British Columbia

B.C., like rest of world, at risk of losing biodiversity

This week, the WWF says the world could lose two-thirds of its wildlife due to human causes. B.C.'s wildlife will not be spared, a researcher says.

'It's easy to look at those stats and feel a sense of despair,' says researcher

A sea star with lesions and swelling at low tide at a Vancouver beach Wednesday. Sea star wasting diseases have wiped out 90 per cent of B.C.'s sunflower sea stars. (Chris Harley)

The World Wildlife Fund warns that nearly two-thirds of the world's wild animals be lost by 2020 due to human activity, especially habitat loss and climate change.

A researcher with the Vancouver Aquarium says B.C.'s wildlife has already been affected by these factors.

"It's easy to look at those stats and feel a sense of despair," Jessica Schultz told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

"Canadians have the largest ecological footprint of almost anywhere else in the world. … It means there's a big opportunity to turn things around. We could make the largest per-capita difference by making different decisions in our everyday life.

"It's very complex. To answer these questions we can't look at conservation in isolation but we have to think about human equity, food security, the economy and all these things all together."

In  B.C., threats to oceans include climate change, habitat loss, pollution of all kinds, over-harvesting and invasive species — which are sometimes shifting due to climate change, Schultz said.

One species in B.C. that is in particular jeopardy, Schultz noted, is the sunflower sea star, 90 per cent of which have died since 2013 due to sea star wasting disease.

"Sunflower stars are predators, so we're seeing a lot of their prey species, in particular urchins, really increase in number," she said. "Urchins, in turn, are herbivores, so they're munching down a lot of the kelp in various areas of the Salish Sea."

Locally, Schultz says, there are a few good news stories: cetaceans like whale are doing fairly well, herring and anchovies are seen in B.C.'s waters and pollution is being cleaned up.

"But it's important to take that good news with a grain of salt and realize there's a lot of moving pieces we don't understand," she said.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

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