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  • Library: Destruction of wildlife habitat and loss of biodiversity

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Solomon Z. Dobrowski et al
    Expanding the global protected area network is critical for addressing biodiversity declines and the climate crisis. However, how climate change will affect ecosystem representation within the protected area network remains unclear. Here we use spatial climate analogs to examine potential climate-driven shifts in terrestrial ecoregions and biomes under a +2 °C warming scenario and associated implications for achieving 30% area-based protection targets. We find that roughly half of land area will experience climate conditions that correspond with different ecoregions and nearly a quarter will experience climates from a different biome. Of the area projected to remain climatically stable, 46% is currently intact (low human modification). The area required to achieve protection targets in 87% of ecoregions exceeds the area that is intact, not protected, and projected to remain climatically stable within those ecoregions. Therefore, we propose that prioritization schemes will need to explicitly consider climate-driven changes in patterns of biodiversity.
    (2021) Protected-area targets could be undermined by climate change-driven shifts in ecoregions and biomes.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By the BC Forest Practices Board
    This investigation arose from a complaint by a resident of Prince George who was concerned about the management of biodiversity in the Prince George Timber Supply Area. The investigation examined compliance with the legal requirements of the Order Establishing Landscape Biodiversity Objectives for the Prince George Timber Supply Area (the Order). It also looked at whether implementation of the Order was consistent with the Implementation Policy that accompanied the Order.
    The investigation found that licensees were complying with the legal requirements for managing biodiversity. However, those requirements were established almost twenty years ago and have not been formally reviewed or revised. In that time, the land base was severely affected by the MPB and salvage logging that followed, creating conditions that could not have been fully understood when the Order was established. The investigation identified several actions that can be taken to improve management of biodiversity.
    The Board has previously commented on the value of public planning processes to establish clear objectives for the land base. The results of this investigation emphasize that those objectives cannot be frozen in time. Plans need to be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changes in the natural environment, new information and knowledge, and to reflect societies changing values.
    The Board has called for amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act to incorporate tactical planning as a means to establish clear objectives for our forests and their many values. One of the Board’s proposed principles for tactical planning is “continuous improvement; monitoring of plan implementation and effectiveness is fundamental and is built into the process design to provide feedback to adapt and continuously improve plan outcomes over time.“
    The Board encourages this principle to be applied in the Prince George Timber Supply Area and across the province.
    (2020) Management of Biodiversity in the Prince George Timber Supply Area.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Mathew G. E. Mitchell et al
    Effectively conserving ecosystem services in order to maintain human wellbeing is a global need that requires an understanding of where ecosystem services are produced by ecosystems and where people benefit from these services. However, approaches to effectively identify key locations that have the capacity to supply ecosystem services and actually contribute to meeting human demand for those services are lacking at broad spatial scales. We developed new methods that integrate measures of the capacity of ecosystems to provide services with indicators of human demand and ability to access these services. We then identified important areas for three ecosystem services currently central to protected area management in Canada—carbon storage, freshwater, and nature-based recreation—and evaluated how these hotspots align with Canada’s current protected areas and resource development tenures. We find that locations of ecosystem service capacity overlap only weakly (27–36%) with actual service providing areas (incorporating human access and demand). Overlapping hotspots of provision for multiple ecosystem services are also extremely limited across Canada; only 1.2% (∼56 000 km2) of the total ecosystem service hotspot area in Canada consists of overlap between all three ecosystem services. Canada’s current protected area network also targets service capacity to a greater degree than provision. Finally, one-half to two-thirds of current ecosystem service hotspots (54–66%) overlap with current and planned resource extraction activities. Our analysis demonstrates how to identify areas where conservation and ecosystem service management actions should be focused to more effectively target ecosystem services to ensure that critical areas for ecosystem services that directly benefit people are conserved. Further development of these methods at national scales to assess ecosystem service capacity and demand and integrate this with conventional biodiversity and conservation planning information will help ensure that both biodiversity and ecosystem services are effectively safeguarded.
