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Atlantic Maritime Ecozone evidence for key findings summary

Theme: Science/policy interface

Key finding 21
Biodiversity monitoring, research, information management, and reporting

Theme Science/policy interface

National key finding
Long-term, standardized, spatially complete, and readily accessible monitoring information, complemented by ecosystem research, provides the most useful findings for policy-relevant assessments of status and trends. The lack of this type of information in many areas has hindered development of this assessment.

Although localized ecological studies and a few long-term data sets exist, information gaps made it difficult to determine ecological trends in the AME. Coordinated monitoring of biodiversity in the AME was generally lacking. More data were available for economically valuable species and biomes such as Atlantic salmon and forests, as well as certain species at risk such as woodland caribou. Information was lacking for protection and stewardship of private land.

Strengths

  • Population trends for migratory birds.
  • Occurrence and population trends for Atlantic salmon.
  • Some populations of invasive non-native species.

Critical gaps identified

  • Wetland trend data.
  • Information on status and trends for non-vascular plants and invertebrates.
  • Trend data on the coastal biome for the AME.
  • Changes in trophic structures are poorly documented, particularly lacking for lakes.
  • Ecological impacts of many invasive non-native species.

Key finding 22
Rapid change and thresholds

Theme Science/policy interface

National key finding
Growing understanding of rapid and unexpected changes, interactions, and thresholds, especially in relation to climate change, points to a need for policy that responds and adapts quickly to signals of environmental change in order to avert major and irreversible biodiversity losses.

Due to the underlying geology of the AME, aquatic ecosystems have less capacity to buffer acid and, consequently, a lower threshold for ecosystem damage from atmospheric acid deposition than is found in other parts of Canada. As levels of acid deposition exceeded buffering capacity in lakes and rivers, Atlantic salmon populations and the number of salmon-bearing rivers in Nova Scotia rapidly declined. Moreover, impacts may persist longer than previously thought; rivers have not recovered with reductions in acid deposition, suggesting that these rivers are now in an alternative stable state (see Lakes and Rivers key finding on page 7). 

Remaining forests in the AME are simpler, less diverse, and younger as a result of forest management practices (see Forests key finding on page 6). The landscape has also been highly fragmented by resource and road development, reducing the area of intact ecosystems. It is unclear to what extent these changes have contributed to the loss of native species, such as large mammals. However, in many parts of the AME, it is likely that a threshold of development and fragmentation has been reached where some species (e.g., caribou, black bear) could not survive if re-introduced.

One possible reason for rapid changes is that damage to ecosystems may accelerate because of the interaction of stressors. This is especially relevant for climate change. For example, coastal erosion in the AME is increasing, threatening wetlands, beach, and dune ecosystems. Development and hardening of the foreshore have made coastal ecosystems more susceptible to erosion. Rise in sea level, reduced sea ice, and more tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean, all related to climate change (see Coastal key finding on page 7), accelerate the rate of erosion. Climate change may also make ecosystems more vulnerable to invasion from non-native species (e.g., warm-water fish species) and insect outbreaks, and increase the susceptibility of native species to diseases and infections.

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Introduction