Climate Change Impacts and Vulnerabilities in Canada’s Pacific Marine Ecosystems

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Canada’s Pacific marine ecosystems, which lie adjacent to the coast of British Columbia, are rich, extraordinarily productive, and highly textured with conditions that vary considerably on different scales of time and space. This marine and coastal environment is unique and of cultural, socioeconomic, and ecological significance to the people of British Columbia and the rest of Canada. Global environmental changes caused by greenhouse gas emissions are an increasing concern for the health of the whole region’s biologically rich ecosystems, and these must be examined in the context of the existing local and regional impacts, which are more manageable than global changes. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and WWF-Canada commissioned the present report to synthesize current and projected impacts of these global changes, herein called “climate changes,” on Canada’s Pacific marine ecosystems. This report, and its companion report on adaptation approaches, was prepared to inform measures that can be employed to reduce the vulnerability of Canadian Pacific social-ecological systems to climate change, which can be considered in ocean and coastal resource planning.

The synthesis in this report is based on two components: (1) a review of the literature relating to marine climate changes and impacts in British Columbia and the northeast Pacific Ocean, including projections from the Canadian Regional Climate Model and global climate models; and (2) a preliminary screening level vulnerability assessment, including components of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity.

— Excerpt from the report’s Executive Summary