WCS Canada

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Mercury bioaccumulation in relation to changing physicochemical and ecological factors across a large and undisturbed boreal watershed
WCS researchers studied the cycling of mercury, a toxic metal in an undisturbed boreal watershed to better understand how future development may influence its behaviour. They determined that the concentration of mercury is influenced by physical and chemical attributes of water systems, including nitrogen and oxygen concentrations.
Watching, Listening, and Learning to Understand Change - Developing a Community-Based Monitoring (CBM) Initiative in Ontario's Far North
Ontario’s Far North is one of the world’s largest most intact expanses of boreal forest and wetlands. The region has almost no industrial development today. Far from being a frontier for new mines, all-weather roads, and transmission, the region is the homeland of Cree and Ojibway Indigenous peoples. They rely on the land, freshwater, air, fish and wildlife for traditional economies and cultural and spiritual values. They are also engaged in environmental planning for new industrial development and climate change. As such, impacts of climate change and development decisions on communities and their traditional territories, must be monitored. Our report develops the rationale for the design and implementation of a community-based monitoring approach in Ontario’s Far North and looks at examples from across Canada and around the world in order to support First Nations in their roles and responsibilities in taking care of the land, water, fish, and wildlife.
Assessing the Potential Cumulative Impacts of Land Use and Climate Change on Freshwater Fish in Northern Ontario
The subarctic boreal landscape of northern Ontario is of global importance thanks to the ecological intactness of terrestrial and freshwater systems spanning an area larger than California. This region also contains some of the largest undammed rivers remaining in the world, thousands of lakes and the largest wetland complex in North America. The region’s diverse freshwater ecosystems support at least 50 species of freshwater fish, making this home to the largest area of high fish biodiversity with low human impacts within Canada. Healthy aquatic systems in Northern Ontario are important to First Nations and these systems also offer important ecological and social services to other Ontarians including climate regulation and recreational fishing. This region is also rich in natural resource potential including minerals and extensive hydroelectric potential. This study addresses a gap in current piecemeal planning efforts and considers the cumulative impacts of new land use and climate change on four freshwater fish species: walleye, lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, and brook trout across an area of 440,000 square kilometres. We apply land use and climate change scenarios within the ALCES Online toolkit to examine the impacts of these scenarios on expert-derived models for fish sustainability.
A Fork in the Road, Future Development in Ontario's Far North
This report describes the application of a simulation model (ALCES®) in the James Bay Lowland region of Ontario's Far North. WCS Canada's Dr. Cheryl Chetkiewicz and Matt Carlson with Canadian Boreal Initiative and ALCES Group, used the model to simulate changes due to potential mining, hydroelectric development, infrastructure, forestry, and fire over the next 50 years. They modeled the effect of these changes on caribou, wolverine, and moose habitats and developed an impact score for the watersheds in the region. They highlight the importance of addressing cumulative effects and considering future development and climate scenarios to improve land use planning and environmental assessment decision-making.
Getting it Right in Ontario's Far North- The Need for a Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment in the Ring of Fire (Wawangajing)
Ontario's Far North harbours world-class ecosystems, including the largest wetlands in North America. The Government of Ontario has made a commitment to protect over half of this region, but will face challenges in balancing this goal with developing world-class mineral deposits, particularly in the Ring of Fire. These developments would bring both benefits and risks to remote First Nations communities and the region, and the roads needed for the developments would bisect the largest intact boreal forest left in the world. Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment, or R-SEA, is a tool with extensive international practice that could provide solutions in Ontario's Far North. This working paper is a collaboration between WCS Canada and Ecojustice, and outlines how current laws result in poorly coordinated planning and introduces R-SEA and how it can be implemented in the Far North.
Studying the Elusive Wolverine, a Threatened Species in Northern Ontario
Matthew Scrafford, Wolverine Conservation Scientist at WCS discusses the challenges of studying the mysterious wolverine, a threatened species in Ontario.
Community Based Monitoring in a Changing Northern Ontario
Summary of Thunder Bay Workshop
Similarities and Differences in Barriers and Opportunities Affecting Climate Change Adaptation Action in Four North American Landscapes
Climate change presents a complex set of challenges for natural resource managers across North America. Despite recognition that climate change poses serious threats to species, ecosystems, and human communities, implementation of adaptation measures is not yet happening on a broad scale. Among different regions, a range of climate change trajectories, varying political contexts, and diverse social and ecological systems generate a myriad of factors that can affect progress on climate change adaptation implementation. This study surveyed and interviewed practitioners, decision-makers, and scientists involved in natural resource management in four different North American regions, northern Ontario (Canada), the Adirondack State Park (US), Arctic Alaska (US), and the Transboundary Rocky Mountains (US and Canada) in order to understand the general versus site-specific nature of barriers and opportunities influencing implementation.
Variation in Acute Thermal Tolerance within and among Hatchery Strains of Brook Trout
This paper investigates the thermal tolerance of the three strains of brook trout that are the primary ones used in Ontario hatcheries, as well as that of a brook trout subspecies. Evidence for significant differences in temperature tolerance was observed both within and among strains, suggesting that the thermal performance of brook trout populations will be under substantial selective pressure due to climate change. Strains with existing tolerances for warmer conditions will be better suited to handle anticipated warming temperatures.
Life history differences parallel environmental differences among North American lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) populations
Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) exhibit substantial life history variation range-wide and at a local scale. This study addresses two hypotheses that have been proposed to account for this: (i) over the zoogeographic range, climatic conditions are associated with life history differences; and (ii) within smaller geographic regions, physical lake attributes are associated with life history differences.
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