The Four Atlantic Provinces Biology Essay


Atlantic Canada is situated on the east coast of Canada, stretching from the US border with Maine in the south, the entrance to the Hudson Strait in the north and bounded by French speaking Quebec to the west. The region has a strong cultural identity and includes the maritime provinces of New Brunswick (NB), Nova Scotia (NS), and Prince Edward Island (PEI), as well as the larger, more sparsely populated, province of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) (Figure 1).

Canada_Atlantic_provinces_map blue.png

Figure 1: Canada and the four Atlantic Provinces (H_&_R_Block)

The four provinces cover an area of approximately 500,000 square kilometres. The climate of the region is varied, ranging from cool and humid in the maritime provinces of NB, NS and PEI, where the primary is influence is the Gulf Stream, to arctic tundra in the northern reaches of NL, where the climate is driven by the cold Labrador Current, which flows from the Arctic Ocean.

1.1 Economy

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In 2009 gross domestic product (GDP) of the four Atlantic provinces was approximately 74.5 billion Canadian dollars, slightly less, per capita, than the Canadian average. All four Atlantic Provinces have lower than average family income and suffering from higher unemployment rates. Family income for NL (table 1) is distorted by the mining, oil and gas extraction industry, which accounts for 24% of the provinces GDP while employing less than 2% of the working population (Table 1).

New Brunswick

Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island

Newfoundland and Labrador

Totals (Atlantic Canada)


Area (km2)














Population Density (per km2







Provincial Capital


Fredericton  (85,688)

Halifax (372,858)

Charlottetown (32,174)

St John (181,113)



Urban/Rural Population

372,935/ 357,062

506,932/ 406,530

61,173/ 74,678

292,099/ 213,370



GDP (Canadian $, in millions)







GDP per Capita (Canadian $)







Average family income (per year Canadian $)







Unemployment Rate (%)







Table 1: Demographic and economic statistics for the four Atlantic provinces. Population statistics are taken from the 2006 census (Statistics_Canada, 2007, 2009b). GDP, wage and unemployment figures based 2009 data (Statistics_Canada, 2010b, 2010c, 2010d).

Atlantic Canada encompasses a large number of rural communities, along with several urban centres, the largest of which is Nova Scotia's provincial capital, Halifax, followed by St John, NL, and Moncton, NB (Table 1). The economics of the region are driven by the service industry, with tourism playing a particularly key role for PEI and NS (Table 2). Single resource, rural based, industries, including agriculture and fishing, remain vital the overall economy (Hutchings & Reynolds, 2004). Considerable discrepancies exist between rural and urban communities, with rural municipalities commonly marked by populations with fewer economic resources (Statistics_Canada, 2007).

Aboriginal communities, including the Innu, Inuit and Migmag, have a distinct set of socioeconomic conditions. Per capita earnings and incomes for members of aboriginal communities are statically lower than for the general population of the region, while unemployment numbers range from 15% to 30% across the four Atlantic Provinces (Statistics_Canada, 2010a).

New Brunswick

Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island

Newfoundland and Labrador

Key Industries (by GDP, Canadian $, in millions)

Services: finance,  healthcare, educational, arts, other (9998.7)

Wholesale/retail (2693.3)

Manufacturing (2,324.6) - including seafood packaging (99.1)

Public administration


Transportation and warehousing (1,140.6)

Construction (1,383.4)

Utilities (651.1)

Agriculture (600.3) including fishing (85.0)

Mining, oil and gas extraction (225.1)

Services: finance,  healthcare, educational, arts, other  (12976.2)

Wholesale/retail (3143.3)

Manufacturing (2,306.8) - including seafood packaging (181.1)

Public administration


Construction (1,578.0)

Transportation and warehousing (1,062.3)

Agriculture (707.1) including fishing (401.7)

Mining, oil and gas extraction (662.6)

Utilities (590.5)

Services: finance,  healthcare, educational, arts, other (1253.8)

Public Administration (500.6)

Wholesale/retail (396.4)

Manufacturing (392.9) - including seafood packaging (10.1)

Construction (151.3)

Agriculture (294.7) including fishing (101.4)

Transportation and warehousing (91.8)

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Utilities (45.7)

Mining, oil and gas extraction (1.4)

Services: finance,  healthcare, educational, arts, other (6648.9)

Mining, oil and gas extraction (4,385)

Wholesale/retail (1,638)

Public Administration (1409.2)

Manufacturing (811.3) - including seafood packaging (235.5)

Construction (767.2)

Utilities (489)

Transportation and warehousing (486.3)

