecological changes and providing interdisciplinary and/or inter-jurisdictional assessments of ecosystem status, trends and processes on an ecozone or national basis. EMAN faces a continuing challenge to produce science-based and policy relevant reports on ecological status and trends in a timely fashion – better linking science to decision-making.

The future of EMAN

Environment Canada has proposed four major priorities for the future of the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN). The first priority is to enhance Environment Canada’s capacity to collect, access, integrate, manage and apply sound ecosystem change data. This will involve:

  • the development and maintenance of standardized monitoring programmes using whenever possible, existing programmes;
  • the development of protocols suitable for new programmes in all environmental landscapes;
  • the maintenance of pre-existing programmes such as NatureWatch;
  • the development of and progression towards a common distributed data management system and a mapping management system; and,
  • the development, maintenance and improvement of communication with EMAN partners

The second priority is to integrate and synthesize data to increase the delivery of information. This will involve the continued production of ecozone assessments of biodiversity, ecosystem reports and status and trend reporting along with other publications.

The third priority for the future is to enhance communication and links to decision making. This will involve the development and implementation of a coordinated approach to ecosystem reporting in partnership with other involved agencies and/or organizations. This priority will also involve the development and implementation of additional monitoring programmes with parks and protected areas, biosphere reserves, municipalities and others which can apply derived monitoring information to local adaptive management policies and/or programmes.

The final priority for the future of EMAN is to participate in international collaborations, improving linkages with international programmes. EMAN plans to develop a solid working relationship with the International Long Term Ecological Research (ILTER) network, the US LTER network and the United Kingdom’s Environmental Change Network (ECN), which will allow for more effective input to international conventions on biodiversity, desertification and global change. EMAN is already an active partner in the North American Biodiversity Information Network and currently maintains both an environmental metadata clearinghouse and a Species Analyst observation data node.

The Organiztion of EMAN

EMAN Coordinating Office

In 1994, Environment Canada (EC) created the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network Coordinating Office (EMAN CO) to augment Canada’s ability to describe ecosystem changes, provide timely information to decision makers, and to help inform the Canadian public. EMAN CO facilitates cross-disciplinary and inter-jurisdictional assessment of ecosystem status and trends.

The role of EMAN CO is to bring together those with common interests in ecological monitoring and research for the purpsoe of developing common techniques and protocols where there is common interest, promoting the sharing of data and information through metadata and, attempting to catalyse the production of integrated reports and information. Specifically, EMAN CO is responsible for the coordination of reports, the EMAN website, data management systems, method development and implementation, the National Science meeting, network maintenance and partnership development. So constituted, EMAN provides a mechanism to help deliver or add value to EC and partner programmes.

The EMAN CO is supported by seven regional leaders representing the five regional divisions of Environment Canada. These regional leaders are responsible for the day to day organization and scientific issues related to the EMAN sites in their region.


The northern Ecological Assessment and Monitoring Network (EMAN-North) is a network for the coordination of ecological monitoring in northern Canada. Environment Canada is working in the three northern territories and northern Manitoba in close partnership with many agencies and programmes to develop this network. The following principles, acknowledged by all partners, are integral to the successful operation of the EMAN-North network. EMAN-North is:

  • based on voluntary cooperation by partners;
  • a collaboration of parties working in relative independence but sharing a common vision;
  • operated with limited centralized control, direction, and financial resources;
  • built, in large part, on existing programmes (few new programmes have resulted); and,
  • focused on standardising approaches and sharing information.

EMAN-North differs somewhat from the rest of EMAN in that it includes numerous remote communities scattered across territories and northern portions of provinces, most made up of less than 1000 people. For coordination purposes EMAN-North uses a broader-scale approach with less emphasis on sites and more emphasis on informal partnerships, regional cooperatives and networks.

There are several issues unique to Northern Canada that are addressed by EMAN-North.

  1. Impacts of industrial development and climate change on northern ecosystems.
  2. Growing interest in monitoring changes across circumpolar north.
  3. Land claims both completed and pending that include requirements for environmental monitoring.
  4. Continental Conservation Initiatives – cooperative management based on migratory bird conservation.
  5. Circumpolar Conservation Initiatives – obligations for conducting and reporting on northern ecological monitoring (i.e. the International Tundra Experiment).

Ecosystem Initiatives (EI), Conservation Initiatives and Ecological Science Cooperatives (ESC)

These initiatives and cooperatives contribute to EMAN by:

  • Mobilising the scientific community to address major policy and assessment needs;
  • Providing a base for undertaking additional monitoring and research activities;
  • Assisting, clarifying and validating the basis for the selection of ecological indicators;
  • Encouraging participation of scientists, educators and their students, and the general public in ecological monitoring and assessment;
  • Giving notice of unexpected changes in rates and trends, and thus providing timely inputs to management; and
  • Communicating findings in forms useful for local, regional, national or international audiences.

