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Initiative to promote ‘key biodiversity areas’ includes some in NWT


A global coalition of researchers and conservationists will present an initiative in part related to the Northwest Territories at a UN biodiversity conference on Tuesday.

A 4pm MT session at COP15’s Canada Pavilion, in Montreal, will explore the KBA Canada initiative – in which KBA stands for key biodiversity areas, a concept launched in October.

At the time, federal environment minister Steven Guilbeault called key biodiversity areas “an extremely useful source of information for future conservation efforts in Canada.” They are defined as sites across Canada that “play a critical role in the persistence of species and ecosystems.”

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Representatives of the initiative say key biodiversity areas identified in the NWT to date include whooping crane nesting areas, spawning sites for fish, and a stream where Dall sheep and caribou drink during seasonal migrations.

Peter Soroye, an assessment and outreach coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the project intends to globally recognize unique areas and species.

“Places like the Northwest Territories are passed over so often when we think about biodiversity,” Soroye said, “but we’re finding so many cool spots, so many cool species here. And we want to highlight them, along with their stewards and those working to conserve them.”

Eight sites in the NWT have been identified so far and 17 others are being considered, like caribou migratory routes and calving areas, as well as the water off the coast of Cape Bathurst, which plays host to king eider ducks, tundra swans and yellow-billed loons.

Being designated a key biodiversity area doesn’t come with any automatic protections.

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Instead, advocates say, that information can be used during environmental assessments for industrial projects or to help secure funding and support for conservation efforts.

Soroye said the standard that defines a key biodiversity area is “really quantitative and scientifically rigorous, meaning that the designation comes with a lot of weight. We also rely quite heavily on expert input from Indigenous knowledge-holders and Elders.”

He continued: “There’s a lot of trust, internationally, behind what it means, which is that it’s either the last place that a species is holding on in Canada or exists in the world. It’s a place that needs to be protected for future generations.”

Key biodiversity areas identified in other countries include the Massif de la Hotte, a mountain range in Haiti that’s home to a number of rare frogs, and the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines, a habitat for marine turtles.

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