Conservation Planning for Climate Change
The Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program (OCCP) and Thompson-Nicola Conservation Collaborative (TNCC) are working together on Conservation Planning for Climate Change in the Thompson Okanagan, a multi-year initiative to connect conservation planning, Indigenous knowledge and climate change modelling to support sustainable land use decision-making.
As populations grow and land is developed, key natural areas are being lost. The lands, rivers, lakes and streams which are threatened are home to a variety of at-risk plants and animals; they provide clean water and food to communities and have cultural significance to Indigenous Peoples.
The Conservation Planning for Climate Change initiative will combine Indigenous ecological and cultural knowledge and western science to identify natural areas across the Thompson Okanagan that need more protection.
The Mission StatementWe put environment first.
What? The TNCC was started in March 2020 to explore options for greater support for, and collaboration among, groups doing conservation work in the Thompson-Nicola (T-N) region, including the possibility of a regional conservation partnership, similar to others in BC.
Who? It was initiated by the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD), with start-up funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada – Canadian Wildlife Service (ECCC-CWS). In April 2021, the TNCC will be launched as a member-driven collaborative organization, independent of government.
Why? ECCC has identified 11 Priority Places for biodiversity conservation in Canada, including the BC Dry Interior. The T-N region comprises 45% of the Dry Interior and contains provincially, nationally and globally significant biodiversity values, including many species and ecosystems at risk. For example, the grassland ecosystem covers only 1% of the province but has over 30% of the species at risk.
When? In Phase 1, March 2020 to March 2021, consultants conducted background research, directed by an ad hoc Working Group, including 80 interviews with over 60 organizations. Results from the interviews show overwhelming support for the idea of a conservation partnership!
Through interviews with Elders and Cultural Knowledge Keepers, we will outline geographical areas which are important to Indigenous Peoples for sourcing food, harvesting medicinal plants and which have cultural and spiritual significance.
Scientists from the University of British Columbia - Okanagan are gathering data on the zones within the study area that are most vulnerable to climate change and land development, focusing on grasslands and wetlands.
Why are Wetlands and Grasslands Important?
Wetlands and grasslands are sensitive and critical natural areas that provide many benefits.
Biodiversity: Healthy grasslands and wetlands are diverse and productive ecosystems that support a wide variety of insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, animals and plants.
Critical habitat: The region’s wetlands and grasslands are home to many animals that are threatened or endangered nationally including the Burrowing owl, Mountain caribou, and Great basin spadefoot toad.
Land connectivity: Animals constantly move between different natural areas to access shelter, food, and mates, and the loss of these land connections threatens their survival.
Carbon storage: Wetlands and grasslands absorb carbon dioxide and store more carbon than almost any other natural area, which is a new and urgent reason to save them. Submerged layers of plant litter piling up in a marsh is one example of how carbon is stored in wetlands.
Monitoring ID Section
Changes in temperature and precipitation could cause wetlands to flood or even dry up, and are just some of the effects of climate change that may greatly impact these sensitive and critical natural areas. These climate-related changes to wetlands and grasslands can result in species already at risk losing their habitat, contributing to the biodiversity crisis we are currently in.
What is Being Done?
By combining Indigenous knowledge and western science, and with the use of mapping technology and computer simulations to predict how climate will change in the future, the natural areas that require increased conservation efforts will be identified.
The final phase of the initiative will be working with Indigenous communities and local and provincial governments to create new policies, planning guidelines and sustainable land use practices, to help ensure these critical natural areas are not lost. The conservation of these wetlands, grasslands and other natural areas into the future will help protect the region’s biodiversity and ultimately support the reduction of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The Conservation Planning for Climate Change initiative launched in the summer of 2022 and will continue into 2025 in the Thompson and into 2026 in the Okanagan.