Ecosystem Initiatives (EIs)

EIs use the ecosystem approach to help prevent (rather than react to) threats such as poor air and water quality, population pressures, industrial impacts and loss of critical habitat. These initiatives were developed to correct known problems and to protect and conserve ecosystem components not yet affected by human activity.

Environment Canada Ecosystem Initiatives:

  • Atlantic Coastal Action Programme
  • Fraser River Action Plan
  • Georgia Basin Ecosystem Initiative
  • Great Lakes Basin
  • Northern Ecosystem Initiative
  • Northern Rivers Ecosystem Initiative
  • Saint-Laurent Vision 2000

Conservation Initiatives –  Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y)

The Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Conservation Initiative is a joint Canadian-U.S. network of over 270 organizations, institutions, foundations, and conservation-minded individuals who have recognized the value of working together to restore and maintain the unique natural heritage of the Yellowstone to Yukon region and the quality of life it offers. Similar approaches are being undertaken or considered for the Algonquin to Adirondack (A2A) corridor, the Bay of Fundy and a new ‘Heart of the Continent’ area, Quetico Provincial Park.

Ecological Science Cooperative (ESC) – Boreal Lakes

An ESC consists of a number of sites, whose primary focus is on for integrated environmental monitoring, experimentation and data recording, within the ecozone.  The Boreal Lakes Ecological Science Cooperative consists of three case study sites.

  1. The Turkey Lakes Watershed Study (TLWS): The TLW Study was initiated in 1980 to evaluate anthropogenic perturbation of Canadian Shield ecosystems.  Originally, the Study focused on the aquatic and terrestrial effects of acid rain, but now it includes research into the effects of other anthropogenic pollutants (e.g. toxic contaminants) and other ecological perturbations (e.g. forest harvesting, climate change and fish habitat modification).
  2. The Experimental Lakes Area (ELA): The Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is operated and owned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). The ELA is primarily reserved for scientific research, thus logging, mining, and other development initiatives are tightly restricted. There is a broad range of research and monitoring activities that have been, and are presently being undertaken.
  3. The Dorset Environmental Science Centre: The Dorset Environmental Science Centre began its scientific activities in 1975. Since then, the centre has grown in size and scope and investigates a wide variety of issues. The study area is comprised of a collection of lake basins located in south-central Ontario that have varying amounts of cottage development.

EMAN Roles and Partnerships

The Role of EMAN Coordinating Office (EMAN CO)

EMAN CO has several primary roles these are:

  • develop and maintain the EMAN network, including the establishment and facilitation of mutually beneficial partnerships for ecological monitoring and reporting;
  • develop, communicate and coordinate monitoring and assessment methodologies;
  • coordinate, develop and communicate results of EMAN activities to Canadians, policy developers, programme managers and Environment Canada’s decision makers;
  • consult with Partners and Regional Leaders in the execution of the above tasks; and,
  • coordinate and facilitate the EMAN National Science Meeting, held annually.

EMAN COs main role is one of coordination, as it does not have the resources to operate its own sites or fund monitoring and research. EMAN CO must rely on information and cooperation from other agencies, in order tobetter deliver information to decision-makers, demonstrate the relevance of ecosystem monitoring and maintain a range of long-term integrated monitoring sites.

Partnerships and Integrated Monitoring Sites

As EMAN is essentially a network of partners and sites, the maintenance of these partnerships is of utmost importance. EMAN CO works with a range of network partners to assist in the development and delivery of ecological monitoring and assessment programmes. These linkages are varied in nature involving other government departments, environmental non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, municipalities and other community-based organizations.

Partners within the network can be involved in a number of stages in ecological monitoring. Most partners maintain integrated monitoring sites which are defined as an organized unit of researchers and/or scientists, who investigate over a defined land area, long term ecosystem trends using a variety of ecosystem monitoring variables. Information collected at integrated monitoring sites can be used to assess current environmental issues and trends may be representative of a large area like an ecozone or ecoregion.

For more information see how to become a partner (in EMAN FAQs)


All EMAN partners are a part of the International Long Term Ecological Research Network (ILTER). A video clip describing EMAN, its activities, and role in ILTER is now available for download. The clip illustrates EMAN’s unique role in enhancing decision-making through protocol development, the cultivation of multidisciplinary collaboration, and delivery of ecological information. The video stream is a segment of a DVD entitled “A Global Knowledge Network”, produced for ILTER by Jay Galte and Associates, that describes the mission and benefits of ILTER and provides international program models, including Canada’s EMAN. All EMAN partners are welcome to use and create links to the video stream.

EMAN Products, Services and Programmes

As EMAN CO is not financially able to provide funding for monitoring and research, it must provide some other benefits for its partners in order to encourage participation in the network. EMAN CO does this through the development of products, services and programmes that aid in ecological monitoring and assessment.


