Report on the observed climate, projected climate, and projected biodiversity changes for Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta/Northwest Territories, Canada under differing levels of warming

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Wood Buffalo National Park is among the bottom 45% of all non-marine protected areas, globally. While some of the higher elevations are projected to be relatively resilient to climate change, many parts of the park are projected to require high degrees of adaptation effort, even with 1.5°C of warming, including areas critical for endangered species like the Whooping Crane. Averaged over the entire area of this large park, with 4°C warming (global, above pre-industrial), the area is projected to remain climatically suitable for 45.6% of its terrestrial biodiversity (fungi, plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates), with none of its area remaining an overall refugia (remaining climatically suitable for >75% of the species) for biodiversity. Even if warming levels were held to 2°C, only 0.1% of the area would remain a climatic refugia and the area would remain climatically suitable for 73% of its terrestrial biodiversity.
Between 1961-1990 and 1991-2020 the average monthly temperature has increased by -0.4° (October) - +2.8°C (January). With warming levels of 2.0°C the new average monthly temperature is equivalent to that only seen 1 in 3 years in 1961-1990 for May-December (up to 1 in 20 years for June and July). July – September have seen increases in precipitation, with the rest seeing declines. Models project that all months will become somewhat wetter, but the additional precipitation may not make up for the increases in temperature. The number of months classified as in severe drought has nearly doubled between 1961-1990 and 1986-2015. Between warming levels of 1.5°C and 2°C (global, relative to pre-industrial) the number of months in severe drought is projected to more than double.
Biodiversity adaptation options will require a shift away from business-as-usual conservation with targeted adaptation becoming increasingly necessary, taking into account changes in extreme events (heat and severe drought). Typical resilience measures such as removing other stressors will likely be insufficient, even with only 1.5°C warming. At higher warming levels, increasingly complex adaptation measures will be required, with an understanding that much of the landscape may be under stress and beginning to transition to other ecosystem types.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages45
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2024


  • protected areas, biodiversity, climate change

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