Research December 7, 2015
Research findings at IISD Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA) show that climate change is shrinking our fish. In the fifth and final part of our series about IISD-ELA and climate change, we look at how and why our lake trout are getting smaller, and what role climate change is playing.
Figure 1. Changes in fork length of adult (largest 5 per cent of population) lake trout over time in three pristine lakes at the IISD-ELA.
IISD-ELA is located in the boreal forest, which represents the largest ecozone on the planet, covering 11 per cent of the planet’s total surface. Within Canada, the boreal forest dominates the landscape, covering 53 per cent of the total land surface. The boreal forest and aquatic systems play a large role in the global carbon budget.
However, the boreal ecozone is changing. A history of more intensive land use, industrial development, electricity generation and resource extraction has altered the natural balance in minor and major ways. Most importantly, a changing climate affects water, land and life. Responsible use of our natural resources requires a scientifically rigorous understanding of these systems and how they are changing. Fortunately, Canada’s premier freshwater research station has a front row seat and a history of monitoring parameters that can tell us how the world’s northern forests and freshwater lakes are affected by these changes. IISD-ELA brings a 47-year (1969–present) history of monitoring climate, water quality and fisheries in a unique whole-ecosystem laboratory setting. Now, as a part of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, we have the opportunity to use the long-term monitoring dataset of IISD-ELA to examine how climate change is affecting boreal forests, wetlands and lakes from a consistent, long-term, whole-ecosystem dataset of significant scientific and societal value.
As the world’s eyes are focused on the Paris Climate Change Conference, we wanted to take this opportunity to present some of our major climate change research findings to you, so you can see the data for yourself and understand how climate change is affecting our lakes.