Yukon River watershed threatened by climate change and habitat loss

WWF-Canada's assessment discovers that water quality is an issue in the Yukon River watershed

TORONTO, Dec. 2, 2015 /CNW/ - WWF-Canada released its Yukon River Watershed Report, as part of its work to develop a national picture of the health of, and threats to, Canada's 25 major watersheds by 2017. The report, developed in partnership with the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, shows that while the Yukon watershed is assessed as being in good health overall, climate change and habitat loss are significant threats that could increasingly impact the health of this ecosystem if left unchecked.

"We hope the results of this report will raise awareness about the state of the Yukon watershed and help strengthen safeguards to protect these waters and the rich diversity of species that depend on them," said David Miller, President and CEO, WWF-Canada. "We know that for humans to thrive, nature must also thrive, and WWF-Canada is committed to building that future."

The Yukon River is 3,185 km long, almost half of which is in Canada and flows through the tundra, glaciers, mountains and wetlands of B.C., Yukon and Alaska before reaching the Bering Sea. The watershed is home to many species, including trumpeter swans, mink, moose and wolverines.

"This report gives us insight into the quality of the Yukon River and contributes to our mission focused on the protection of the Yukon River watershed," said Edda Mutter, Science Director from the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC). WWF-Canada worked with the YRITWC to search for and collect data from local sources for the assessment.  The collaborative approach provided an opportunity for WWF to gain valuable insights into freshwater health in the north and strengthen our relationship with an important stakeholder in the region.

Key Yukon River watershed report results:

  • The Yukon is one of only three watersheds assessed to date that received an overall health score of good
  • Among the four indicators of health that we assessed, water quality scored the poorest with an overall score of fair.
  • Water quality scores were a concern. For instance, uranium levels exceed federal and provincial guidelines more than half the time in five sub-watersheds: Headwaters Yukon, Pelly, Upper Yukon, Stewart and Central Yukon. Frequent exceedances were also observed for other parameters, such as aluminum.
  • Among the factors evaluated in the assessment, climate change and habitat loss are the greatest threats in the Yukon watershed

WWF-Canada worked with scientific advisers across the country to develop a robust framework, and is now creating the first ever national picture of the health of, and threats to, Canada's waters. WWF assesses the health of watersheds based on four indicators of health; water flow, water quality, benthic invertebrates (bugs) and fish; and seven threat indicators: pollution, climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation, overuse of water, alteration of water flows and invasive species.

The Yukon River Watershed Report was funded by The Gordon Foundation a private, philanthropic foundation based in Toronto, Canada.

To learn more about the Yukon River Watershed Report please visit: http://watershedreports.wwf.ca/#ws-5/by/threat-overall/profile

About WWF-Canada
WWF-Canada is part of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and is creating solutions to the most serious conservation challenges facing our planet to help people and nature thrive. www.wwf.ca

About Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council
The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC) is an Indigenous grassroots organization dedicated to safeguarding the water quality of the Yukon River, to ensure the continuation of current and future generations' traditional way of living. www.yritwc.org


Image with caption: "WWF-Canada (CNW Group/WWF-Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20151202_C8890_PHOTO_EN_556875.jpg

For further information: Media contact: Rowena Calpito, WWF-Canada, (416) 489-4567 ext, 7267, rcalpito@wwfcanada.org


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