Potentially ‘catastrophic’ changes underway in Canada’s northern Mackenzie River Basin

Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy, University of California Berkeley


Biodiversity in watershed covering roughly 20% of Canada compared to Africa’s Serengeti; Alarm raised at melting of permafrost, ice that plays vital global climate role

graphic wideCanada’s Mackenzie River basin — among the world’s most important major ecosystems — is poorly studied, inadequately monitored, and at serious risk due to climate change and resource exploitation, a panel of international scientists warn today.

In a report, nine Canadian, US and UK scientists convened by the US-based Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy, say effective governance of the massive Basin, comprising an area three times larger than France — holds enormous national and global importance due to the watershed’s biodiversity and its role in hemispheric bird migrations, stabilizing climate and the health of the Arctic Ocean.

The panel agreed the largest single threat to the Basin is a potential breach in the tailings ponds at one of the large oil sands sites mining surface bitumen. A breach in winter sending tailings liquid under the ice of the tributary Athabasca River, “would be virtually impossible to remediate or clean-up,” says the report, available in full at http://bit.ly/13gc01K

News release in full, click here

Coverage by:

The Canadian Press, click here

The Tyee: click here

The Toronto Star, click here

CBC TV, click here

Nature, click here

Saskatoon Star-Phoenix Editorial, click here

Water Canada, click here

Agencia EFE (Spain), Spanish, click here, Portuguese, click here

Coverage summary: click here