Biodiversity is in decline around the world
Although we have national laws to protect and restore habitat, we continue to allow activities that put species and their habitats at risk, such as clearcut logging, mining, trophy hunting, large-scale dams, industrial agriculture and more.
Protecting species is difficult work. We need to stay vigilant and on top of the always changing federal and provincial laws that affect plants and animals and their habitats.
David Suzuki Foundation staff build and implement comprehensive strategies that include reaching out to government, lawyers and the media and making sure the federal and provincial governments take the steps needed to protect at-risk species.
We always need a strong public support base behind these strategies.
39 per cent
Terrestrial species have declined by 39 per cent.
76 per cent
Marine species have declined by 39 per cent and freshwater species have declined by 76 per cent.
58 per cent
Wildlife populations have declined globally by an average of 58 per cent since 1970. This is projected to reach 67 per cent by 2020.
Boreal woodland caribou: A Canadian icon
Caribou are shy and secretive animals that need large forests free of roads to thrive. More than half of Canada’s boreal woodland caribou herds are in danger of disappearing because too much habitat has been disturbed.
If caribou aren’t doing well, forests are in trouble.
We need healthy forests to help sequester carbon,regulate climate and reduce flood risks, among other ecological services.
Where do caribou live?
From Yukon to the northern corner of British Columbia to Labrador, boreal woodland caribou like to hang out in the mosquito and lichen-filled boreal forests. At one time, caribou lived in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, but they’ve disappeared due to human actions such as habitat destruction.
Why are caribou in trouble?
At least half the caribou’s range has been lost to activities that disturb and fragment their forest habitat. Industrial activity in the boreal — seismic lines and roads in particular — makes caribou an easier target for their natural predators, wolves. Boreal woodland caribou are listed as “threatened” under the federal Species at Risk Act.
In 2012, the federal government released the Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy, as required under the Species at Risk Act. Based on comprehensive science conducted by North America’s leading caribou experts, it noted a direct relationship between total habitat disturbance in a caribou’s range and calf survival.
This relationship varies somewhat from region to region and range to range, but it provides a risk-based approach to caribou habitat management. Environment Canada used the approach to create management directives for provinces in the recovery strategy. It directs provinces to maintain or restore a minimum of 65 per cent of each range in an undisturbed condition. This affords caribou only a 60 per cent probability of persistence.
The way forward
Many provinces are employing inadequate solutions to stop caribou from becoming extirpated (locally extinct), such as killing caribou predators (wolves and bears) or creating caribou zoos to fence out predators. These stop-gap measures further impair ecosystems and must not become the new norm.
Sufficient tracts of undisturbed boreal forest must be protected. Restoration initiatives are required for areas where too much habitat has already been degraded. Governments should work with oil and gas and logging companies to help them understand that ensuring caribou have sufficient habitat to survive and recover is a part of doing business.
Collectively, we must change our consumption habitats (by switching to recycled paper products, for example) and hold governments accountable for ensuring that wild species have the habitat they need to survive and fulfil the ecological roles they have been playing for thousands of years.
Caribou need their critical habitat protected now more than ever.