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.
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.
Scale and watershed features determine lake chemistry patterns across physiographic regions in the far north of Ontario, Canada
Climate warming and increased industrial development will have direct impacts on watershed characteristic and lakes in the far north of Ontario. Conservation planning for the aquatic community in northern Ontario will require sound data to inform management decisions. This study conducted lake chemistry surveys from 2011-2012 to increase the knowledge regarding remote northern lakes and to address the limited amount of limnological data available for this region.
Tracking the long-term responses of diatoms and cladocerans to climate warming and human influences across lakes of the Ring of Fire in the Far North of Ontario, Canada
The extensive peatlands and lakes of the far north of Ontario are significant carbon sinks, making this a region of increasing priority under a changing climate. However, competing economic interest has also increased within this region due to the recent discovery of vast mineral deposits, known as “the ring of fire”. Environmental monitoring to establish baseline ecological information for a vulnerable region will be imperative at a time where the impacts of future resources extraction, within the context of multiple stressors (climate warming), is unknown. To determine biotic responses to warming prior to the commencement of mining activities, this study examined core sediments from lakes (deep and shallow) located within the Ring of Fire.
Surveying and Monitoring Wolverines in Ontario and Other Lowland, Boreal Forest Habitats - Recommendations and Protocols
This Northwest Science and Information (NWSI) Field Guide describes the plight of the threatened wolverine and recommendations for monitoring wolverine populations to inform an effective recovery strategy. This document describes techniques for monitoring wolverine populations including aerial track surveys, interviews with local trappers, hair snares, remote cameras, live-trapping, and radio telemetry. Recommendations are made on appropriate techniques based on scale and objectives and survey methods are described for use by conservation managers.
Distribution and relative abundance of caribou in the Hudson Plains Ecozone of Ontario
This article compares the past distribution of caribou in the Hudson Plains Ecozone (HPE) of Ontario, determined by reviewing past surveys from 1950 – 2003, to current distributions assessed by performing aerial surveys in 2003 and 2004. Because major resource development activities in the HPE are proposed and some are imminent, the authors recommend additional caribou surveys to better define caribou wintering areas, calving areas, and movement patterns.
Climate Change and Freshwater Fish in Ontario's Far North
This report was produced as a result of a workshop including 33 participants from provincial government ministries, First Nations communities, research organizations, and academic institutions, held by WCS Canada in partnership with The Kresge Foundation. The participants sought to synthesize information about the potential impacts of climate change on freshwater fish in northern Ontario, with a focus on identifying more vulnerable fish species, generating research and monitoring recommendations, and exploring land use and adaptation options.
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.
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