|Parks and Protected Areas
Climate change effects have already been recorded in some National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in the Canadian prairies. A hotter and drier climate increases the frequency of drought and is leading to a drop in water levels at some sites, thus diminishing the availability of fresh water for a variety of plant and animal species.
However, the impact of climate change is expected to be most dramatic in northern Canada. Increased surface thaw has already been noted in a number of Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in Nunavut. Climate change models predict the greatest increase in temperature will occur in the Arctic, with an estimated increase of between five and eight degrees Celsius by 2100. This increase in temperature would dramatically change the distribution of Arctic wildlife.
In order to minimize the impacts of climate change on our natural ecosystems, we must plan for the northward extension and migration of wildlife. Protected areas can play a key role in helping wildlife to adapt to climate change. The planning of future National Wildlife Areas should therefore accommodate a northern shift in wildlife ranges.
The Anderson River Migratory Bird Sanctuary in the Northwest Territories and Nunavuts Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary are likely to be some of the sites hardest hit by the effects of climate change. Climate models show that caribou herds in these areas may be at risk because warmer weather brings an increase in the number of insects harassing the herds. This will affect the animals energy requirements and the amount of time devoted to foraging. And this, in turn, will lead to a decline in body fatnutrition that is needed over the long winter months when food is less accessible. Furthermore, increased snow levels in the more southerly portion of their range may reduce food availability and make it more difficult for the caribou to escape predatory wolves.