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New report outlines climate change threat to Alberta plants, animals

Many of Alberta's plants, animals will need to adapt to climate change or face extinction, report found



EDMONTON—Many of Alberta’s plants and animals will need to adapt to climate change or face extinction in the province, according to a new report.

Funded by the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp. (CCEMC), the report by the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute found that “most” of the the 173 species examined will be forced to expand or change their ranges or face extinction as Alberta becomes drier and its temperatures rise.

Drawing on earlier research that indicates Alberta’s mean annual temperature is expected to increase by upwards of 2.5°C by the middle of this century, the report goes on to claim that amphibians and reptiles are most threatened by the impacts of climate change, while birds are the least vulnerable largely due to “their excellent dispersal abilities.”

The report by Dr. Chris Shank and Amy Nixon examined 173 total species, including 10 amphibians, eight reptiles, 55 birds, 37 mammals, 11 insects and 52 vascular plants.

Only five of the 55 bird species were considered to be of higher vulnerability to climate change, while six of the 10 amphibians examined were found to have vulnerabilities in the top 25 per cent of all the species examined, and none were in the lower vulnerability category.

Another five of the eight species of Alberta reptiles fell into the higher vulnerability category, and eight of the 37 species of mammals assessed were considered to be of higher vulnerability, while nine were of lower vulnerability.

Of the 52 species of vascular plants examined, only three were considered to be of lower vulnerability, and 18 of higher vulnerability.

Only 11 species of insects were assessed due to data limitations, according to the report, and the sample size was “too small to generalize about the vulnerability to climate change of such a diverse group.”

The report used United States-based not-for-profit NatureServe, Inc.’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) approach, which the authors described as having “several limitations,” and providing only “a very preliminary picture” of the threats climate change poses to Alberta’s plant and animal life.

They recommend conducting more in-depth studies to “predict the future presence” of species in Alberta.

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