Environment & Biodiversity

Species at Risk – Once they are gone, they are gone

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The Cut & Fill Dam is an earthen berm bridge (843 m berm with a 157 m bridge deck) across a 1-km-wide mapped floodway creates a significant constriction (choke point) in Calgary's most biodiverse river valley.  Last year, E-bird Calgary noted 225 bird species in this valley.  AMEC’s Environmental Assessment dated December 2014 identified 77 “species at risk” in this valley, of which 60 are birds.  The acclaimed Canadian documentary, “The Messenger documents the greater than 50% decline in the songbird population since 1966. The tagline for the movie is “Imagine a world without birdsong”.  This decline in the bird population is also emphasized in the Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan (2016).  In this 2016 report the authors highlight the widespread declines in populations of many of the 448 species of landbirds in the U.S. and Canada.  They also convey the following message, “Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we’ll soon be in trouble”.  The co-author of the report, Andrew Couturier, senior analyst at Bird Studies Canada, was quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying, “I don’t want my grandchild to go out in the forest and not hear the songbirds in the spring, and that seems to be where we’re headed right now”.  We feel the same way.

Section 3.5.2.6 of AMEC's Environmental Assessment (Dec 2014) states that "A total of 77 species at risk have the potential to occur and breed in the biophysical study area, including 60 bird, 10 mammal, 3 amphibian and 4 reptile species". 

 

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The Ethekwini Municipality Environmental Management Department provides guidance on this answer, they state:

"The term biodiversity refers to the variety of life on earth, and includes all the species and ecosystems that are found in any region. Biodiversity also includes the genetic differences within and between species.

The earth contains a whole variety of different species and ecosystems which have evolved into different roles. Birds and insects, for example, play a role in pollinating plants. Forests help to produce oxygen for all life forms to breathe. Frogs control disease causing insects. Grasslands prevent soil erosion.

The removal of a single species can compromise the ability of an ecosystem to function properly. If enough species are destroyed, entire ecosystems will collapse and the survival of life on earth will be seriously threatened.

An ecosystem that has a wide variety of living things is much more likely to adapt to human caused environmental change than one that only has a few. An ecosystem with a rich biodiversity also tends to recover more quickly from natural events like storms and fire because it is more resilient to change.

“A diverse ecosystem will also be resilient, because it contains many species with overlapping ecological functions that can partially replace one another. When a particular species is destroyed by a severe disturbance so that a link in the network is broken, a diverse community will be able to survive and reorganize itself ...”

FRITJOF CAPRA FOUNDING DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR ECOLITERACY IN BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA

In other words, the more complex the network is, the more complex its pattern of interconnections, the more resilient it will be".

In late 2016 The City of Calgary signed the Durban Commitment that protects biodiversity.  By signing this commitment, The City acknowledges “accountability and responsibility for the health and wellbeing of our communities through protecting, sustainably utilizing and managing biodiversity and recognizing its role as the foundation of our existence. In March 2015, Council approved Our BiodiverCity Calgary’s 10-year biodiversity strategic plan and accompanying Biodiversity Policy.   The plan is based on principles for the protection, development, and management of Calgary parks and ecosystems in support of biodiversity. “BiodiverCity” aims to provide a framework for The City to foster more resilient, biologically diverse open space and neighbourhoods that support positive outcomes for Calgarians, visitors, wildlife and plant communities. 

Alberta Transportation's Cut & Fill Dam, which chokes off a valley and constricts the free flow of not only water, but the free movement of biodiversity in this valley, is not only counter to the Durban Commitment; it is not in alignment with The City’s BiodiverCity Plan. That plan is in place to protect our interest in enjoying and benefiting from healthy natural resources, and it is evidence that our wellbeing and our community’s well-being is tied to the greater health of Calgary’s parklands and the natural environment within and next to them.

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The United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was the largest study ever done of ecosystems around the world, involving 1300 scientists from 71 countries. In March 2005 it released its report stating that 60 percent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth are being degraded. The report warned, “Any progress achieved in addressing the goals of poverty and hunger eradication, improved health, and environmental protection is unlikely to be sustained if most of the ecosystem services on which humanity relies continue to be degraded.

Once fish spawning grounds are gone, they are gone.  This fact is noted on page 330 of AMEC’s Environment Assessment report (Dec 2014), where they state, “Channel realignments at the Elbow River and Fish Creek crossings will result in a permanent decrease in existing fish habitat”.

Photographs of the Biodiversity

With thanks to Bob Ross for taking these fantastic photos. 

Species At Risk (SARA) 

Olive-sided Flycatcher, Threatened, Sch 1, SARA

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Rusty Blackbird, Special Concern, Sch 1, SARA

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Alberta Species Status

Western Grebe, Threatened

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Pileated Woodpecker, Sensitive

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American White Pelicans, Sensitive

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Trumpeter Swan, Sensitive

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Black-crowned Night-heron, Sensitive

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Black-necked Stilt, Sensitive

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Great Blue Heron, Sensitive

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Eastern Kingbird, Sensitive

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Eastern Phoebe, Sensitive

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Horned Grebe (Pair), Sensitive

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Great Blue Heron, Sensitive

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Least Flycatcher, Sensitive

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White-winged Scoter, Sensitive

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Female Common Merganser, Secure

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Female Western Tanager, Sensitive

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Green-winged Teal (Pair), Sensitive

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Lesser Scaup (Male), Sensitive

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Sora, Sensitive

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Western Wood-Pewee, May Be at Risk

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American Kestrel (juvenile), Sensitive

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Barn Swallow, Sensitive

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Brown Creeper, Sensitive

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Barrow's Goldeneye, Secure

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Pied-billed Grebe (juvenile), Sensitive

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Killdeer (nesting), Secure

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Kingfisher, Secure

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Spotted Sandpiper, Secure

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Tree Swallow, Secure

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Common (Wilson's) Snipe, Secure

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Blue-winged Teal (Pair), Secure

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Ring-necked Duck (Pair), Secure

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Song Birds

Brown Thrasher, Secure

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Hermit Thrush, Secure 

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Northern Shrike, Secure

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Secure

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Common Yellowthroat, Sensitive

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Veery, Secure

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Yellow Warbler (Male), Secure

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Gray Catbird, Secure

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White-throated Sparrow, Secure

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Red-eyed Vireo, Secure

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Predatory Birds

Bald Eagle, Sensitive

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Swainson's Hawk, Secure

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Osprey, Sensitive

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Barred Owl, Sensitive

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 Northern Goshawk (Juvenile), Sensitive

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Cooper's Hawk, Secure 

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Great Horned Owl, Secure

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Merlin Falcon (Female), Secure

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Sharp-shinned Hawk, Secure

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Northern Harrier, Secure

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Northern Saw-whet Owl, Secure

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General Photos

Beaver Pond

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Deer in the park wetland

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Moose

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Deer

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Bobcat, Sensitive

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Young Fish

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White Tailed Buck 

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Muskrat

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Great Blue Heron and Beaver

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Twin Fawns

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White Admiral Butterfly and Cow Parsnip

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