The human-driven (or anthropogenic) changes on our Earth can be felt worldwide and freshwater ecosystems are far from immune to them. In fact, freshwaters are especially vulnerable to anthropogenic climate change. Why is this, though?
- Many species live in fragmented habitats and/or have very specific habitat requirements, which makes it difficult for them to disperse as the environment changes
- Changes in climate can influence both water quantity and temperature
- Many of our freshwater systems are already suffering from many other human-driven stressors
In general, climate change and extreme weather events, along with other human-induced threats, will cause long-term damage to our lakes, rivers, and wetlands. For example, flooding can lead to shoreline erosion and increased runoff, which can consequently lead to excess nutrients and pollutants in our waters. The Ottawa River and its tributaries are home to a number of endangered and rare species that deserve our protection from a world that is being altered rapidly by human-driven change. Fish like our very own Lake Sturgeon or freshwater mussels, like the Hickorynut, which boasts its highest population density in the Ottawa River, could see much of their habitat affected by the extreme weather conditions associated with climate change.
Warming water temperatures not only affect fish species, but can also contribute to increases in algal blooms and invasive species, resulting in changes to overall biodiversity and have cascading effects throughout an ecosystem. This can, in turn, negatively impact the water we drink, the water we swim in, and even the amount of fish we are able to fish. For this reason, the Watershed Health Assessment and Monitoring project is so crucial to the work that we do at Ottawa Riverkeeper, as it allows us to track these changes.
When discussing climate change, we cannot forget the massive flooding in 2017 and 2019 throughout the watershed. The rising water caused thousands of riverfront residents to be evacuated, millions of dollars in property damages, and destroyed some precious wetland habitats. If our world does not come together, one trend will certainly repeat itself: communities will continue to feel the devastating impacts of climate change.
While this year’s pandemic may not allow us to gather as we have in previous years, we stand in solidarity with all members of our community who are marching (on the street or from their home) for the 2020 Global Climate Strike. At Ottawa Riverkeeper, we will continue to fight for the health of the watershed in collaboration with its residents, our community.