The Decline of Canadian Wildlife

by Jake M on October 5, 2017 - 5:41pm

The state of Canadian wildlife is called into question after an extensive study of species population was released, revealing unfortunate trends in our current biophysical environment. In the news article, “Half of Canada’s monitored wildlife is in decline, major study finds” (link below), released on September 15, 2017, author Ashifu Kassam discusses recent data findings of a 44 year study on 903 Canadian wildlife species. Kassam begins by stating the findings of this species study indicates approximately half of the 903 wildlife species observed have continuously declining populations and several of those are listed as endangered species. The main actors of this large scale wildlife decline are industrial development, farming/forestry practices and urban developments. Kassam also states the ongoing climate change and pollution levels are key contributors to this loss. The data came from 3700 populations of vertebrates from 1970-2014 spanning the country. Scientists concluded that the average population loss among declining species is approximately 83%. Not all data found has negative connotations as 407 species had a growth in population size which is argued to be related to the ban of harmful pesticides.

The purpose of Kassam’s article is to showcase the lack of results from the current wildlife protection policies of our governing bodies. In the second half of the article Kassam discusses the role of the federal government in preventing wildlife loss with input for World Wildlife Fund Canada member, James Snider. The article focuses on how the current legislation has failed to reduce wildlife loss because it is slow to implement strategies and policies related to habitat protection. The beluga whale population was considered a threatened species in 2005, the recovery strategy took seven years to develop and until 2016 for the habitats of belugas to be legally protected. Belugas are now listed as an endangered species. From this article it is evident that there is improper instruments being used to combat issues of species loss. As development intensifies and grows in all sectors it is detrimental that the federal government reacts accordingly and ensures the best possible measures are used in the protection of wildlife species. James Snider states a policy change is needed and I agree. The current institutional tools are too slow at creating positive impacts on the sustainability of Canadian wildlife. Some serious considerations and reforms need to be made and I feel that it can stem from the substantive policy instruments used by the federal government. To be more specific, regulatory and economic instruments can be used to deter potentially harmful projects and developments from disrupting important areas to wildlife species across Canada. Imposing regulations on land use is something that should become a more prominent focus to the federal government. Canada is the second largest (land mass) country with many areas of natural habitat but that can quickly diminish if development initiatives are given highest priority. This may impact developments but there will always be a new form that can adapt to strict regulations, the same cannot be said for the environment and its biodiversity, once it’s gone it’s gone. In a capitalist world, imposing economic instruments such as increased taxation on resource extraction could slow the amount being degraded because high taxes mean less profits and no business wants to make less money. This could lead to alternative measures to create income and development from less threatening practices. In summary, the evidence clearly shows Canadian wildlife is on a declining trend and the current federal legislation isn’t doing the proper job. Implementation of regulatory and economic instruments could slow the species losses and promote healthier practices of development and resource use.

 

Link to Kassam’s article: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/15/canada-wildlife-study-decline-living-planet-report

 

                

Comments

I found your article and its subject very compelling. I was interested in reading your summary as well as the linked article because of how they discuss an issue that is pertinent and wide-scale. The importance of the decline in Canada’s wildlife is highlighted by the statistics you included in your summary. It was very shocking to learn that over 44 years, declining species had lost 83% of their population on average. This fact, along with others you mentioned, underlines how important it is to act on this problem. Furthermore, the causes and impacts of this phenomenon are clearly identified, which makes the overall article easy to understand and accessible. Clearly, human activity and industrialisation are major actors in this problem, and current measures put in place to help Canadian wildlife are ineffective. This also emphasizes how finding a solution to this alarming decline is primordial.
I was interested in finding out more about the impacts of our current biophysical environment on wildlife, more specifically on their health. We know, from your article, that the environment is causing animal populations to go down dramatically. However, I was curious in finding out how, from a biological perspective.
Fortunately, The Royal Society of Publishing have published an article discussing just that. In their article “Effects of environmental change on wildlife health”, they discuss the impacts of the fast-changing environment on an animal’s organism and its immune system. The article underlines the importance of the immune system in survival, and how weak or deficient immune system exposes an animal to serious health risks and affects its capability to heal wounds. The consequences of weak immune systems due to fast-changing habitats include shortened life expectancy, higher mortality rate, development of serious and fatal diseases, etc. The article goes on to explain how the environmental changes are putting excessive stress in animals. It explains how normally, stress responses are part of a normal biological system, but when immoderate stress is present, which is the case in Canada, immunocompetence is affected, causing diseases like stress-induced or pollutant-induced immunosuppression. Anthropogenic drivers of animal diseases are also mentioned, some of which include UV radiation, urogenital cancer (found in sea lions) and climate change. The authors also draw a link between immunocompetence and reproduction also factors in wildlife’s health, since current environment conditions obligate the animals to spend a lot of energy on maintaining a functional immune system. This energy is drawn from processes such reproduction and growth. This serves as a possible explanation, added to the numerous diseases caused by environmental change, to why animal populations are in decrease. If it interests you, I would suggest reading this article, as I find it adds to the article you recommended and underlines the importance of the issue of decrease in wildlife.

Here is the link to the article: http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1534/3429

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