A new NASA study predicts massive ecological changes for Canada’s Prairies and boreal regions by the year 2100.
Those areas are in “hot spots” highly vulnerable to massive environmental changes this century due to global warming, the study states.
Much of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba is predicted to see major shifts northward of plant and animal species.
“By about 2100, the climate change projections that we have today would suggest that there would be pressure on that grassland so prevalent in [the Canadian Prairies] to move further northward — and at the expense of the forest moving further northward as well,” said NASA climate scientist Duane Walliser, who spoke with CBC News from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Walliser said that all across the globe, whole ecological zones such as deserts and tundra will be on the move because of “unprecedented” warming at a pace faster than at any time in 10,000 years.
But Western Canada will be among the areas hardest hit.
A map of the globe on the NASA study shows much the Prairies in bright red “hot spots” of ecological stress, where 100 per cent of the landscape is predicted to see major changes in plant species.
The NASA study says 37 per cent of Earth’s land surface will transform from one major ecosystem zone, or biome, into another, while 49 per cent of land surfaces will see at least some changes in plant species.
Bergengren said some wildlife will not survive these transformations.
“Obviously, it is much easier for plants and animals to migrate or adapt to this level of climatic change over 10,000 years than it is over 100 years,” he said.