Aquatic ecosystems are integral components of the Canadian landscape and culture. They provide valuable functions such as: wetlands that minimize flooding potential, store vast amounts of carbon and are important centres for biodiversity; the connections of our terrestrial environments to aquatic systems through the many small streams and rivers is vast in scale and important to the fundamental productivity of our forest and aquatic ecosystems; and, lakes and rivers produce fish that are important for commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries, and are critical for transportation, hydro-electric production. Aquatic ecosystems provide important cultural and recreational activities across Canada and elsewhere in the world.
The economic value of such goods and services has been estimated to exceed $60 billion per year for southern Ontario alone. However, due to their interconnected and flowing nature, aquatic ecosystems are highly sensitive to environmental changes that may be caused by global effects such as climate change, but also to local changes such as resource developments like mining, forestry, or even road construction. Cumulative effects from such stressors, are occurring more frequently but are poorly understood and quantified.
Our mission is focused on the northern wetlands, forest-aquatic connections, and lake ecosystems found across Canada. NSERC CNAES will develop quantitative tools and knowledge necessary to understand these systems and their sensitivities and resilience to environmental disturbances. NSERC CNAES will determine the transferability of such tools and knowledge across the diverse series of landscapes and environments within Canada. Our work will provide government, industry, and other stakeholders the information and approaches essential to make informed decisions regarding economic development while protecting the environment. NSERC CNAES will train the next generation of leaders in this field for the public and private sectors.