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From tar sands to ring of fire: Forewarning changes to Canada's watersheds

Date:
January 27, 2015
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
Ecologists have found the conservation of aquatic ecosystems in Canada has not kept pace with the country's changing landscape, and a prioritization of protection is needed. This new assessment of environmental, human census and business pattern data shows climate warming and northward expansion of human activities over a decade, and can be used to guide strategies for managing freshwater resources by highlighting the regions where humans are now having the greatest impact.
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This photo of Canada’s first diamond mine — Ekati, in the Northwest Territories — illustrates landscape changes such as open pits and diversion channels associated with surface and underground mining.
Credit: Nicholas E. Jones, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

The Tar Sands in Alberta, potential development in the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario, declining timber harvest and farming -- human activity is transforming Canada's landscape, yet many of the country's aquatic resources remain unprotected, according to research by ecologists at the University of Toronto.

"The conservation and management of aquatic ecosystems in Canada needs to keep pace with the country's changing landscape," said Cindy Chu, a former postdoctoral researcher at U of T and lead author of a study published in the January issue of the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Chu and and a team of U of T researchers examined environmental, human census and business pattern data from across Canada. Their analyis showed climate warming and northward expansion of human activities over a 10-year period from 1996 to 2006, threatening the quality and quantity of freshwater resources, especially in areas with the most human activity. They employed a variety of different scenarios that rank watersheds based on the importance of freshwater fish biodiversity, the presence of fish species at risk, and intensity of human activities.

"By combining the data we were able to identify regions that need attention," said Chu, now an aquatic research biologist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. "Attention has typically been given to watersheds in British Columbia, southern Ontario, southern Quebec and the Maritimes. Our research shows that Canada's changing landscape means that attention is needed elsewhere, too."

The researchers recommend watersheds along the southern border of Canada, and northern regions of some provinces be prioritized for conservation through more intensive monitoring, research or management.

The study is the first national, chronological review of changing human activities and environmental patterns in Canada. The researchers hope it will be used to guide strategies for managing freshwater resources by highlighting the regions where humans are now having the greatest impact.


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Toronto. Original written by Sean Bettam. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cindy Chu, Charles K. Minns, Nigel P. Lester, Nicholas E. Mandrak, Jordan Rosenfeld. An updated assessment of human activities, the environment, and freshwater fish biodiversity in Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2015; 72 (1): 135 DOI: 10.1139/cjfas-2013-0609

Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "From tar sands to ring of fire: Forewarning changes to Canada's watersheds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150127140815.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2015, January 27). From tar sands to ring of fire: Forewarning changes to Canada's watersheds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150127140815.htm
University of Toronto. "From tar sands to ring of fire: Forewarning changes to Canada's watersheds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150127140815.htm (accessed May 24, 2017).

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