Global warming threatens Nunavut’s national parks


MONTREAL — There isn’t much good news for two of Nunavut’s national parks, Auyuittuq and Quttinirpaaq, in a report released earlier this week on changes expected to Canada’s national park system caused by global warming.

Sirmilik National Park was not included in this study, called “Climate change in Canada’s park system,” carried out by scientists with Environment Canada and the University of Waterloo.

Computer models showed what may happen to Canada’s national park system when carbon dioxide levels in the lower atmosphere double over the next 100 years.

Carbon dioxide is one of the so–called “greenhouse gases,” which trap heat in the lower atmosphere and are expected to bring about a warming of the global climate.

In Auyuittuq National Park, these higher levels of carbon dioxide will mean temperatures from one to 10 degrees C. higher, depending on the season, as well as more rain and more snow.

• Winter and spring warming would lead to larger and earlier spring melts, later fall ice formation, longer ice–free seasons on lakes, rivers and sea, and changes to permafrost.

• According to the report, the eastern coast of Baffin Island is sinking at .5 metres per century, so rising sea levels mean levels will rise 1 metre around the coastal regions near Auyuittuq. This will lead to increased erosion and flooding, and may change fish and bird habitats, as well as destroy archeological sites.

In Quttinirapaaq National Park on Ellesmere Island, expected temperatures changes from 1 to 8 degrees C will also cause serious upheavals.

• There would be less ice, more melting and more precipitation during the fall and winter causing more snow, freezing rain, fogginess, more ground moisture and higher spring melt flow.

• With less sea ice and more open water, shorelines would be more susceptible to erosion.

• Vegetation would increase, and muskox and Peary caribou might benefit, but other expected changes such as more insects could cause caribou to move to higher elevations. The combined stress could lead to “complete reproductive failiure” of the caribou in a worst case scenario.

• Sea mammal distribution could change due to changing ice patterns, and affect large predators such as Arctic wolves, polar bears and other scavengers.

• Archeological sites would likely be damaged, as would park facilities. However, the report concludes tourism on Ellesmere “probably will not substantially increase because of the remoteness and the cool short summer season.”

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