Across the globe, freshwater species have declined 81 per cent over the past four decades—more than anywhere else on land or at sea.
Here in Canada, our freshwater mussels are North America’s most endangered group of animals. Salmon populations in the heavily dammed St. John River, New Brunswick are close to depletion. And in British Columbia, monitored populations of birds, mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles that live in or depend on freshwater ecosystems have declined by 14 per cent on average since 1970.
Habitat loss is one of the major reasons for this drastic decline in species at home and around the world. As habitat shrinks or disappears, remaining species must compete for food and shelter. Those that can’t compete or adapt, often go extinct.
In southern Ontario, two thirds of wetlands have been lost to agricultural and urban development. Every year, millions of cubic metres of water are taken by industry from Alberta’s Athabasca River, altering the water flow required for healthy river habitat. The waterways that power our homes, grow the food we eat, and supply fresh water to drink are becoming increasingly fragmented and over-drawn.