    (2020) Identifying key ecosystem service providing areas to inform national-scale conservation planning.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Mariana Nagy-Reis et al
    Habitat loss is often the ultimate cause of species endangerment and is also a leading factor inhibiting species recovery. For this reason, species-at-risk legislation, policies and plans typically focus on habitat conservation and restoration as mechanisms for recovery. To assess the effectiveness of these instruments in decelerating habitat loss, we evaluated spatiotemporal habitat changes for an iconic endangered species, woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou). We quantified changes in forest cover, a key proxy of caribou habitat, for all caribou subpopulations in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Despite efforts under federal and provincial recovery plans, and requirements listed under Canada's Species at Risk Act, caribou subpopulations lost twice as much habitat as they gained during a 12-year period (2000– 2012). Drivers of habitat loss varied by ecotype, with Boreal and Northern Mountain caribou affected most by forest fire and Southern Mountain caribou affected more by forest harvest. Our case study emphasizes critical gaps between recovery planning and habitat management actions, which are a core expectation under most species-at-risk legislation. Loss of caribou habitat from 2000 to 2018 has accelerated. Linear features within caribou ranges have also increased over time, particularly seismic lines within Boreal caribou ranges, and we estimated that only 5% of seismic lines have functionally regenerated. Our findings support the idea that short-term recovery actions such as predator reductions and translocations will likely just delay caribou extinction in the absence of well-considered habitat management. Given the magnitude of ongoing habitat change, it is clear that unless the cumulative impacts of land- uses are effectively addressed through planning and management actions that consider anthropogenic and natural disturbances, we will fail to achieve self- sustaining woodland caribou populations across much of North America.
    (2020) Habitat loss accelerates for the endangered woodland caribou in western Canada.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    Report from UNEP on preparations for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
    Is our spaceship and its life support systems in good hands at the global level? Or are global good intentions on biodiversity just more of what Greta Thunberg calls "blah, blah, blah"? Read this report and see how you feel afterwards.
    In decision 14/34, the Conference of the Parties set out the process for developing a post-2020 global biodiversity framework, established the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to support this process and designated its Co-Chairs. Subsequently, the Open-ended Working Group at its first meeting requested the Co-Chairs and the Executive Secretary, with the oversight of the Bureau, to continue the preparatory process in accordance with decisions 14/34, CP-9/7 and NP-3/15, and to prepare documentation, including a zero draft text of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework1 for consideration by the Working Group at its second meeting.
    (2020) Global Framework to protect biodiversity-UN Convention on Biological Diversity.pdf

    Raven Tree
    By Karen Price, Rachel Holt, and Dave Daust
    The Province has appointed a task force to investigate the state of BC’s old growth forest. The panel will report to government in April 2020.
    The old growth task force website1 shows a map of the old growth forest in BC — and says “Based on government’s working definition, old-growth forests comprise about 23% of forested areas, or about 13.2 million hectares”.
    We have written this report because old growth cannot be portrayed by a single number or map. Old forest comes in many forms.
    We have used publicly available provincial data and definitions to examine the status of different types of old forest found across the province in different ecosystems (biogeoclimatic variants) and productivity classes. These distinctions matter because while all forms of old growth have inherent value, different types provide tremendously different habitat, functional, cultural, spiritual and timber values. BC’s globally rare high productivity forests have particular value for their high biomass, structural complexity and stable carbon storage.
    Our analysis concludes the following:
    The provincial total area of old forest (~13.2 million hectares) matches our total.
    The vast majority of this forest (80%) consists of small trees:
    ›  ~5.3 million hectares have site index2 5–10m; another ~5.3 million hectares have a site index 10–15m.
    ›  Small trees characterize many of BC’s natural old forest types, including black spruce bog forests in the northeast, subalpine forests at high elevation, and low productivity western redcedar forests on the outer coast.
    ›  Large areas of this old forest type remain because the trees are too small to be worth harvesting (under today’s prices).