Agriculture (302.4) including fishing (201.6)

Tourism Related Revenue (Canadian $, in million)





Table 2: Primary industry statistics, by GDP. Key industries (Statistics_Canada, 2009a) and tourism figures are based on 2009 data (Department_of_Tourism, 2010; Department_of_Tourism_&_Parks, 2010; Department_of_Tourism_Culture_and_Heritage, 2010; P.E.I._Statistics_Bureau, 2010)

1.2 Primary Ecosystems

The maritime Provinces (NB, NS and PEI) are the warmest in the Atlantic region, with southern to mid-boreal climates; primary vegetation is mixed-wood forests (Environment_Canada, 1995). The coastline is made up of shallow bays, salt marshes, cliffs and gravel beaches. The area is characterised by steep offshore bathymetry (Lemmen, Warren, & Lacroix, 2007). PEI is an undulating plain, which has been heavily influenced by intensive cultivation. The southern sure is dominated by well developed sand dune and beach systems (P.E.I._Statistics_Bureau, 2010).

The island of Newfoundland and the south-eastern corner of Labrador are a part of the Boreal Shield (Environment_Canada, 1995). The island has a diverse topography, including plateaus, short rivers with steep-gradients and cliffs up to 65m high. The coastline is ragged and the beaches dominated by large cobbles. South-eastern Labrador is rough and undulating, with elevations rises rapidly from the coast to 365 m above sea level, and includes areas of permafrost (Lemmen, et al., 2007). The province is heavily forested. The majority of Labrador is a part of the Taiga Shield and is dominated by a more rolling topography (Environment_Canada, 1995). The coastline is influenced by the Labrador Current and has cooler summer conditions. Vegetation varies from spruce forests, to fens and bogs. The southernmost tip of Labrador consists of arctic tundra (Environment_Canada, 1995). The climate is cold and humid, with short, wet summers and long, cold winters. Coastal ice can persist into July. Sheltered and south-facing slopes maintain patches of evergreens and deciduous shrubs, while other areas are sparsely covered with moss, lichen and sedges (Lemmen, et al., 2007).

2. Current Climate

Current climate 10% (300 words)

Average winter temperatures range from -8 to -2°C (Environment Canada, 2005a). Average summer temperatures vary between 13 and 15.5 °C. Mean annual precipitation ranges between 800 and 1500 mm.

Precipitation in this mid-boreal climate ranges from 900 to 2000 mm annually (Environment Canada, 1993, 2005a). Mean temperatures in the summer vary from 8.5 to 12.5 °C, whereas the winter range is -20 to -1°C. The topography causes storm systems to diverge, either along the west coast or across the Burin and Avalon peninsulas. Spring and summer are cool. Moderating ocean influences are most evident along the west and south coasts, which are washed by the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Gulf Stream, but are less apparent along the northeast coastline, which is influenced by the Labrador Current and the NAO. Interior sites have warmer summers and cooler winters than do adjacent coastal regions.

Annual precipitation ranges from 800 mm in western regions to more than 1000 mm in areas along the coast (Environment Canada, 2005a). Mean winter temperatures vary from -25 to -10°C; summer means are between 6.5 and 10°C.

Mean annual precipitation ranges from 400 to 700 mm, with higher values in central areas of high elevation. The mean winter temperature is -16.5°C and the summer mean is 4°C.

Described climate for the base years, 1960-1990. How the average temperature and precipitation varies month to month, include discussion of the variability of the climate indicators. Graphs

"Figure 5.1 shows the yearly temperature variation with mean maximu m and minimum temperatures also included. Using linear extrapolation, the maximum temperature has shown an increase of 0.80C while the minimum temperature has shown an increase of 1.2 0C with a mean annual increase of 1.0 0C over the period of record. This supports the observed indication elsewhere in the Caribbean (Singh, 1997), that a greater increase in nighttime temperatures has been contributing to the observed global warming."

Discuss trends/anomalies.

Looks at difference between mean winter/summer ranges over the time period?

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Look at intensity of precipitation, has it increased/decreased is more falling as rain, as well as overall levels

3. Sensitivity and vulnerability

3.1 Terrestrial Ecosystems

Terrestrial ecosystems are highly reliant upon seasonally dependent biological rhythms and cycles, as such, terrestrial ecosystems are among the first sectors where the stresses associated with rapid climate change can be recognised (Catto, 2010). Wildlife population dynamics are closely linked to climate. The migration and breading cycle of several species of birds native to Atlantic Canada have been shown to be susceptible to changes in phenological spring (Gaston, Hipfner, & Campbell, 2002), which has already advanced in the region by 5 to 10 days over last 100 years (Bonsal & Prowse, 2003). The migration of terrestrial mammals, and therefore their impact on the wider ecosystem, can also be affected by climate, for example the migration of the white-tailed deer, a species common to the Atlantic region, is dictated by the levels and timing of snow cover (Sabine, et al., 2002).

