Our next article we will be reading in class, discusses a survey done by the World Wildlife Fund Canada.
We will be doing a pre-reading discussion, looking a key vocabulary, text features of non fiction and answering questions using the three part format.
Answers to comprehension questions have three parts
Part of the question in the answer (underlined in yellow)
Details or information form the text (underlined in red)
Inferences, predictions, connections, your own ideas (underlined in green)
The text is attached below.
Where Has Canada’s Wildlife Gone?
Canada’s wildlife is disappearing at a disturbing rate. That was the finding of a recent report called Living Planet Report Canada. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada is our country’s largest international conservation organization. It released this comprehensive study on September 14.
The study looked at 903 vertebrates across the country: 386 kinds of birds, 365 fish species, 106 different mammals, and 46 reptiles and amphibians. It found that population levels for half these species declined between 1970 and 2014. How badly? By an average of 83 percent.
“The sheer magnitude is sobering,” says David Miller, the CEO of WWF Canada.
What’s causing the problem? Many factors. Pollution, invasive species, overfishing, and climate change are some. But the biggest contributor is habitat loss.
Wildlife needs undisturbed forests to survive. But farming, forestry, mining, and dam construction are all destroying wildlife habitat. So are industrial and urban developments. In fact, between 2000 and 2013, about 216,000 square kilometres of forests were hurt by human activity. That’s four times the size of Nova Scotia.
Meanwhile, our national parks are no longer a safe haven, either. One study found only half their ecosystems are in good condition. The rest? Fair to poor.
For example, Banff’s forests, freshwater, and tundra are in only fair condition. That’s because this Alberta park has four million visitors a year. All that human activity is impacting its ecosystems.
The Trouble With SARA
Another finding of the Living Planet Report? Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) isn’t protecting endangered species.
This legislation was passed in 2002. Its purpose was to identify and protect wildlife at risk. Yet the 87 species listed under the Act that were studied for the report declined by 63 percent over the research period.
Why? In many cases, the government took too long to accept scientists’ recommendations to list a species. Then there were often more long delays between the time a species was listed as being at risk and the time that action to protect it was taken. For example, the woodland caribou ranges across much of Northern and Eastern Canada. It was listed as threatened in 2003. However, its “recovery strategy” wasn’t released until 2012. Meanwhile, development continued to damage key woodland caribou habitat. So the population plummeted further.
A Question Of Jurisdiction
There’s another problem. The federal government doesn’t control the habitats where species at risk live. The provinces and territories, not Ottawa, have jurisdiction over farming, mining, forestry and hydroelectric dams. So even if the federal government protects a species under SARA, there’s no guarantee that the recovery plan will be put into action.
How Can We Stop It?
So what can be done? The WWF’s report made three main recommendations. First, we need more research on how climate change affects wildlife so we can take action. Second, all levels of government need to work together to protect, restore, and expand wildlife habitat. Finally, SARA needs to be retooled. It should cover habitats as well as wildlife. Otherwise, the future will be grim.
“We’re going to lose species,” says Sarah Otto, a UBC biology professor. “We’re going to lose ecosystems. We’re going to lose precious natural spaces. And if we don’t act we’re going to lose a lot more.”
Did You Know?
The WWF’s Canadian study is the first since 2007. It took two years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How The Species At Risk Act Works
There are more than 700 species on SARA’s list. Each has been assigned a status reflecting its degree of risk:
• Special Concern: may become threatened or endangered
• Threatened: likely to become endangered if nothing is done
• Endangered: facing extirpation or extinction
• Extirpated: no longer found in the wild
• Extinct: a species that no longer exists
Scientists and experts identify the species that should be added to the list. The government then assesses these recommendations.
If the government decides to designate a species as being at risk, then under SARA it must prepare a plan to protect and recover the species and its habitats.
In the last decade, just nine species out of hundreds at risk went through this process.
CEO: Chief Executive Officer – the head of a company
comprehensive: complete; including all or nearly all elements or aspects of something
conservation: involved in working to protect something valuable so that it is not damaged or destroyed
ecosystem: a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment
habitat: the natural home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organism
invasive species: any species that has been introduced to an environment where it is not native, and that has since become a nuisance through rapid spread and increase in numbers
jurisdiction: the power or right to govern an area
legislation: a law, or set of laws
magnitude: great size, importance, or effect
safe haven: a place of refuge or security
vertebrate: an animal with a backbone, for example a mammal, bird, or fish
On The Lines
Answer the following in complete sentences:
1. What was the name of the report recently released by World Wildlife Fund Canada?
2. What did this study look at?
3. What did this study conclude?
4. What did the report find was the largest contributing reason for this decline?
5. Describe the general condition of Canada’s national parks.
6. What does SARA stands for?
7. What is the purpose of this federal law?
8. What did the Living Planet Report report conclude about SARA?
9. Explain why this is happening.
10. What other problem has the federal government encountered in protecting at-risk species?
Between The Lines
An inference is a conclusion drawn from evidence. A plausible inference is supported by evidence in the article and is consistent with known facts outside of the article.
What inference(s) can you draw from the fact that the government has been taking so long to prepare action plans for species at risk?
Just Talk About It
1. The Living Planet Report Canada was the first study of its kind since 2007. It took two years to complete and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. As you see it, is this time and money well-spent? Why or why not?
2. What if... all of Canada’s wildlife disappeared?
3. a) What is your understanding of the reasons why many of Canada’s wildlife populations are declining?
b) Brainstorm a list of steps that you could take to help support Canada’s wildlife. Then, choose the one that is most do-able and would have the most impact – and follow through on it.
Note: The links below are listed at www.lesplan.com/en/links for easy access.
1. Read the full report at http://www.wwf.ca/newsroom/reports/lprc.cfm
2. Watch a one-minute video that introduces the report at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwatZ23n-E8
3. Watch CBC’s coverage of the report from The National at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-q5WMxpJRUc
4. Watch a three-minute BBC News clip about WWF’s global Living Planet Index and the findings of a 50-percent wildlife decline over the last 40 years at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixsfYICRAwQ
5. Follow daily WWF updates on Twitter at @WWFCanada
6. Go deep and read the Species at Risk Act at http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/S-15.3/