    In contrast, only a tiny proportion of BC’s remaining old forest (3%) supports large trees:
    › ~380,000 hectares have a site index 20–25m, and only ~35,000 hectares of old forest have a site index greater than 25m.
    › These types of forests match most people’s vision of old growth. They provide unique habitats, structures, and spiritual values associated with large trees.
    › Productive old forests are naturally rare in BC. Sites with the potential to grow very large trees cover less than 3% of the province. Old forests on these sites have dwindled considerably due to intense harvest so that only 2.7% of this 3% is currently old (see pie chart). These ecosystems are effectively the white rhino of old growth forests. They are almost extinguished and will not recover from logging.
    › Over 85% of productive forest sites have less than 30% of the amount of old expected naturally, and nearly half of these ecosystems have less than 1% of the old forest expected naturally. This current status puts biodiversity, ecological integrity and resilience at high risk today.
    Price-Holt-Daust April 2020.pdf
     

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    Statement by 13 prestigious organizations calling for conservation of 30 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 30 percent of ocean areas by 2050.
    (2019) Joint Statement on Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework-Convention on Biological Diversity.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Alana R. Westwood et al
    British Columbia has the greatest biological diversity of any province or territory in Canada. Yet increasing numbers of species in British Columbia are threatened with extinction. The current patchwork of provincial laws and regulations has not effectively prevented species declines. Recently, the Provincial Government has committed to enacting an endangered species law. Drawing upon our scientific and legal expertise, we offer recommendations for key features of endangered species legislation that build upon strengths and avoid weaknesses observed elsewhere. We recommend striking an independent Oversight Committee to provide recommendations about listing species, organize Recovery Teams, and monitor the efficacy of actions taken. Recovery Teams would evaluate and prioritize potential actions for individual species or groups of species that face common threats or live in a common area, based on best available evidence (including natural and social science and Indigenous Knowledge). Our recommendations focus on implementing an adaptive approach, with ongoing and transparent monitoring and reporting, to reduce delays between determining when a species is at risk and taking effective actions to save it. We urge lawmakers to include this strong evidentiary basis for species recovery as they tackle the scientific and socioeconomic challenges of building an effective species at risk Act.
    (2018) Protecting biodiversity in British Columbia- Recommendations for developing species at risk legislation.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Julia R. Chandler, Sybille Haeussler, Evelyn H. Hamilton, Michael Feller, Gary Bradfield, Suzanne W. Simard
    Forests are being clearcut over extensive areas of western North America, but plant community response to harvesting and slashburning under varying climatic conditions in central British Columbia, Canada is still largely unknown. Evaluation of resilience is hampered by the short history of logging, lack of long-term experiments and methodological limitations. To test the effect of clearcut logging, prescribed burning and reforestation on forest resilience, we recorded vascular plant cover repeatedly after treatment between 1981 and 2008 in 16 permanent research installations in three biogeoclimatic zones: Engelmann Spruce- Subalpine Fir, Interior Cedar-Hemlock and Sub-Boreal Spruce. We created a plant-trait dataset for the 181 recorded species to define plant functional types representing groups of plants that behave in similar ways and/or produce similar ecological outcomes. These plant functional types, along with taxonomic analysis of diagnostic and indicator species, were then used to evaluate plant community response to disturbance. Twenty years post-treatment, species diversity increased in all zones and plant abundance was greatest in the Interior Cedar-Hemlock. Cover of understory plant functional types associated with mature conifer forests increased in all zones, constituting a significant proportion (> 40%) of the vegetation community by year 20. Response patterns varied by zone and with time. Understory species diagnostic of mature forests were present in all zones by year 20, but we identified indicator species sensitive to slashburning or requiring more time for recovery, including white-flowered rhododendron (Rhododendron albiflorum) and devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus). Overall, loss of compositional or functional diversity following harvest and site remediation was not detected, suggesting that montane and subalpine forests in British Columbia are resilient to this treatment. However, because these forests can be slow to recover from disturbance, the post-disturbance assessment window of this study may not have been long enough to detect diminishment of ecosystem resilience.
