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Canadian Biodiversity Strategy

GOAL 1 - Conservation and Sustainable Use

F. Atmosphere

Life on Earth depends on the atmosphere. Past changes in the atmosphere have caused significant shifts and mass extinctions. The current climate, with its variability and extremes, directly affects all ecosystems. Future global atmospheric changes resulting from human activities may exert the greatest influence on biodiversity. Atmospheric pollutants (greenhouse gases, toxic air pollutants, ozone depletion chemicals) are giving rise to climate change, increased ultraviolet light penetration, and stress on human and biodiversity well-being. It is not known how ecosystems and species will adjust or fail to adjust to these stresses, or what the potential effect on genetic diversity will be. Canada's northern ecosystems may be especially vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate.

Acid Rain Reduction

The first scrubber system in Canada was installed by New Brunswick Power in the new Belledune generating station. The utility is currently installing a second scrubber system in an existing plant. When this second system comes fully online, provincial sulphur dioxide emissions will drop to 125,000 tonnes _ 50,000 tonnes lower than the current commitment under the Eastern Canada Sulphur Dioxide Emission Reduction Agreement and a 43% reduction since 1980.

Long-range air pollutants acidify sensitive head-water lakes, are associated with birch dieback and other impacts on New Brunswick forests and have recently been linked to respiratory stress.

Studies indicate that even with the full implementation of the United States Clean Air Act Amendment and emission reductions in Canada, there will still be excessive acid deposited in our southern ecosystems. Smog and acid aerosol levels may continue to stress our environment well into the next century. New Brunswick has done and will continue to do its part.

Further significant reductions in acid deposition levels in New Brunswick will come about only if acid-causing emissions are reduced in jurisdictions upwind of New Brunswick.

Province of New Brunswick

Conserving Forests and prairie grass lands…Not only supports the conservation of biodiversity but also removes gases from our atmosphere that have been linked with climate change.

Strong linkages between biodiversity issues and atmospheric change were emphasized at the Earth Summit in 1992, when the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change were signed by most United Nations countries. Both conventions arose from a common concern that human activities were endangering life-support systems. The objectives of these conventions are complementary. For example, conserving forests and prairie grasslands or providing permanent cover in agricultural areas not only supports the conservation of biodiversity but also removes gases from our atmosphere that have been linked with climate change.

National and international research and development efforts aimed at addressing atmospheric issues have been underway for more than a decade. A National Air Issues Coordinating Committee, formed to address air quality issues, has established task forces to develop a National Action Plan on Climate Change as well as strategies to eliminate, reduce or control smog, acid precipitation, and hazardous air pollutants. A national emissions and forecasting working group has also been created to update Canada's inventory of substances that are known to affect atmospheric conditions.

Strategic Directions:

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Develop linkages in the implementation processes for the Conventions on Biological Diversity and Climate Change and other atmospheric agreements and programs.
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Maintain and enhance bioclimatic monitoring to track the effects of atmospheric changes on ecosystems, species and genetic diversity.
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Increase coordination among national programs to determine potential impacts on biodiversity from past, present and future atmospheric changes.
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Apply multi-disciplinary research to investigate relationships between atmospheric changes and changes in biodiversity.
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Implement measures to eliminate or reduce human-caused atmospheric changes that adversely affect biodiversity.