Monitoring Protocols

EMAN CO contributes to partnerships through coordinating the development, modification and/or recommendation of standardized protocols for ecological monitoring. The development of protocols are done through consultation with scientists, researchers and experts related to the variable or indicator under study. EMAN CO offers three different protocol areas to meet the various goals and objectives of different monitoring activities:

  1. Biodiversity Monitoring Protocols 
    These protocols have been prepared and/or reviewed for EMAN by or through the Biodiversity Science Board’s (BSB) expert teams. They include protocols developed by individual scientists or protocols which have been previously developed and recommended for inclusion by the BSB. These protocols have been subject to a peer-review process and are recommended for intensive research-based projects.
  2. EMAN Ecosystem Monitoring Protocols 
    Recently, the EMAN CO, in cooperation with its partners, has developed or modified existing protocols which compliment plot-based monitoring programmes or which can be used on their own for more specific investigation purposes. The EMAN CO has been focusing on developing a set of standardized ecosystem monitoring protocols (EMPs) that will work together as a suite in order to detect and track ecosystem changes over time, and which are particularly designed for use in protected areas and working landscapes.  These EMPs are based on environmental indicators that have been found to respond to significant changes in ecosystems so as to trigger and guide the design of future investigation. The development of all Ecosystem Monitoring Protocols is done through consultation with scientists, researchers and experts related to the variable or indicator under study.
  3. Community-based Monitoring Protocols 
    This suite of community-based or “citizen science” monitoring protocols are simply EMAN Ecosystem Monitoring Protocols (EMPs) which have been rewritten in order to make them more relevant and accessible to schools, community groups, individuals, naturalists, backyard enthusiasts, or Scouts and Guides who are engaging in the monitoring of different aspects of environmental quality. The scientific rigour of the EMPs is maintained. These community-based programmes are being administered through a partnership between EMAN Coordinating Office, the Canadian Nature Federation, and the University of Guelph as NatureWatch.
  4. EMAN Contributions to a National Early Warning System 
    The emphasis on statistical certainty in the North American science culture, which in part derives from the drive for peer reviewed publication, has resulted in a decreased ability to inform decision makers of ecosystem changes… (link)

Metadata and Databases

EMAN CO is working with its partners to build a dynamic, common distributed data management system.  Focussing on internationally used and developing metadata and environmental data management standards, EMAN CO trains, presents information sessions, and hosts this emerging new way of sharing digital data.  EMAN CO also works with Environment Canada as it builds its own distributed data library system.  EMAN COs goal alongside the EMAN partners, is to build a window where metadata and environmental data are easy to access through visually-exciting online interfaces.  These include interactive maps, a solid search engine, and online trends.


National Science Meeting

The National Science Meeting is held in a different region of the country once, each year.  During the meeting, EMAN CO reports to the network the results of the past year and facilitates the discussion for coming year strategies.  Partners have the opportunity to present and release their findings and some meetings have seen the launch of major environmental programmes such as the NatureWatch launch in 2002.

Early Warning Reporting

Along with its role in the coordination of partnerships and in reporting to Environment Canada on its progress EMAN CO, is also responsible for informing the Canadian public on the status and trends of ecosystems. EMAN is mandated to provide reports on ecological change.

The detection of change involves the integration and review of data and findings from existing sites and analysis of that data in order to assess the broader implications for current ecosystem status. To report on change in a timely manner, EMAN seeks to detect, describe and report on ecological changes based on risk, probability and expert opinion rather than certainty. This provides the feedback that allows science, management and policy to be adaptive.


Canadian Community Monitoring Network

The Canadian Community Monitoring Network (CCMN) is a partnership between the Canadian Nature Federation (CNF), the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network Coordinating Office (EMAN CO) and a growing network of communities, organizations, individuals and government playing a role in community based monitoring. The CCMN is a new initiative to enable communities to define and manage local sustainability through effective community based monitoring practises. By monitoring changes in the local ecosystem, partners of the CCMN can ensure that local policies and development trends are compatible with environmental values of the community. The network compiles and develops easy to use, inexpensive and scientifically valid methods (protocols) for monitoirng environmental trends in a community. By becoming a partner of the CCMN, your community can be provided with the tools and assistance needed to begin the process of community based monitoring annd inclusive decision-making. The CCMN pilot project has been launched in more than 30 communities across Canada. Please contact EMAN CO for more details on how to get involved.

NatureWatch and Community-based Monitoring

The Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN), in partnership with the Canadian Nature Federation (CNF) , has established a series of NatureWatch programmes that are designed to collect reliable information that can contribute to local, regional and national monitoring programmes. The focus of NatureWatch is to encourage the cooperation of community partners in order to expand geographic coverage and augment the frequency of observations. At the same time communities gain solid information on local changes, which aids local decision-making. Though the monitoring protocols used by NatureWatch have been designed by scientific experts for validity and reliability, they are also laid out simply and available for use by people with varying degrees of monitoring experience. Therefore monitoring project managers can expand the capacity of local monitoring information collection by engaging the broader community.

Visit for more information.