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Toxic legacy of acid rain lingers in Canadian lakes

Calcium loss turning lakes to ‘jelly’

Even high mountain lakes are feeling the sting of nitrogen pollution.

Acid rain has fundamentally changed the chemistry and biology of some lakes.

Michael Arts, Canada Centre for Inland Waters

Tiny jelly covered plankton are displacing other organisms in some Canadian lakes to the detriment of fisheries and public water supplies. Photo courtesy Michael Arts, Canada Centre for Inland Waters.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The toxic legacy of acid rain lives on in lakes in Canada, and possibly other places around the world, according scientists who say they’ve traced a trend of reduced calcium levels leading to a “jellification” of some lakes.

Specifically, the changes in water chemistry have reduced populations of  calcium-rich plankton such as Daphnia — water fleas that dominate these ecosystems. Falling calcium levels mean Daphnia cannot get the nutrients they need to survive and reproduce, leading to a rise in other plankton species, including small jelly-clad organisms.

According to the new research, populations of those organisms has exploded in lakes across eastern Canada in the past 30 years. The average  population of these small invertebrate jellies in many Ontario lakes doubled between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s. Continue reading

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Climate: Canada’s subarctic lakes drying up

Canada subarctic lakes

Some of Canada’s subarctic lakes, seen here from a passenger jet, are drying up in a sign of abrupt climate change. bberwyn photo.

After at least 200 years of stable water levels, sudden dessication sets in

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In another sign of abrupt climate disruption, scientists say some of Canada’s subarctic lakes are drying up at a rate not seen for at least 200 years, as snowfall in the region declines.

A research team studied about 70 lakes near Old Crow, Yukon, and Churchill, Manitoba, most of them less than one meter deep. More than half of the lakes located on relatively flat terrain and surrounded by scrubby vegetation showed signs of desiccation. Continue reading

Canada’s polar bear policies called into question

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Can polar bears survive global warming? Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

NAFTA body to review listing decision

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A seldom-used environmental provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement may help shed light on the Canadian government’s baffling stance on polar bear conservation.

Despite the growing threat from melting Arctic ice, the polar predators have only been awarded a low level of protection under Canadian environmental laws, triggering a petition process to the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

The organization this week recommended a formal investigation into Canada’s refusal to protect polar bears, and also questioned that country’s dismally slow pace in making listing decisions under the Species At Risk Act — an issue that will affect protection for polar bears and any other Canadian species threatened with extinction. Continue reading

Study: Canadian politicians have ‘eviscerated’ habitat protection for freshwater fish

When politics trumps science

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Pro-development policies in Canada have ‘eviscerated’ habitat protection for many freshwater fish species, according to a new study. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With political interference in conservation science becoming more common in the U.S. (as in the case of gray wolves), it’s worth looking north to Canada to see the results of such misguided decision-making.

A new study from the University of Calgary and Dalhousie University asserts that federal government changes to Canada’s fisheries legislation “have eviscerated” the ability to protect habitat for most of the country’s fish species.

The changes were “politically motivated” and unsupported by scientific advice — contrary to government policy — and are inconsistent with ecosystem-based management, according to fisheries biologists John Post and Jeffrey Hutchings. Continue reading

NAFTA commission to hear polar bear listing dispute

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Conservation groups are challenging Canada’s decision on polar bear conservation. Photo courtesy USFWS/Scott Schliebe.

Conservation status of polar bears in Canada challenged by petition to international trade group

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Endangered polar bears are at the center of an an unusual dispute that will be heard by an environmental commission established under NAFTA.

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation announced late last t month that it will consider a petition challenging Canada’s decision to list polar bears as a species of special concern instead of listing them as threatened or endangered. The commission announced the petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity provides sufficient documentation of Canada’s violations of its own laws to warrant an official response from the country’s government. Continue reading

Global warming: The end of pond hockey?

Pond hockey in Toronto, circa 1923.

Canadian university researchers blast their country’s obstructionist policies by invoking the Great Gretsky

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Pond hockey could be history in parts of Canada within just a few decades, according to a new report showing that warming temperature have resulted in a statistically significant decrease in the length of the skating season over the past half century.

The largest decreases in season length were observed in the Prairies and Southwest regions of Canada. By extrapolating their data to predict future patterns, the researchers said outdoor skating may not be possible within the next few decades in areas such as British Columbia and Southern Alberta. Continue reading

Canada slashes environmental programs

Cuts threaten trans-border researcher on climate, pollution

Research on climate change impacts to the tundra is suffering after Canadian budget cuts.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —American scientists say they’re concerned that Canadian budget cuts will hamper important international research efforts on climate change, pollution and other regional issues that cut across political boundaries.

The cuts have affected the the scientific workforce of Environment Canada, the government agency responsible for meteorological services and environmental research.

Since the cuts were implemented last summer, ozone soundings have ceased at several Canadian stations. Lidar network measurements of particle pollution layers from five Canadian stations no longer occur, and the website that was distributing this data has disappeared, according to a report in the Feb. 14 issue of the American Geophysical Union’s Eos newspaper.

“Canada is a bellwether for environmental change, not only for Arctic ozone depletion but for pollutants that stream to North America from other continents, ” said Anne Thompson, professor of meteorology, Penn State. “It is unthinkable that data collection is beginning to shut down in this vast country, in some cases at stations that started decades ago.” Continue reading

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