Ice Across Biomes

Glaciers

Photo: Angel Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta © iStock.com/aeropwMountain glaciers in southwestern Canada (including Peyto, Place, and Helm glaciers) show accelerating losses of ice starting in the mid-1970s, while Arctic glaciers (including Devon Ice Cap) began to show increased ice loss about 20 years later.29 The magnitude of the loss has been much greater for mountain glaciers than for the much colder, more massive Arctic glaciers and ice caps. Glaciers have also shrunk in northwestern Canada, in the Boreal and Taiga Cordillera ecozones+, with 22% loss in the Yukon30 (1958-60 to 2006-08) and 30% in the Nahanni Region31 (1982 to 2008). In both these areas, many smaller glaciers at low elevations have completely melted away.

Western Canadian mountain glaciers drain into river systems,32 regulating summer river flow and influencing ecosystem characteristics, such as water temperature and chemistry, that affect aquatic life. The influence of glaciers is especially important for cold-adapted species like salmonids.33-35

Cumulative loss of ice thickness for three mountain glaciers and an Arctic ice cap

Metres water equivalent, 1959 to 2007
Graph: cumulative loss of ice thickness for three mountain glaciers and an Arctic ice cap. Click for graphic description (new window).
Note: the number at the end of each line is the total reduction in thickness of each ice mass.
Source: Burgess and Koerner, 200937 and Demuth et al., 200938-40
Map: distribution of glaciers and ice caps across Canada. Click for graphic description (new window).
Source: adapted from Natural Resources Canada, 200936