Potential Effects of Climate Change and Adaptive Strategies for Lake Simcoe and the Wetlands and Streams Within the Watershed - CCRR-21

Summary

Changes in air temperatures, precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events associated with climate change have and will continue to influence aquatic ecosystems. Increased water temperatures, changes in the timing of the spring freshet, the duration of ice-cover, and the composition of wetlands have been already documented in several systems. Lake Simcoe and the wetlands and streams within the Lake Simcoe Watershed are also being affected by climate change. The objectives of this study were to (1) use ecological indicators to assess the potential effects of climate change and (2) apply those results to inform the development of a climate change adaptation strategy for aquatic ecosystems within the Lake Simcoe Watershed. For each ecosystem, physical habitat changes associated with climate change were paired with a biological indicator. Results indicated that 89% of the wetlands within the watershed will be vulnerable to drying and shrinkage due to projected increases in air temperature and decreases in precipitation. By 2100, stream temperatures may increase as much as 1.3C above present conditions and suitable habitat for coldwater stream fish distributions may decrease in the 14 sub-watersheds in which they occur. Suitable thermal habitat for lake-dwelling, coldwater species such as lake trout may be reduced by 26%. These results do not account for other anthropogenic stressors such as groundwater withdrawals, stream regulation, or pollution that may exacerbate changes in the quality and quantity of aquatic habitats. Several recommendations are provided to help natural asset managers mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change on aquatic systems. These include limiting infilling and draining activities in wetlands, restoring or maintaining riparian buffers in streams, and regulating effluents and fishing in lakes.

Published Date: February 16, 2012
Publisher: Ontario Government, Ministry of Natural Resources
Author: Science and Information Resources Division (SIRD)

Details

Potential Effects of Climate Change and Adaptive Strategies for Lake Simcoe and the Wetlands and Streams Within the Watershed - CCRR-21
ISBN:    (PDF) 1.25 MB