WWF-Canada Blog:
Climate


Canada’s wildlife are in trouble, WWF-Canada’s new study finds

Canada’s wildlife are in trouble, and those that are declining are suffering deep losses, our new Living Planet Report Canada shows.

Half of monitored vertebrate wildlife species in the study suffered population declines on average, according to the report. Of those, the average decline is 83 per cent since 1970.

In order to stop this terrible wildlife loss, we need to act now: Individually; in our communities; at work; and through our governments.

WHAT WE FOUND

  • Mammal populations dropped 43 per cent.
  • Amphibian and reptile populations dropped 34 per cent.
  • Fish populations declined by 20 per cent.
    • Atlantic marine fish populations declined by 38 per cent.
    • In Lake Ontario alone, between 1992 and 2014, fish populations declined on average by 32 per cent.
  • Birds: While some groups of birds are showing signs of recovery and strength, others aren’t faring as well. Canada’s Living Planet Index found that, on average between 1970 and 2014
    • Monitored populations of grassland birds dropped 69 per cent,
    • Aerial insectivores fell 51 per cent, and
    • Shorebird populations declined by 43 per cent.
Beluga, St Lawrence River

St. Lawrence belugas were designated at-risk in 2005, but legal protection was delayed until 2016. Nick Caloyianis. National Geographic Creative / WWF-Canada

Species at risk
The picture for Canada’s federally protected species at risk is also deeply worrisome.

  • Since 2002, when the Species at Risk Act became law, until 2014, federally listed at-risk wildlife populations declined by 28 per cent.
  • Worse, even with protections, the rate of decline for protected at-risk wildlife appears to have increased from 2002 to 2014 to 2.7 per cent per year, compared with 1.7 per cent per year in the period 1970 to 2002.

HOW TO STOP WILDLIFE LOSS
Half the monitored species in our study are either stable or faring well. As we’ve seen, particularly with raptors and waterfowl, efforts to protect species and their habitats have been beneficial. The science shows that we have the power to make a difference – to stop and even reverse wildlife loss.

We need to ensure wildlife populations don’t get to the at-risk point in the first place. This is a challenge we can all embrace.

Whether it’s an individual planting native species and adopting a low-carbon lifestyle, industry incorporating ecological impact into decision-making while shrinking their footprint, communities making tough land-use decisions and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or the federal government fully implementing and improving the Species at Risk Act to make it more effective — collectively, we can stop wildlife loss.

Living Planet Report Canada is generously supported by the Patrick and Barbara Keenan Foundation.


  • René Ebacher

    A very elaborate study (worth reading) on the impacts of climate for Canada’s boreal forest ecosystems has a small chapter on animals and their struggle to survive and adapt to a warming climate. It talks about the declining populations of some bird species due to a mismatch between nesting dates and the earlier emergence of their major insect prey. Other animal species have constrained capacity for movement, for example, salamanders, soil arthropods, or animals restricted to rare or disjunct habitats.
    Woodland caribou in particular are likely to be seriously affected by climate warming in Boreal Canada driven largely by increasing fire occurence, causing long-term reduction in areas of old forest and lichen availability (Research at the NRC’s Canadian Forest Services shows a doubling of the forest area burned in Canada compared to the late 1970’s, and a probable doubling or more by the end of the century, resulting from a warming climate). Increase in moose and white-tailed deer population following fire and (or) logging will result in higher number of wolves and increased predation on caribou. The fatal neurological disease caused by Paralaphostrongylus tenuis will likely increase with the increased abundance of deer.
    Various aspects of climate change will negatively affect the ecological energetics of caribou, including thermoregulation in high-temperature conditions and food plants with lower than needed protein values at calving time owing to altered phenology, which are expected to affect calf survival. And the list goes on…
    (source: NRC Research Press, October 09, 2013: “Anticipating the Consequences of Climate Change for Canada’s Boreal Forest Ecosystems”)
    Natural resources Canada, 2013-12-04: “Peatlands Fires and Carbon Emissions”)
    Despite all the research made showing the impacts of climate change on Canadian forests and their ecosystems, the Trudeau administration has decided that a warming climate is not responsible for GHG emissions resulting from “natural disturbances” (e.g. wildfires, insect infestation such as the mountain pine beetle, drought, the melting of permafrost, etc.)
    From Canada’s Second Biennial Report submission to the UNFCCC, April 2016, section 5.1, footnote: “Canada has indicated that its accounting for managed forests towards its emissions reductions target will exclude the impacts of natural disturbances because these impacts are non-anthropogenic.”
    It means that the present federal administration doesn’t recognize the role and the impacts of human activities (e.g. warming the climate) on Canada’s managed (2/3 of Canada’s forest) and unmanaged forests. That statement contradicts all the research made by scientists at the federal (and provincial) level on this very and crucial aspect of climate change. As Canada’s managed forests have become a major “source” of carbon instead of a “sink”, the present federal administration is trying to hide the truth about those emissions as it would make impossible for Canada to reach its promised emissions reductions target.
    (www.nrcan.gc.ca/forests/climate-change/forest-carbon/13085)

  • Steve Langdon

    That’s troubling news but so much information is not listed.
    What exact species?
    What exactly is causing the decline per species?
    Proven cause and effect on declining species?
    I know you can not get to detailed on write like this but this is a very broad stroke you are using.
    Specifics would help us understand much more.