Annex 7: Habitat and species
The purpose of this Annex is to continue efforts to restore, protect and conserve the resilience of Great Lakes native species and their habitats.
The Great Lakes support a rich diversity of fish, wildlife and plant species. Thriving habitats and native fish and wildlife communities contribute to the social and economic vitality of the Great Lakes region. Unfortunately, many human activities put pressures on the ecosystem and result in the loss or degradation of habitats, fragmentation of natural systems, threats from invasive species, and reductions in the health and abundance of native species.
Collaborative efforts are underway to restore, protect and conserve the diversity of habitats and species that make up the Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems while providing sustainable social, ecological and economic benefits.
Biodiversity Conservation Strategies identify actions needed to restore, protect and conserve the native biodiversity of each Great Lake. The most critical biodiversity threats and needs of each lake are determined through a binational, collaborative, science-based process. Strategies have been completed for Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. Implementation plans identify ecologically significant areas, with a primary role for Lakewide Action and Management Plans (LAMPs) to promote actions, report on progress, and identify resource needs to conserve these resources (see Lakewide Management Annex).
Canada and Ontario also support other strategic conservation planning initiatives such as natural heritage system planning, the National Framework for Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas and the Great Lakes Wetlands Conservation Action Plan. Collaboration through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission facilitates international shared management of fisheries through mechanisms under the Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries. Canada and Ontario also cooperate on activities to ensure the effective protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats in Ontario.
Invasive species represent a continued threat to native species and ecosystems, and are addressed in the Aquatic Invasive Species Annex. Climate change is resulting in changes to physical conditions in the Great Lakes, such as temperature, precipitation, ice coverage and water levels, which in turn affect habitats and species. Research and adaptation actions are included in the Climate Change Impacts Annex.
This Annex contains commitments to continue working on the completion and implementation of Biodiversity Conservation Strategies, supported by research and monitoring programs that investigate the threats to aquatic habitats and species, identify methods for threat mitigation, and prioritize opportunities for restoration. The Parties will continue to use existing reporting mechanisms (e.g., LAMPs) to report progress on the commitments in this Annex.
Canada and Ontario will:
- (a) In collaboration with United States agencies, complete binational Biodiversity Conservation Strategies for Lake Erie by 2014 and Lake Superior by 2015 through significant stakeholder engagement, analysis of ecosystem health information, and the identification of threats, priorities, targets and actions;
- (b) In collaboration with United States agencies, establish priorities and plans for implementation of strategies for Lakes Huron, Superior and Erie and continue to implement strategy for Lake Ontario; and
- (c) Develop a framework which may include protocols, classification systems and adaptive management decision support tools for the collection of baseline information to guide sustainable landscape conservation, conservation of biodiversity and to measure future progress towards a target of net habitat gain consistent with binational efforts.
Canada and Ontario will:
- (a) Continue implementation of Biodiversity Conservation Strategy priority actions for all Great Lakes, including progress on local and regional initiatives;
- (b) Facilitate binational collaborative actions to reduce the loss of native species and habitats and make progress on rehabilitation of native species such as:
- Lake Superior: coaster brook trout, lake sturgeon and walleye;
- Lake Huron: lake sturgeon, lake trout and walleye;
- Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair: lake sturgeon and lake trout;
- Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River: lake trout, Atlantic salmon, American eel, lake sturgeon; and
- Other key species to be identified.
- (c) Implement and promote stewardship actions and beneficial management practices with landowners, community groups and environmental sector organizations, on urban, industrial and rural lands that are linked to aquatic habitats and water quality in the Great Lakes watersheds and nearshore, coastal and riparian areas, consistent with government plans and strategies;
- (d) Conserve and protect Great Lakes fish to help contribute to aquatic ecosystem health, the supply of wholesome fish for human consumption and provide recreational fishing opportunities;
- (e) Implement actions to restore, protect and conserve habitats for Great Lakes waterfowl, waterbirds and shorebirds through the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, consistent with priorities identified in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and Bird Conservation Region Strategies;
- (f) Undertake and support research, monitoring and reporting on the status of Great Lakes biodiversity focussing on native fish, aquatic dependent wildlife, aquatic food webs and habitats;
- (g) Conserve priority habitats using a variety of tools, including collaborative initiatives such as the Great Lakes Wetlands Conservation Action Plan and the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture; tax incentive programs such as the Ecological Gifts Program and the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program; and stewardship programs such as the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk and the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund; and
- (h) Undertake and support studies that investigate the functions and ecosystem services of wetlands including hydrology, water quality and quantity, phosphorus reduction capabilities, carbon sequestration, and fish and wildlife habitat.
- (i) Finalize and begin implementation of a management plan for the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area; and
- (j) Implement a fisheries protection program consistent with fisheries management objectives and Great Lakes planning.
- (k) Continue collaborative work with local Fisheries Management Zone Councils for domestic Great Lakes fisheries management.
Canada and Ontario will:
- (a) Provide technical transfer opportunities such as workshops, extension materials and training to promote stewardship activities by the Great Lakes community including landowners; and
- (b) Promote stewardship activities by the Great Lakes community, including landowners through national and provincial initiatives.
- (c) Develop and make available new and/or updated evaluations of wetlands within the Great Lakes basin, with a focus on coastal wetlands and other wetlands that influence the Great Lakes; and
- (d) Develop and make available material, education and training programs to increase communication and raise awareness about tools to support land use planning.
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