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Development of an Ecosystem-based Adaptive Management Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Effects on Some Northern Aquatic Ecosystems


Climate change is occurring more rapidly in the North than anywhere else in Canada, and northern ecosystems face a high risk of impacts from warming. These changes affect top predators, food species, and the way they interact with each other, and will have the most serious impact on ecosystems that are adapted to cold water. This project will allow scientists to develop models of freshwater and marine ecosystems that support important fisheries, so as to better understand the effects of climate change and lead to the development of tools for fishery managers and policy makers to aid in decision making.

Results: Researchers developed a functioning ecosystem model for Great Slave Lake (GSL) that describes various ecosystem components and the interactions between them. Preliminary results from this model suggest that the current ecosystem is relatively mature, stable, and possesses the necessary resources to overcome external disturbances. The GSL ecosystem model simulations were used for projections of possible scenarios under changing fisheries and climate change, and their impact on fishes and fisheries.

Researchers consulted local communities to better understand the importance of various components of the ecosystem, as well as community-based approaches to fisheries management and community concerns. These consultations demonstrated the threat of water changes to the quantity and quality of fish habitats. Researchers compared the results of their simulations to traditional fisheries knowledge and found that the results of simulations are sufficiently accurate and may serve as a good basis for development of future models.

Ongoing studies in GSL will provide a baseline to address the current knowledge gaps and data limitations that affect the accuracy of the GSL ecosystem model and in turn will provide a tool to better understand climate change impacts. Results from this project are included in two reports and a scientific journal article is being prepared. Ecosystem models for Cumberland Sound, Baffin Bay, and the Lower Mackenzie River are also in development.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)


Central Canada: Mackenzie River, Delta

Principal Investigator(s)

Ross Tallman
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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