For $33 per person per year, New Brunswick could prevent 40 at-risk species from going extinct

FreshwaterLand

For the first time, a new study on wildlife in the Wolastoq/Saint John River Watershed in New Brunswick identifies recovery solutions and costs.

December 9, 2020 (Fredericton, NB.) The Wolastoq, or Saint John River (SJR), watershed in New Brunswick is home to nearly 50 at-risk species. Now, a new study from the University of British Columbia and WWF-Canada has found that recovering most of these species is not only possible — it’s also affordable.

All at-risk species considered in this study – including the wood turtle, bank swallow, Atlantic salmon and shortnose sturgeon – are likely to go locally extinct in the next 25 years without interventions. But by implementing 15 separate strategies, governments could secure the recovery of 40 species at a cost of $25.8 million per year for 25 years, or the annual equivalent of $33 per person in New Brunswick.

The Wolastoq/SJR is the longest river in Eastern Canada and has a long history of human-caused disruptions after more than 400 years of colonial settlement. The watershed is presently under stress from habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, and climate change. In particular, the region’s forests have changed with hundreds of years of logging eliminating large expanses of old-growth forests, having an impact on erosion and wildlife loss in the region.

As the number of species at risk of extinction grows, acting quickly to manage threats and implement recovery actions has become increasingly important. Priority Threat Management (PTM) is a decision-making tool developed by Dr. Tara Martin and her team at UBC. Taking costs, benefits and feasibilities into consideration, PTM draws on data and species experts to rapidly identify which strategies will have the greatest impact on the largest number of species.

While the Wolastoq/SJR watershed is the first application of PTM in Eastern Canada, it’s been recently used in Saskatchewan’s South of the Divide region as well as B.C.’s Fraser River Estuary, Kootenay Bioregion and the Central Coast.

Abbey Camaclang, lead author, postdoctoral research fellow, University of British Columbia says:

“The PTM process is quite collaborative and inclusive. The knowledge sharing that occurs during this process reveals opportunities for potential collaboration between stakeholders. Knowing which actions will recover the most species for the least cost also makes it easier for various actors within the watershed to coordinate their conservation efforts and direct them towards those priority actions. By working together, we can do more with the available resources, and improve our chances of recovering these species.”

Tara Martin, senior author, professor of conservation science at UBC Faculty of Forestry says:

“Current approaches to saving species at risk in Canada are not working. They take too long, they do not include the cost and benefits of action.  In contrast, the Priority Threat Management approach is fast, inclusive and delivers a costed plan of action for species recovery. Without bold investment and urgent action, species will be lost from the Wolastoq region. This means loss of jobs and loss of culture. Action now will ensure that future generations are able to experience the bounty of wildlife that the region has to offer”

Simon J. Mitchell, Vice-President Resilient Habitats, WWF-Canada says:

In less than two years, we’ve gone from talking about threats to individual species to implementing multi-species recovery projects.  We are already working to replant riverside forests, stabilizing streambanks, and building fish ladders for culverts for the benefit of aquatic species. These actions benefit wildlife, people, cultures and the overall health of the watershed. And this is just the start – thanks to this process we now know what actions are needed, and importantly, exactly how much it will cost.

Conservation strategies identified by the PTM process

  • Land management (public lands, forestry lands, private/agricultural lands)
  • Riparian, wetland and aquatic management and policy
  • Policy implementation (illegal take, wetland, pollution, climate change)
  • Dam management
  • Breeding/reintroduction of aquatics

Supporting materials:

Visit here for video b-roll of the Wolastoq/Saint John River Watershed for public distribution

Visit here for photos of species at risk in the Wolastoq/Saint John River watershed

Camaclang, A.E., Currie, J., Giles, E., Forbes, G.J., Edge, C.B., Monk, W.A., Nocera, J.J., Stewart-Robertson, G., Browne, C., O’Malley, Z.G., Snider, J. & Martin, T.G. Prioritizing threat management across terrestrial and freshwater realms for species conservation and recovery. Conservation Science and Practice 2020; e300. https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/csp2.300

Transforming our approach to species at risk: Prioritizing actions for recovery in the Wolastoq/Saint John River Watershed

About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.

About Conservation Decision Lab, University of British Columbia, Faculty of Forestry
The Conservation Decision Lab is led by Dr Tara Martin and comprises a team of post-docs and graduate students pioneering the development of methods to predict impacts of cumulative effects on biodiversity and transform these predictions into decisions to inform what actions to take, when and where to recover and conserve biodiversity.

For further information and interview requests, please contact:

Rebecca Spring, senior communications specialist, WWF-Canada, rspring@wwfcanada.org, 647-338-6274