3.2 Coastal Systems

Atlantic Canada is defined, both culturally and physically, by its status as a coastal region. Even at their extremities, the populations of NS and PEI are never more than an hours drive from the coast (Lemmen, et al., 2007). Pressure for new housing development and community wharves continues to grow, despite sections of the Atlantic coasts being the most severely threatened by a rise in sea level in Canada (Shaw, Taylor, Forbes, Solomon, & Ruz, 1998).

Atlantic Canada's coastal ecosystems are susceptible to erosion, the sand dunes and beaches found in the maritime provinces specifically are highly vulnerable. Additionally, where unconsolidated sediments or weakly consolidated bedrock form coastal bluffs the coastline is susceptible to landslips (Lemmen, et al., 2007). Forbes (1995) noted an erosion rate of approximately 5m per year at Chezzetcook, NS.

3.3 Marine Ecosystems

Marine resources form a key socioeconomic component for all four Atlantic provinces. The potential impact of climate change extends beyond marine species and includes fisheries operations, transportation, health and safety, as well as the health of communities.

Since the collapse of cod stocks during the 1990s, Atlantic Canada's fisheries have become one of the most widely studied marine ecosystems. During the past three decades, social, economic and cultural pressures, combined with the difficulties involved in quantifying fish stocks and inadequate understanding of breeding patterns, have led to poor decisions being made at a political level. Despite increased awareness and regulation, estimates indicate that exploitation has depleted large predatory fish communities by up to 90% over the past 50 to 100 years, with declines extending across entire communities (Myers & Worm, 2005).

3.4 Water Resources

Changes in water resources can potentially have far reaching socioeconomic effects. Tourism, recreation, freshwater fisheries, hydroelectric power generation and agriculture are all heavily reliant fresh water replenishment.  Freshwater resources in Alantic Canada account for less than 4% of the total fresh water in Canada, of this 90% can be found in NL, with the majority of the located in Labrador (Lemmen, et al., 2007). PEI is particularly vulnerable and relies almost entirely on groundwater.

3.5 Infrastructure

Transport contributes significant amount to Atlantic Canada's GDP (Table 2), with road transportation the largest component of this sector, followed by marine and air.

Energy is supplied through a mix of fossil fuel, nuclear, hydro and wind generation. Concerns arising from climate change are centred on increases in supply and demand, as well as the potential for impacts on infrastructure and hydro production. The majority of power is supplied by overhead lines. Natural gas is supply is limited predominantly to urban centres.

3.6 Agriculture

Agriculture remains at the heart of Atlantic Canada, yet farmers not only need to be able to both produce a crop successfully, but be economically viable over a sustained period. Crops require the correct temperature, rainfall and long enough to mature. Animals require feed, pasture for grazing and shelter, all of which are dependant of climate. While occupying less than 5% of Canada's total land mass, Atlantic Canada produces 45% of the countries potatoes, 39% of its berries and grapes, and 4.3% of its milk (Lemmen, et al., 2007).

3.7 Community

The Many rural communities in Atlantic Canada are facing economic pressures resulting from their dependence on a single natural resource. Costal communities have been slow to recover from the collapse of the fishing industry; this is particularly evident in NL. Other industries, most notably paper milling, have moved away from the region due economic pressures. Wages are notably lower than the national average (Table 1). Tourism continues to be a growth industry, with many families reliant on seasonal work (Statistics_Canada, 2010c). Members of aboriginal communities characteristically have higher proportions of young citizens. Employment and income reflects lower levels of education, with between and 32% and 42% having no high school certificate, diploma or degree(Statistics_Canada, 2010a).


For species dependent upon ice-marginal conditions for breeding, the result is a displacement of the breeding areas to the northeast, rather than an absence of suitable conditions.

Changes in water temperatures, food availability, and the extent and timing of sea ice formation could impact seals and other marine mammals (Doniol-Valcroze et al., 2007; Friedlaender et al, 2010; Sjare, 2007; Sjare and Stenson, 2010; Sjare et al., 2006).

In areas where sea ice is used for winter travel, the relationship between ice extent and quality and human communities has been studied (e.g. Laidler, 2006). The development and establishment of open leads (polynya) is important for marine mammals, but poses a potential problem for human transportation.

