Fund recommended to hedge against greatest threat: a breached oil sands tailing pond; Biodiversity in watershed covering roughly 20% of Canada compared to Africa’s Serengeti;
Alarm raised at melting of permafrost, ice that plays vital global climate role
Canada’s Mackenzie River basin — among the world’s most important major ecosystems — is poorly studied, inadequately monitored, and at serious risk due to climate change and resource exploitation, a panel of international scientists warn today.
In a report, nine Canadian, US and UK scientists convened by the US-based Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy, say effective governance of the massive Basin, comprising an area three times larger than France — holds enormous national and global importance due to the watershed’s biodiversity and its role in hemispheric bird migrations, stabilizing climate and the health of the Arctic Ocean.
The panel agreed the largest single threat to the Basin is a potential breach in the tailings ponds at one of the large oil sands sites mining surface bitumen. A breach in winter sending tailings liquid under the ice of the tributary Athabasca River, “would be virtually impossible to remediate or clean-up,” says the report, available in full at http://bit.ly/13gc01K
“Extractive industries should be required to post a substantial performance bond which would be used to cover the costs of site clean-up should the enterprise fail financially or otherwise fail to fully remediate damage and destruction at the site in question,” the report says. “The performance bond should be secured prior to site development and the commencement of operations.”
Researchers have compared the Mackenzie Basin to Africa’s Serengeti Plain, an area of comparable size. Both ecosystems harbour high biodiversity and biological productivity compared to others in their respective regions. There are some 45,000 biologically productive lakes in the Mackenzie Basin.
Meanwhile, the ice and snow cover in the Mackenzie Basin provides a vital refrigerator-like cooling role, in weather and climate patterns throughout the northern hemisphere.
University of California Prof. Henry Vaux, Chair of the Rosenberg Forum, stressed that the average temperature in the Basin has already warmed beyond the 2 degree Celsius upon which nations agreed in Copenhagen as a limit not to be surpassed.
And, he noted, the World Meteorological Organization (2012) reported that ice cover in the Arctic between March and September of 2012 had been reduced by an area of 11.83 million square kilometers.
“To put that in perspective, Canada is about 10 million square kilometers in area; the area of Arctic sea ice that melted last summer was almost 2 million square kilometers larger,” says Dr. Vaux.
The report, based on hearings conducted in Vancouver Sept. 5 to 7 last year, supported by the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, says warm air now arrives in the north earlier in the spring and often persists longer into the autumn.
The Mackenzie Basin helps moderate climate by capping hundreds of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases in permafrost soils, which cover 20% of the Earth’s surface. Deep permafrost — in some places two kilometres deep — can take 100,000 years to form.
In regions like the Mackenzie Basin, however, where average annual temperature is only slightly below freezing, permafrost is much thinner. Its melting will release massive quantities of methane (a greenhouse gas 21 times more potential per molecule than CO2) into the atmosphere.
Rising Arctic temperatures are already affecting the hydrological cycle of the Northwest Territories and other parts of Canada “and all signs indicate these changes will accelerate over time,” according to the report.
Glacier coverage has declined by approximately 25 per cent in the last 25 years and in spring snow cover in the Canadian Rockies disappears about one month earlier.
Though these changes are already significant, “and in some cases border on catastrophic,” the report says, climate simulations suggest increased warming will lead to even higher temperatures of a level not seen on Earth in more than 10,000 years. “Most participating stakeholders believe the region could adapt if the changes occur slowly,” says the report. “However, rapid warming will make adaptation considerably more difficult.”
“If vegetation and wildlife patterns are modified by climate change, then indigenous peoples’ subsistence lifestyles are at risk. The effect of long-term climate change on communities, however, will also be determined by other factors, including lifestyle choices made by the region’s inhabitants. Although socio-economic patterns and determinants are not well understood, it is possible that subsistence lifestyles will not be feasible in the future.”
Though the total number of Arctic people living on substance lifestyle is unknown, it is estimated that about 30% of people in Canada’s Northwest Territory (population: 42,500) have a diet that includes at least 50% “country food.”
Says the report: “The Mackenzie River appears to be less well studied than most other major rivers of the world,” and threats beyond warming temperatures include “unrestrained development, lack of attention to environmental protection and a lack of will to acknowledge and recognize the lifestyles of the Basin’s indigenous peoples.”
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Mackenzie River Basin
- 50 years after huge oil find does North Sea have future amid coronavirus crisis?on October 5, 2020 at 10:00 pm
more willingness to invest in the basin,” he said. Brent crude traded at around $40 per barrel yesterday. That compares with $70/bbl in January and less than $16/bbl in April. Wood Mackenzie ...
- Lake Ōhau fire: Up to 50 homes and buildings destroyedon October 4, 2020 at 12:27 pm
Grant said up to 40 homes had been saved. The small alpine village in the Mackenzie Basin has been ravaged by a blaze that remains active. Waitaki District mayor Gary Kircher said the fire has ...
