Scientific studies identify climate change as a danger to the health of our National Parks and Wilderness Reserves in six geographical regions. They forecast serious impacts on species surviving in "island" remnants of ecosystems already facing encroaching development, pollution, and habitat fragmentation.
- Atlantic: Rising sea levels and consequent shrinking of tidal flats, coastal erosion, and salt-water intrusion threaten national parks like Kouchibouguac and Cape Breton Highlands and could damage the breeding and feeding habitats of migratory shorebirds. The cooling of the Labrador current, as result of the melting of Greenland's ice sheet, imperils the food supply of sea birds and whales off the coasts of Forillon and Terra Nova.
- Great Lakes - St. Lawrence: The dropping of water levels by more than a metre in the next 50 years could cause marshlands to dry up at Point Pelee, Bruce Peninsula, and other parks and jeopardize biodiversity. Rising temperatures and more frequent droughts could endanger many fish and plant species in La Mauricie.
- Prairies: Parks in this region will see some of the steepest temperature increases in Canada. Greater rates of evaporation and drought could affect not only fish and waterfowl but also species at risk, like the burrowing owl and black-tailed prairie dog, in Grasslands National Park. Changes in the water levels of wetlands in Wood Buffalo National Park could seriously harm the breeding habitat of the endangered whooping crane.
- Western Cordillera: Warmer spring and fall temperatures in the southern Rockies could extend the melting season of glaciers by a month. Increasing winter precipitation in parks, such as Jasper, Yoho, and Glacier, would mean deeper snow, impairing the movements and survival of elk, mountain goats, and other animals.
- Pacific: A predicted 3.5°C increase in sea surface temperatures would have a severe impact on the coastal, marine, and riverine waters of parks like Gwaii Haanas and Kluane. Warmer waters are already altering Pacific salmon spawning and migration routes. Deeper layers of snow and ice could affect food supplies of Dall's sheep and mountain goats.
- Arctic: The region most threatened by climate change includes such parks as Aulavik and Wapusk, where winter temperatures could rise by as much as 10°C by mid-century. Arctic species, like polar bears, caribou, and muskoxen, are already experiencing the effects of diminishing sea ice, shoreline erosion, and shifting plant communities.
© Canadian Wildlife Federation
All rights reserved. Web site content may be electronically copied or printed for classroom, personal and non-commercial use. All other users must receive written permission.