    (2017) Twenty years of ecosystem response after clearcutting and slashburning in conifer forests of central British Columbia, Canada (2017).pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Nick M. Haddad et al
    We conducted an analysis of global forest cover to reveal that 70% of remaining forest is within 1 km of the forest’s edge, subject to the degrading effects of fragmentation. A synthesis of fragmentation experiments spanning multiple biomes and scales, five continents, and 35 years demonstrates that habitat fragmentation reduces biodiversity by 13 to 75% and impairs key ecosystem functions by decreasing biomass and altering nutrient cycles. Effects are greatest in the smallest and most isolated fragments, and they magnify with the passage of time. These findings indicate an urgent need for conservation and restoration measures to improve landscape connectivity, which will reduce extinction rates and help maintain ecosystem services.
    (2015) Habitat fragmentation and its lasting impact on Earth’s ecosystems.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By BC Auditor General (2013) John Doyle
    Biodiversity if the variety of life on the planet. It includes species, their genetic diversity and ecosystems.The health of biodiversity is often compared to the health of the environment, and ultimately affects human well- being by supplying us with food, water, air, soil and medicines.
    British Columbia is Canada’s most biologically diverse province; however, recent assessments have shown that many of its species and ecosystems are declining.The two ministries primarily responsible for conserving biodiversity in the province are the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
    The Ministry of Environment has had a long-term goal of conserving, maintaining and enhancing native species and ecosystems, while the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations undertakes many of the activities aimed at realizing this goal. This audit looked at the conservation of biodiversity on Crown land, and focused on the habitat protection actions of these two ministries.
    We conducted this audit to determine whether the B.C. government is effectively conserving biodiversity in the province.We asked three questions:
    Does government have a clear understanding of biodiversity in B.C.?
    Are government actions resulting in the conservation of biodiversity?
    Is government measuring and reporting publicly on its progress towards conserving biodiversity?
    We concluded that:
    ♦  Significant gaps exist in government’s understanding of biodiversity in B.C.
    ♦  Government does not know whether its actions are resulting in the
    conservation of biodiversity.
    ♦  Government is not adequately measuring and reporting on its progress in the conservation of biodiversity.
    (2013) Audit of Biodiversity in B.C assessing the effectiveness of key tools.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Bradley J. Cardinale et al
    In the past 20 years remarkable progress has been made towards understanding how the loss of biodiversity affects the functioning of ecosystems and thus affects society. Soon after the 1992 Earth
    Summit in Rio de Janeiro, interest in understanding how biodiversity loss might affect the dynamics and functioning of ecosystems, and the supply of goods and services, grew dramatically. Major international research initiatives formed; hundreds of experiments were performed in ecosystems all over the globe; new ecological theories were developed and tested against experimental results.
    Here we review two decades of research that has examined how biodiversity loss influences ecosystem functions, and the impacts that this can have on the goods and services ecosystems provide (Box 1). We begin with a brief historical introduction. We then summarize the major results from research that has provided increasingly rigorous answers to the question of how and why the Earth’s biological diversity influences the functioning of ecosystems. After this, we consider the closely related issue of how biodiversity provides specific ecosystem services of value to humanity. We close by considering how the next generation of bio- diversity science can reduce our uncertainties and better serve policy and management initiatives.
    (2012) Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Tara G. Martin et al
    Failure to act quickly on evidence of rapid population decline has led to the first mammal extinction in Australia in the last 50 years, the Christmas Island Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus murrayi). The fate of another iconic species, the migratory Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster), monitored intensively for over 20 years, hangs in the balance. To inform future conservation management and decision making, we investigate the decision process that has led to the plight of both species. Our analysis suggests three globally relevant recommendations for minimizing species extinction worldwide: (1) informed, empowered, and responsive governance and leadership is essential; (2) processes that ensure institutional accountability must be in place, and; (3) decisions must be made whilst there is an opportunity to act. The bottom line is that, unless responsive and accountable institutional processes are in place, decisions will be delayed and extinction will occur.
