Regional climate change report suggests Manitoulin faces unique climate issues

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MANITOULIN—Being landlocked is a challenge in the face of climate change. One of the ways species are able to cope with climate change is to migrate, but migration corridors are limited by an island setting, which means that animal and plant species have a limited ability to move from one place to another. island to the mainland as the temperature rises.

“The fact that we live on an island creates unique climate risks,” said Al Douglas, president of the Climate Risk Institute (CRI) and coordinating lead author of the Ontario chapter of “Canada in a Changing Climate: Regional Perspectives Report.” ‘ released on August 15.

Some animals might be able to cross the ice during the winter months, but the nature of the island stretching more or less from east to west means that there is not much room to be able to migrate, did he declare. “You have to think about this in the context of climate change. Some tree species will also face pressure from changing average temperatures. If we consider forest regeneration, more southern species would be appropriate.

He is also worried about the fires: although the risks are not higher than on the mainland and although the fires contribute to the natural regeneration of the forests, a large fire on the island would be disruptive and destructive for the ecosystems. it was spreading, he said. There would also be smoke impacts, even in nearby areas, which would limit travel to or from the island.

This is not just general warming, but also extreme precipitation conditions. Take the example of snow. The deer population suffers from winters with large amounts of snow because they cannot access the food they need. This leads to greater deer predation and the wolf population, the next level in the food chain, may see increases.

These ebbs and flows at different levels of the food chain are normal and natural, but in the context of climate change they can be pushed to new limits.

Water levels in Lake Huron continue to fluctuate and there is no agreement in models about future levels. Shoreline encroachment and development is risky if water levels rise, perhaps to heights we’ve never seen before, and it’s easy to lose sight of this possibility during low water periods. , said Mr. Douglas.

Warmer winters mean an increased potential for shorter, less ice-covered years, which will have a significant impact on shorelines and evaporation, he noted. The shorelines are protected from ice formation and ice-free, and in times of high water, these shorelines can face erosion due to wind events. Ice also slows evaporation and therefore warmer air and water, and later ice formation (or earlier retreat) means more water loss to the atmosphere.

“The warmer water is also affecting the cold water species which make up a large part of our fishing on the island,” Douglas said. “Trout and salmon seek cold water, and as the air and water warms, suitable habitat decreases. In response, good work like Manitoulin Streams to restore shorelines and riverbeds helps create habitat and refuge for these species.

Some residents believe the frequency of windy days and wind speeds have increased, but there are no wind data sets. “In the context of climate change, and we think of climate change in terms of 30-year periods, we don’t have a good solid 30-year period of wind data to measure ourselves as to whether the winds are increasing or decreasing. .,” Mr. Douglas said. “We really need more monitoring to fully understand.”

He also thinks the wind is increasing compared to what he observed. It is important not to overlook this, he said. “People’s observations are a critical part of how things change. Now imagine where you have those times when there are high winds and you knock down more trees, it creates more fire or rather it creates the load for the fire hazard. This creates the charge for more potential burns and a bigger fire hazard area when you have that dead bush in the forest.

Fighting forest fires requires significant resources. It is important to note what this does to people and communities, but also to businesses on the island. During the Parry Sound 33 fire in 2018, local tourism businesses were challenged because people couldn’t get here through heavy smoke from the highways.

The municipalities of the island can also face problems related to flooding. “No community is immune to heavy rainfall or rain on frozen ground, both of which can cause flooding,” Douglas said. “Proper grading and plenty of permeable surfaces and green spaces in municipal settings will help manage more intense rainfall events. Proper shoreline protection, as I mentioned before, also helps manage runoff into lakes and rivers by helping to remove contaminants.

Dr. David Pearson believes that Manitoulin Island is in a very good position to link Indigenous knowledge with Western science due to the strength of the Indigenous population on the island. Dr. Pearson is also a Coordinating Lead Author for the Ontario Section. He is a professor and works at the Vale Living with Lakes Center at Laurentian University.

It emphasizes the approach to storytelling that is part of the two-eyed-seeing. Two-Eyed Seeing is a guiding principle developed by Mi’kmaq Elder Albert Marshall who recognizes that better outcomes are more likely if we bring two or more perspectives into collaborations. “We have to collaborate,” said Dr. Pearson. “We have to work together. This is exactly how Albert Marshall spoke. I find this in an extraordinary way because these are people who unfortunately went through this terrible era of residential schools and colonialism, but who still have their feet on the ground and realize that we must collaborate.

In general, responding to climate change needs to become a higher priority for people, he said. “Risks are often overlooked or underestimated and over time, with limited response, the burden is transferred to future generations. We must learn from others. »

Some of the teamwork needed is in people being able to scale down an example from a city like Toronto and adapt those lessons to their own community. It can’t just be a business approach, there has to be a vision too, Dr Pearson said. “It’s the vision that allows people to feel not only the events of the past, but also what the future might look like, how the future might feel.”

Islanders already have strong social cohesion that will be helpful in monitoring vulnerable populations in the event of events like searing heat, power outages or flooding, Douglas said.

He still feels that the importance of adapting to climate change is not quite there. “He’s not elevated to the point where he needs to be. It’s not part of the conversation. This is not part of the lens through which we make decisions in municipalities. It must increase. This must change. It needs to become more common as part of our conversation. It is not a marginal problem. This is a matter that really needs attention.

With 30 years of data and science behind us, it’s clear we have a problem. We need to take stock of this and integrate it into our decision-making process in municipalities, Douglas said. “It’s linked to a lot of things. These are planning decisions, engineering decisions, public health decisions. The climate change lens has to be there. He has to be at the forefront. »

Teresa H. Sadler