Protecting Marine Biodiversity in Canada: Adaptation Options in the Face of Climate Change
Climate change adds a significant stress to biodiversity in Canada, compounding the effects of continuing habitat loss and over-exploitation of natural resources. These cumulative threats to flora and fauna heighten the need for conservation strategies. Policy in the climate change area has focused on greenhouse gas mitigation, but the complementary response of adaptation must also be addressed as changing climate will have effects on biodiversity even if global emission targets are met. It is internationally recognized that protected area networks support the ability of ecosystems to cope with climate change. Natural ecosystems have greater resilience in the face of climate change impacts when additional stresses from industrial and commercial exploitation are reduced, and when species migrating to more suitable locations are facilitated through protected areas. Conservation as part of an adaptation policy is good insurance against the risk of species extinctions due to climate change. In Canada’s biodiversity and conservation policies there is little evidence to date of explicit recognition of, or action on, climate change adaptation, especially in the oceans. In Canada’s oceans, there is an urgent need to create comprehensive networks of large protected areas to assist in buffering the effects of climate change. While some marine protected areas have been established in Canada, their sufficiency and their ability to facilitate connections between them needs to be examined in light of climate change. Marine ecosystems are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and this is compounded by the many stresses they already face from overharvesting, habitat destruction, alien species, and pollution. Minimizing these chronic stresses and employing ecosystem based management approaches are key strategies to reducing the impact of climate change on marine ecosystems in Canada.