    (2011) Acting fast helps avoid extinction.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By the BC Forest Practices Board
    The province of BC has set objectives for establishing conservation areas for the protection of species at risk, ungulates and old growth forest. This report presents the findings of a Board investigation into the establishment of these areas in two forest districts in the lower mainland, Squamish and Chilliwack. The Board was particularly interested in investigating the role of the non‐contributing land base (NCLB) in establishing conservation areas as well as in determining whether harvesting in the NCLB was an issue. This investigation did not evaluate effectiveness of government objectives for conserving species, though related issues are raised in the report.
    (2008) Forest Practices Board report on effectiveness of Conservation Areas.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Robert G. D'eon and Susan M. Glenn
    Habitat fragmentation is considered one of the major conservation issues of recent decades. We tested predictions of landscape patterns in a 352,253-ha managed forest area in southeast British Columbia. We did this by focussing on forest fragmentation concerns among old-growth, harvest, and wildfire patches in 44 delineated landscapes using patch indices as measures of landscape pattern. We found no significant association between amount of harvesting and 15 old-growth patch indices. Comparisons among patch types revealed that amounts and spatial patterns of harvest patches differed little from amounts and spatial patterns of old-growth patches in control landscapes. Variability indices revealed similar variability between harvest patches and old-growth patches, and more variability between harvest patches and wildfire patches. Little of the evidence gathered in this study supported predictions of fragmentation of old-growth spatial patterns, or predicted differences between harvest spatial patterns and more naturally occurring spatial patterns. We suggest these results could be due to the relatively small amounts of harvesting and old-growth forest in these landscapes, and therefore habitat amount may be a more important factor than spatial configuration of patches in these landscapes.
    (2005) The influence of forest harvesting on landscape spatial patterns and old-growth-forest fragmentation in southeast British Columbia.pdf
     

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Alan E. Burger et al
    We recorded the occurrence and relative abundance of potential predators of the threatened marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) in the Carmanah, Walbran, and Klanawa Valleys on southwest Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Data covering multiple years (1994–2000) came from two series of dawn surveys used to monitor murrelet activities (45 stations in total), and two series of point counts (190 stations). Steller's jays (Cyanocitta stelleri) were consistently the most common potential predator. Common ravens (Corvus corax) and red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) were also frequently encountered, but owls, accipiters, and falcons were rare. Northwestern crows (Corvus caurinus) and bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were rare at our inland stations, but other studies showed that they were common at the coast. The survey and point count data showed that the percent occurrence and relative abundance (individuals per survey) of Steller’s jays, common ravens, and all predators combined were higher at stations bordering clearcuts and roads than at stations within interior forest or bordering streams. Highest counts were usually at sites frequently used by people. Predators were more abundant in the fragmented forests of the Klanawa Valley than in the less disturbed Carmanah-Walbran Valleys. In particular, counts of Steller’s jays at road and clearcut edges were significantly higher in Klanawa than in Carmanah-Walbran. A pilot experiment using 40 artificial nest sites on tree boughs in old-growth patches in the Klanawa Valley revealed that eggs disappeared more rapidly near clearcut edges than in the interior forest. We conclude that predation risk at nests of marbled murrelets is likely to be higher near clearcuts and roads than in interior forest, and higher in fragmented landscapes than in relatively undisturbed old-growth forests.
    (2004) Effects of Habitat Fragmentation and Forest Edges on Predators of Marbled Murrelets and Other Forest Birds on Southwest Vancouver Island.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By BC Ministry of Forests
    This document provides an overview [2003] of British Columbia’s forests and their management. It describes the province’s forest lands, their ecological significance and their economic importance to the people of B.C. It also discusses the province’s efforts to manage forests by balancing environmental interests with economic and social considerations.
    (2003) British Columbia Forests and Their Management.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    BC Ministry of Forests guidebook to provide managers, planners and field staff with a recommended process for meeting biodiversity objectives—both landscape unit and stand level—as required in the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act and Regulations.
    (1995) Forest Practices Code Biodiversity Guidebook.pdf

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