Climate change is already taking hold across Canada, particularly in northern regions like Yukon and northern Ontario. As one of our most pressing environmental challenges, WCS Canada is working to find solutions to climate change across the country. As part of this work, our field scientists recently published two papers in Global Ecology and Conservation.
With the retreat of glaciers and melting of permafrost changing the face of northern tundra, it is not surprising that this in turn leads to shifts in animal behavior. What we don’t yet know, however, is how these and future changes will threaten the effectiveness of protected areas. Set up to protect a specific type of habitat, changes like the northern advance of the three line fundamentally changes what those protected areas cover.
Similarly, northern freshwater lakes will face particularly intense climate change impacts. At a broad scale, fish adapted to cold waters are predicted to lose habitat in the southern edges of their range, while warm-water fish are predicted to expand their ranges northward, potentially imposing additional stress on native fish.
These issues are directly affecting two of the landscapes in which we have long-term research and conservation interests in Yukon and northern Ontario. In our article “Examining climate-biome (“cliome”) shifts for Yukon and its protected areas”, Drs. Erika Rowland, Nancy Fresco, Donald Reid and Hilary Cooke examine how future climate change may alter the vegetation across the Yukon, consequently affecting the makeup of protected areas across the territory. The results of their work will help planning efforts in an as-yet unknown future. With three potential changes modelled, insights from the paper can help plan protected areas with particular emphasis on protecting biodiversity and habitat connectivity.
In Ontario, WCS Canada took an important first step in creating a new lens through which to consider freshwater fish conservation. Rather regional scale predictions, we took a look at habitat suitability at the local lake scale. In “Using climate and a minimum set of local characteristics to predict the future distributions of freshwater fish in Ontario, Canada, at the lake scale”, Dr. Brie Edwards, Meg Southee, and Dr. Jenni McDermid illustrate the way lake size and shape, combined with climate conditions, effects the type of fish present in a given lake. Their study shows that lakes in northern Ontario will become even more important in the coming years as some of the only available habitat for cold- and cool-water fish, but may also face the threat of invasive warm-water species in some areas.
Read the full Yukon article here: Examining climate-biome ("cliome") shifts for Yukon and its protected areasAnd the article on Ontario's freshwater fish here: Using climate and a minimum set of local characteristics to predict the future distributions of freshwater fish in Ontario, Canada, at the lake scale
Photo credits: Banner | William Halliday © WCS Canada