It’s such a big thing – climate change. And, from maps of melting glaciers to a growing list of endangered species, the impacts of the crisis can feel large and sometimes far removed.
But, if you look closely, you can see the impacts of the climate crisis right here at FortWhyte Alive, located on Treaty 1 Territory, near the centre of Canada.
The Prairies are recognized as a potential climate change “hotspot.” Warmer summers, drier winters, and wetter springs are all projected and will have large impacts on ecosystems. As the climate becomes more variable and less predictable, the natural environment adapts. One of the most dramatic ways we observe species responding to climate is the timing of different events in nature.
With warmer spring temperatures:
- Boreal frogs are waking from their winter hibernation earlier.
- Migratory birds like Canada Geese that closely follow snowmelt lines are arriving sooner.
- Plants like Golden Alexanders and Prairie Crocuses, our first signifiers of spring, are blooming ahead of time.
You see, nature adapts all the time. It has to.
And these changes look different in different ecosystems. At FortWhyte Alive, we’re lucky to have representation of four ecosystems: prairie grasslands, wetlands, aspen forests and lakes.
So how does climate change impact each of these ecosystems?
Wetlands are an incredible tool for a healthy environment. From the diverse wildlife it supports to its ability to purify water, wetlands help ecosystems flourish. However, Canada has already lost 40 percent of its prairie wetlands to climate change, and we’re seeing the impacts.
In wetlands, ducks gain strength before migration. Dragonflies feast on insects. Turtles sunbathe on logs. Wetlands are home to countless species for a good reason — it’s a safe environment for wildlife to grow, feed, and breed. But as temperatures rise and rainfall reduces, species are losing more than their habitats. They’re losing the resources they need to survive.
A study of mallard ducklings in North Dakota found their survival rate was 7x lower with fewer wetlands.
The impact of wetlands goes far beyond the animals that live there. As a natural purifier, wetlands clean the water that runs through our water systems, improving the health of our lakes. Here at FortWhyte Alive, we even use wetlands to clean the water we use in our facilities. Beyond FortWhyte, Canada’s water systems depend on wetlands to remove excess nutrients that would lead to algae blooms.
There’s no doubt that wetlands are important in nature. We feel fortunate that we’re able to support the wetlands here on the land that we steward and contribute to a healthier environment.
The Climate Change in our Backyard series highlights the climate change impacts on the different ecosystems that can be found at FortWhyte Alive.
Check back as we highlight impacts on Prairie Grasslands, Aspen Forests, and Freshwater Lakes in the coming months.
For resources and to see what we’re doing to mitigate climate change, check out our Sustainability page.