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G.1-2: 2006-2018 Habitat changes in Interior BC: hydrological effects on waterfowl habitats.

Presented by Andre Breault - Email: andre.breault@canada.ca

Over 20 species of waterfowl breed in Central Interior Plateau of British Columbia (CIPBC), an area covering 11 million ha identified in the 2012 North American Waterfowl Management Plan as one of 43 waterfowl areas of greatest continental significance. This study quantifies CIPBC upland habitat changes since the initiation of annual landscape-level breeding waterfowl surveys in 2006. GIS datasets from the Province of British Columbia were used to document upland cover losses associated with the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) Dendroctonus ponderosae infestation, forest fires and commercial logging. Since 2006, 1 million ha (9%) has been logged, 1.4 million ha (13%) burned and the MBP infestation killed trees over 3.3 million ha (30%) as of 2018. More than 40% of the landscape was altered over the last 2-3 decades and changes occurred very fast, over 20% in the last 12 years alone. MPB, fires and logging alter hydrological processes. More water reaches the forest floor, resulting in increased peak flows, increased runoffs, earlier snowmelt, increased seasonal flooding, changes in water quality, changes in soil moisture, increased evaporation in late spring and summer. Overall, there is a net loss of watershed moisture. Hydrological professionals estimate it will take upwards of 30 years or more before water balance returns to pre-MPB level. Interactive effects with logging, forest fire and climate change (e.g. precipitation and temperature patterns) are compounding the magnitude, intensity and duration of the hydrological effects. Ongoing and incremental negative effects on waterfowl habitat will occur at the landscape level for decades to come. We use the 2006-2018 breeding population trends of generalist and specialist species to show waterfowl responses so far. From a management perspective, the assumption that landscape level processes and climate change effects are slow and gradual does not hold for the CIPBC, where changes have been massive and very fast. Studies of hydrological effects of landscape-level processes on waterfowl habitat, climate change modeling and understanding habitat-species relationships can assist with the development of effective waterfowl and wetland conservation programs. Habitat conservation programs need to be re-evaluated as to their ability to address this level of landscape change.
Session: Climate Change (Thursday, August 29, 8:15 to 10:00)