Canadian Wetlands Update
Wetlands are biologically diverse ecosystems which can include swamps, marshes and bogs. Generally, wetlands are an area which is saturated by water for at least part of the year. In contrast, waterways are bodies of water which could be navigated, such as rivers, lakes and oceans. Birds, amphibians, reptiles and other species use these habitats for breeding, feeding and nesting.
Throughout the year, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) conducts regular assessments of waterfowl habitats across Canada. While not a substitute for systemic surveys or scientific studies, these assessments do provide a valuable snapshot of wetlands and waterway conditions across Canada.
Most recently released was the “Early Summer Habitat Conditions in Canada” report which contained almost entirely favourable news. For example, much of the Prairies are rated as “good”, “very good” or “excellent”, thanks to above average levels of precipitation which refilled basins and allowed for localized flooding. In these regions, duck breeding populations have increased by 41 to 66 percent over last year’s estimates and show an increase compared to the long term average as well. Similarly, observed populations of beaver, geese and ducks in Ontario are the same or better compared to 2010.
The only exception is in certain areas of British Columbia such as the Interior. While conditions are generally improved compared to previous years, the cold spring has delayed flooding in some basins. Possibly as a result of these spring weather patterns, sightings of waterfowl breeding pairs are down. The Boreal forest areas of British Columbia and Alberta also experienced a decline in total duck populations as compared to previous years. DUC speculates that many birds are taking advantage of more favourable conditions elsewhere in the region.
While the DUC reports focus mainly on waterfowl breeding habitats and easily observed mammals such as beavers, the observation of healthy wetlands and waterways certainly benefits other species of animals and plants as well.