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Canada’s lands and oceans are part of the climate change solution. By protecting our ecosystems, we protect the carbon they store from being emitted by industrial exploitation. We are also giving those ecosystems, and all species that depend on them, a better chance of being resilient to and adapting to climate change. By protecting nature we are protecting ourselves and more than ourselves.
In March of 2016 our governments agreed to create a pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change. The framework will include actions to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases and limit temperature increases, and to foster climate change resilience and support adaptation efforts for our populations, ecosystems and economies.
In order to achieve these goals, actions to reduce emissions will need to be taken quickly, as the greater the changes in climate, the higher the stress on the ecosystems that store carbon and provide the ecosystem services that will allow us to adapt to climate change.
Biodiversity and climate change are closely linked. After habitat loss, climate change is the biggest threat to biodiversity. In fact, 20-30% of species are at increased risk of extinction as climate change proceeds, including in our oceans. At the same time biodiversity is what gives our ecosystems the greatest chance of adapting to climate change to survive. As such we cannot ignore one or the other.
Across Canada, on our land and in our oceans, billions of tonnes of carbon are being stored, for example:
But when this carbon is released into the atmosphere by logging, mining, peat extraction, oil and gas and hydro-electric development, it contributes to global warming.
When these ecosystems are damaged, the ecosystem services they provide are also damaged -- including their ability to store carbon. These ecosystem services are vital for helping us and all species adapt to climate change. Healthy ecosystems are more climate resilient ecosystems, and those ecosystems are vital to our health and well-being.
Trees shading streams and rivers help to keep the waters cool enough for trout and salmon to spawn. As temperatures rise, these trees will become even more important if we want these species to continue to flourish. Maintaining and restoring riparian buffers is an important ecosystem-based solution that will be important for food security, not only for humans, but all species that rely on these fish to survive.
When ecosystems are stressed by industrial activities, they are less likely to be resilient to climate change, which puts them and us at even greater risk.
Photo credits: (left) Caledonia Spring NB - R. Clowater, (right) NB logging plantation - R. Thompson
Forests that are being managed to prioritize certain species of trees for industrial purposes are more likely to be vulnerable to natural disturbances that will increase with climate change and less likely to have the biodiversity needed to shift and adapt to climate change. The outcome could mean the loss of forests to other types of ecosystems, which will have significant impacts for all that relied on that ecosystem for livelihoods.
Protecting ecosystems can and will need to take many forms, including:
CPAWS is working to find and promote nature based solutions across Canada, including:
What you can do
Minister McKenna has been calling all Canadians to tweet her their best ideas for Canada’s climate change framework. Let her know that #Nature4Climate will be a key piece of the puzzle and tell her about what local solutions your community or province could be taking.
CAN discussion Paper on LULUCF Issues and Considerations
CPAWS letter in support of the Western Climate Initiative
CPAWS Fact sheet explaining the effects of climate change on the wilderness, some solutions and changes CPAWS is proposing to the government.
Woody bioenergy and climate change
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