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Climate-Related Changes in Marine Invertebrate Communities and Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Risk in the North


Tiny Japanese skeleton shrimp (caprella mutica) from eastern Asia are typical of the non-native species with potential to invade Canada's northern waters due to their varied diet, fast reproductive rate and ability to tolerate a wide range of salinities and temperatures. Already well-established in the cold waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, they threaten native biodiversity and compete with native species for food and space (as many as 100,000 individuals can occupy a square meter of ocean).

Over the past century, aquatic invasive species have become a serious threat to biodiversity in North America. The combination of climate change, resource exploitation, and the resulting increase in Arctic shipping activity is expected to increase the risk of exotic species being introduced to vulnerable Canadian waters. This project aimed to improve the knowledge of current biodiversity in the Canadian Arctic in the context of a changing climate.

Results: Researchers surveyed coastal marine species at Arctic ports that are at high risk of aquatic invasive species introduction and conducted an extensive literature review to develop a list of historical species in these high-risk areas. Port-specific species lists and regional historical lists were compared to identify new species. The majority of new species in a given port region are not in fact new, but have been found as a result of improved survey and data collection efforts. However, six species not previously found elsewhere in the Canadian Arctic are considered "cryptogenic"—their status as native or introduced remains unclear.

Researchers are also using models to assess the current and future risk of aquatic invasive species in the Canadian Arctic based on projected environmental changes as a result of the effects of climate change. This will help identify high-risk areas and species to allow for more focused monitoring and research efforts in the future. The results of this project are included in a scientific paper that has been submitted for publication.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)


Central Canada: Lake Winnipeg, Nelson River Drainage Basin

Principal Investigator(s)

Kimberly Howland
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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