- Dozens of Lake Ohau homes left in ashes by overnight fireon October 4, 2020 at 3:22 am
Lake Ohau Village has been largely turned to ash after a raging forest fire ripped through the area overnight. About 30 houses and as many cars are believed to have been destroyed in the on-going ...
- Dozens of houses destroyed in large fire in the Mackenzie Basinon October 4, 2020 at 2:58 am
A Mackenzie Basin farmer who has had about 2000 hectares ... And a blaze that spread along the Hurunui River in Canterbury has burned through about 30 hectares, Fire and Emergency said.
- Houses reportedly destroyed in major Mackenzie Basin forest fireon October 3, 2020 at 3:14 pm
A major forest fire ripping through the Mackenzie Basin has resulted in the evacuation of Lake Ohau Village, with several homes destroyed by the flames. Responders were called to the blaze shortly ...
- Dozens of Lake Ōhau homes left in ashes by overnight fireon October 3, 2020 at 10:53 am
Fire and Emergency says the Ōhau fire is burning through pine forest and grass in the Mackenzie Basin, with 16 fire ... huts along the Hurunui river have been evacuated as a precaution.
- Researchers, advocates keep an eye on McKenzie River after wildfireon October 2, 2020 at 10:54 am
Researchers are keeping an eye on the health of the McKenzie River, which flows through the middle of it all. VIDA, Ore. -- The Holiday Farm Fire left patches of destruction along the Highway 126 ...
- Fish in Oregon hatcheries die, including Leaburg, released early as fires rageon September 17, 2020 at 3:07 pm
About 450,000 fish perished at two hatcheries combined and nearly 1.2 million chinook, steelhead and trout were released into the McKenzie River east ... to the Umpqua Basin died at a hatchery ...
- ‘Fires! We have to evacuate now! Go now!’ I grabbed my keyson September 14, 2020 at 12:22 pm
6, for a three-night stay alone in a cabin overlooking Oregon’s McKenzie River ... focused on environmental issues of the Columbia River Basin. Note to readers: if you purchase something ...
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Mackenzie River Basin melting permafrost
- The clubbies: Will New Zealand's club skifields survive?on October 2, 2020 at 5:00 pm
But can they survive snow-melting temperatures and the absence ... It’s a welcome sign in the Broken River Basin. For much of this winter, Broken River skifield has been closed and eerily ...
- Canada’s peatlands are tinderboxes that are more likely to ignite in a warming worldon September 26, 2020 at 5:00 am
About one-quarter of that peat is found in Canada, with particularly dense concentrations in the Hudson Bay Lowlands and the Mackenzie River basin ... fear that melting permafrost is releasing ...
- Boris Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds says Sir David Attenborough’s show warning of mass extinction of wildlife left her in TEARS – as she pleads: ‘Everyone should ...on September 13, 2020 at 6:55 pm
The programme reportedly contains 'horrific scenes of destruction', including monkeys leaping from trees into a river to escape a ... burning in the Amazon basin, to secure more land for ...
- The Good and Bad Climate News from Permafrost Melton September 11, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Carbon inside now-melting permafrost is oozing ... depend on whether you see an Arctic river basin as half full of mud — or half empty. Coastal permafrost eroding in Alaska.
- Water monitoring, suspended by the pandemic, resumes in N.W.T., territory sayson September 9, 2020 at 12:58 pm
Water levels across the Mackenzie River Basin have been among the highest on record this year, according to the territory, mostly due to rain and snow melt. The rising and sustained high water levels ...
- Peel River driftwood raises questions for some in Fort McPhersonon May 28, 2020 at 1:57 pm
As the ice started to move down the Peel River ... or snow melt, which brings the water level up and allows the river to move all that material." He said he's noticed an increase in landslides in the ...
- Richard B Waitt, PhDon September 14, 2019 at 9:34 am
Repeated floods of Columbia River Basalt about 16 Ma drowned a backarc basin to the southeast ... it can be later discharged to form channels and valleys or cycled upward to melt permafrost. Water or ...
- Researcher: New butterfly has clues to geology, climateon May 10, 2019 at 8:29 am
The Tanana Arctic lives in spruce and aspen forests in the Tanana-Yukon River Basin. Because butterflies ... "This is a region where the permafrost is already melting and the climate is changing." ...
- The Southern Alps and Fiordlandon February 22, 2019 at 3:15 pm
slowly grinding their way down to lower altitudes and melting into running rivers of uncanny blue-green hues. These conspire with the vast brown grasslands of the Mackenzie Basin and ancient green ...
- Sacramento State Faculty Dr. Kevin Cornwellon December 3, 2015 at 2:50 pm
Shroder, J., Cornwell, K., Oviatt, C., Lowndes, T., 2016. Landslides, Alluvial Fans and Dam Failure at Red Rock Pass: the Outlet of Lake Bonneville. in Lake ...