Canadian Prairies shrinking faster than Amazon Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef
Published Thursday, December 15, 2016 9:07AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 15, 2016 7:58PM EST
Conservationists says it's time to act to save the Canadian Prairies, which are disappearing off the face of the Earth faster than the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
Nature Conservancy Canada says more than 70 per cent of Canada's prairie grasslands have been converted for other uses such as agriculture and industry, compared to just 20 per cent of the Amazon.
Some of the world’s most significant remaining grasslands are in Canada, but could soon disappear unless more is done to save them, according to the environmental charity.
Dan Kraus, a Weston Conservation Scientist with NCC, says that the biggest risk is lost biodiversity.
"Most people think of the Prairies as flat wheat fields," Kraus told CTV's Your Morning on Thursday. But, as Kraus points out, the Prairies were once home to huge herds of bison, which used to be among the largest populations of large mammals in the world.
"There's a wild side to the Canadian Prairies, and that's the part that's slipping away from us," he said.
Millions of migratory birds spend time in the Prairies each year, and more than 60 rare species call the habitat their home. Some bird species have lost more than 70 per cent of their population in the last 40 years, and that decline will continue if unchecked, Kraus says.
"It's still a place where you can have this incredible spectacle of migratory birds," he said. "We're trying to protect some of those remnants that we have left."
He added that the Prairies are a source of water for many communities, including Regina and Moose Jaw.
The NCC has been working with the federal government to protect the Prairies, but Kraus says it hasn't been enough. "It's just going to keep getting smaller and smaller until there isn't anything left," he said. "We need to do more."
Kraus is encouraging Canadians to donate to conservation efforts like the NCC. He said the NCC's e-card service is a great way to support the organization and raise awareness about Prairie diversity, by sending someone a digital card featuring a threatened animal.