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2°C of global warming is too hot for Canada’s fish and forests


30 Nov 2005, Montreal, Canada – Canada’s Atlantic fish will be squeezed into ever smaller patches of cool water, endangered Atlantic salmon will be doomed, and key boreal forest species will be stranded as their natural habitats erode, if the globe’s temperature is allowed to rise too far, says WWF.

A new WWF report, launched at the Eleventh session of the United Nastions Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP-11), examines the impacts of a 2°C (3.6°F) increase in global average temperature on the Canadian fishery and forestry sectors.

While various studies have looked at ecosystem-wide impacts, this is the first time that scientists have studied the impacts of a 2°C warming on the distribution of individual species. Unless aggressive action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global warming will rise to 2°C above pre-industrial times, a threshold at which climate change impacts would become unmanageable for nature and people.

“The threat from global warming means that there will be few fish to fish and not many trees to harvest,” says Julia Langer, WWF-Canada’s Director of Global Threats. “Canada’s obligation to fight climate change takes on added urgency when the cost of inaction is our emblamatic renewable resource base.”

The report states that a 2°C warming will increase Atlantic water temperatures from 1.5 to 2.2°C. The warming continues the pressure on fish populations already strained by overfishing, pollution and habitat loss. Both Atlantic salmon and Atlantic deep sea scallops may be lost in their southern range, with no northward gain. The Asian shore crab, an alien species, is likely to invade shoreline habitats along the coast of Nova Scotia, Gulf of St. Lawrence and parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, potentially covering the entire Canadian Atlantic.

The potential for dramatic change in Ontario’s forests is alarming. Sugar maple, black spruce and jack pine are projected to decline because their habitats move northwards too quickly. Production of maple syrup may be significantly reduced if temperatures remain above freezing during the sugaring-off period, although a small contribution to the GDP, effects on local economies and regional heritage could be large. And warmer, drier conditions are expected to increase both frequency and severity of fires and insect outbreaks in Canada’s boreal forests. This could result in younger forests overall which reduces the amount of harvestable timber.

“If we are to avoid irreparable damage to Canada’s nature and economy we need to act now to slow the increase in global temperature,” says Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF’s Global Climate Change Programme. “The Montreal conference is the moment where leaders need to take a deep breath and make a formal decision to negotiate more action and commitments to cut CO2 emissions.”

More than 10,000 delegates from government, business and civil society are gathering in Montreal for the international climate change meeting from November 28 to December 9. Along with adopting all of the necessary decisions to make the current Kyoto Protocol operational, countries must respond to the growing threat of climate change and commit to begin negotiations for the much deeper cuts in emissions that are needed after the first period of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.


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