Right now in Nagoya, Japan, the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is in full swing, and Canada has just been named winner of the Dodo Award for leading the way to species extinction.
It All Begins with Habitat
Any forester worth his or her salt knows that forests provide multiple habitats, and that often habitats considered “minor” for timber production are highly productive in terms of biodiversity and wildlife. The importance of meadows, rocky outcrops, springs, pools, and seeps is often much greater than their representation across the landscape suggests. Our ability to recognize these unique habitats and manage them effectively determines how well we protect biodiversity. – Mark Miller and Al Kitzman in The Forest Guild, Fall 2009 newsletter.
Check out our full tabloid, Almost Gone, and find out how to take action in 2010, the International Year for Biodiversity.
The New Brunswick Youth Biodiversity Accord was released on October 14, 2010 in Fredericton. The Accord contains recommendations on preserving biodiversity in the province and commitments by youth on biodiversity. Check out the NB Youth Environmental Action Network for more details.
Megan de Graaf, the Conservation Council’s former forest and watershed coordinator, has written a 3-piece article on biodiversity for the NB Media Co-op. Check it out!
Wondering what the status is of your favourite animal or plant in New Brunswick? Are they at-risk of being extirpated from this province or are they sensitive? Check out the Department of Natural Resources’ site that lists their status.
We Can’t Live Without Life Support
By Graham Forbes, UNB Professor, and Laurence Packer, York University Professor
In 1992, Canada committed “to achieve a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth” by 2010. The United Nations proclaimed 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity and targets were endorsed by the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and incorporated under the Millennium Development Goals by the United Nations General Assembly. To date, the importance of meeting target seems absent from government priorities – budgets have been re-directed and activity for next year’s review is minimal, at best.
The term, and concept of, ‘biodiversity’ became popular over 15 years ago with the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. In concert with the sustainable development paradigm, the maintenance of biodiversity was seen as essential for a healthy environment, and, by extension, a healthy economy. Biodiversity is the means towards clean water, abundant wildlife, resilience to damage caused by human activity and the productivity of agriculture, fisheries and forestry. All the species in an area are the result of ecological and evolutionary processes and each has its own interactions, and its own role. Like a puzzle with missing pieces, an ecosystem with lost species is incomplete.
While biodiversity is essential for the productivity of the natural resources that everyone uses, its loss is no longer restricted to organisms living in remote habitats but is becoming so widespread as to impact urban environments where most people live. Pollinators are responsible for 30% of the food we eat and 70% of our crop species require pollination. Most of this pollination is performed by bees. While honey bees are commonly used, a series of diseases and parasites casts some doubt on the wisdom of such a narrow focus for our pollinator needs. Native wild bees (20,000 species worldwide, 800 in Canada) are responsible for an increasing proportion of agricultural pollination and most pollination of wild plants. But there have been dramatic declines in wild bees worldwide. In Canada, two of the bumble bees that were among the commonest urban bees 15 years ago are now on the verge of extinction.
Unbelievably, most of the bats found in north-eastern North America could be essentially gone in the next 10 or so years. Many people loathe bats but they play an important ecological role as consumers of numerous insect species, many of which carry diseases such as West Nile virus, malaria, and dengue fever. In 2006, introduction of a fungus, possibly from Antarctica and accidentally introduced by tourists in New York, led to massive declines in several common bat species that overwinter in caves. The fungus is spreading hundreds of kilometers each year and experts worry that we will lose the principal consumers of nocturnal insects.
Declines in aerial insectivorous birds have preceded those of bats: most such species are making their way onto Canada’s Species at Risk Act because of well-documented declines in their numbers. Chimney Swifts and the Nighthawk are just two examples of aerial insectivorous birds that until recently could be commonly found in Canadian cities. Just as the case with bats, many disease carrying insects will benefit from the loss of these predators.
Diverse freshwater fish communities are being replaced by introduced smallmouth bass. Chytrid fungus is spreading among frog populations with devastating effects in parts of North America. The list goes on. Our point is that we are beginning to see problems with previously common species. Biodiversity loss is happening at a large scale. It is happening not just to previously endangered species that society recognizes as in need of conservation, but also to common backyard creatures that most of us grew up with. This article is a reminder of the importance of biodiversity. It is a call for a reaffirmation by governments and the public for the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity, a re-assessment of the health of biodiversity in Canada, and a more rigorous response to foster the maintenance of native biodiversity upon which, ultimately, all of human life depends.
Laurence D.M. Packer, PhD, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at York University if one of Canada’s foremost experts on bees, a member of COSEWIC, and a Director of the 5-Year NSERC Canadian Pollination Initiative.
Graham Forbes, PhD, Director of the University of New Brunswick’s Sir James Dunn Wildlife Research Centre and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management.
Conservation areas are being reduced as part of the government of New Brunswick’s new forest management strategy. Deer Wintering Areas are part of conservation areas and will thus be reduced in area and number. Deer Wintering Areas not only provide habitat for deer, they are important mature coniferous stands for a variety of wildlife.
The reduction process is currently underway and involves the declassification of inactive Deer Wintering Areas and inactive sections of larger active Deer Wintering Areas. The new Deer Wintering Area landbase will be finalized in 2010.
Below is a map of the active deer wintering areas (DWA) on Crown land (in green). There are 465 individual DWA totalling some 125,000 hectares of forest. Individual Deer Winter Areas range from 10 ha to 8,000 ha in area. These DWAs will be used to help define the final DWA landbase for the 2012 forest management planning.