March Cool Drinks: The Impact of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Parks and Our Engagement with the Natural Environment
At this month’s Cool Drinks, Peter Wood of CPAWS introduced two campaigns aimed at creating new parks in southern BC, which could help species adapt to climate change impacts. Afterwards, John Barker of West Vancouver Stream Keeper Society and Frieda Schade of Metro Vancouver explained how our urban streams and regional parks are being affected by climate change plus viable solutions to enable species and parks to become more resilient. Cool North Shore would like to thank our speakers for their presentations on this month’s theme and the important work being done at their organizations.
Peter Wood, Director of Terrestrial Conservation, Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society
Two of CPAWS’ terrestrial campaigns would not only protect wilderness and biodiversity but also enable species to adapt to new climate conditions in the future – proposed protected areas in the Flathead River Valley and a new national park in the south Okanagan-Similkameen. Both would provide the “missing pieces” in currently fractured corridors, which would then allow wildlife to move between regions in response to changing climates. The Flathead is a very important link in the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor. Its protection would help large carnivore species to migrate northwards. The area also has the highest floral diversity in the country and 40% of the plant species in the province. Meanwhile, the Okanagan-Similkameen is home to many plants and animals that thrive in the grassland and desert like region.
John Barker, President, West Vancouver Stream Keeper Society
In recent years, the twenty-two creeks found in West Vancouver have faced both unusually high and low water conditions and increases in water velocity due to shifting rain patterns and lower snow packs on the North Shore Mountains. This has also led to the scouring of spawning areas and a loss of rearing ponds for salmon and cutthroat trout.
In order to address these impacts, West Vancouver Stream Keeper Society works in collaboration with the District of West Vancouver to develop effective solutions. To minimize the consequences of low water levels, rearing ponds and estuary enhancement projects have been established in some creeks. In contrast, baffles and fish ladders, larger sized culverts, and rearing habitat have been installed to collectively deal with greater water volume and speed in creeks when the ground is unable to absorb all of the rain water. To date, McDonald, Rodgers, Lawson, Brothers, Cypress, Hadden, and Eagle Creeks have already benefited from these upgrades.
Frieda Schade, Division Manager of Planning & Engineering Services for Regional Parks, Metro Vancouver
Metro Vancouver’s 22 regional parks and 5 greenways are and will continue to experience a variety of weather related impacts which can be partly attributed to climate change. Warmer temperatures could lead to more wild fires in parks so the regional government has conducted a comprehensive wildfire risk assessment as well as emergency planning and staff training to prepare for this threat. Extreme weather events like the winter storms of 2006-2007 create extensive damage and result in high repair costs. Flooding is another concern, especially since a large amount of park land lies outside of municipal dykes and near the Fraser River or other bodies of water in the region. In response, Metro Vancouver is planning for these lands and related infrastructure to either survive or withstand floods. At the same time, it is creating emergency plans to consider this risk.
Beyond these preceding measure, Metro Vancouver is adopting other actions to both adapt and mitigate climate change including increasing the number of parks, removing invasive species, restoring natural habitats, and instituting stewardship programs to engage with community members.
Lastly, sensitive ecosystem inventories inside and outside regional parks are periodically conducted by Metro Vancouver staff. This tool is a possibly way to monitor change to ecosystems over time from climate change.