Coastal Erosion: The dune-backed coasts of Newfoundland indicate the combined impacts of climate change and variability over terrestrial areas, differential amounts of sea ice cover, and human pressure.

"There are now discernable evidences that increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases due to anthropogenic activities would warm the earth's atmospheric system (IPCC, 1996)."

Forestry: "Changes in the eco-climate may also trigger shifts in forest species. For instance if warmer, wetter and more humid conditions are projected, species that are currently abundant in Central Amazonia, say, may move into regions like Guyana. However, climate variability and change in seasonality will also have to be considered. For instance, if droughtier conditions occur in the dry season, this may impose severe constraints on forest growth and may be critical in determining species response. "

Global average climate change scenarios developed using MAGICC 15% (450 words)

Use at least three scenarios. Scenarios should represent range of possible futures. The choice at this stage does not depend on the area you have chosen.

Give a brief description of the scenarios - put graphs of the emissions used in each scenario in the appendix.

Describe the parameter settings used - can be in the form of a table, give an explanation for any changes in the parameters that you make.

Make sure enough detail is given so that anybody could reproduce the results.

Present output graphs arising from the MAGICC global average modelling.

Regionalized climate change using SCENGEN 15% (450 words)

The output of SCENGEN is based on the MAGICC model results. For each scenario chosen at the MAGICC stage you have a SCENGEN projection.

Describe (use screenshots, tabulated data) the climate changes projected for your region under each of the scenarios and parameters you choose in MAGICC, for 2050 and 2100.

Display results averaged over all the climate models (removing the two mentioned on the documentation)

Discuss the variability of the results amongst the models. This information is in the standard deviation of the values - or, to find out about variability between models you could just choose a single model to base the SCENGEN output on and compare the output for the three models taken alone. Do they agree or is there a large difference.

Summarise the SCENGEN results using tables.

Include projections of rainfall/temp in a table (when doubling/tripling CO2?)

"For a doubling of the concentration of CO2, rainfall is expected to decrease by an average of 0.34 mm dy -1 or 10 mm per month. The decrease appears to be higher, 17 mm per month and 12 mm per month in the First Wet Season (FWS) and the SDS respectively. For a tripling of the concentration of CO2, the average decrease is expected to be 0.69 mm dy-1 or 21 mm per month. Here again, the FWS and the SDS will experience decreases higher than 1 mm dy-1 or 30 mm per month. Again, Southern Guyana is targeted for the largest decreases in both the doubling CO2 and tripling CO2 scenarios of CO2 concentration. However, with the tripling of CO2 concentration, Northern Guyana (including the coast) is also expected to be affected by significant rainfall decreases."

Assessment of potential regional impacts under the different scenarios in study area and possibilities for mitigation and adaptation 20% (600 words)

You have identified in the previous section those aspects that are vulnerable to climate change, this is where you assess the degree to which the climate change projections that you have developed form the modelling will actually impact in your region. For instance, you may have found that rice production can only take place in a certain temperature and/or precipitation range and that your projections of change will exceed these ranges in some scenarios and that therefore rice production is under threat which may have a large impact on the region. Again, you could tabulate your output (a la IPCC) giving an assessment of the likelihood (again like the IPCC reports do). Do this for all aspects identified as vulnerable.

Mitigation: what can be done by your region to help prevent climate change? What is their current and projected contribution to carbon emissions and how can these be reduced in the region.

Adaptation: how can your region adapt to the climate changes that you have predicted from the modelling

"There is no consensus regarding the behaviour of tropical cyclones in a warmer world. However, recent studies indicate a possible increase of about 10 to 20% in intensity of tropical cyclones under enhanced CO2 conditions. Studies also suggest that, during ENSO events, tropical cyclones and hurricanes are likely to be more severe (Jones et al.,1999; Tonkin et al., 1997; Holland, 1997). However, another study found no significant change in hurricane frequency or geographical extent for the North Atlantic under a 2 x CO2 Climate (Royer et al., 1998). The concern for Guyana is the possibility of spiral bands of the hurricanes that pass to the north, affecting Guyana with more frequency than in the past."

Executive Summary 10% (300 words)

References and citation 5%

Bonsal, B., & Prowse, T. (2003). Trends and variability in spring and autumn 0 C-isotherm dates over Canada. Climatic Change, 57(3), 341-358.

Catto, N. (2010). A Review of Academic Literature Related to Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Newfoundland and Labrador St John: Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Department_of_Tourism, C. a. R. (2010). Provincial Tourism Performance 2009. St John: Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

Department_of_Tourism_&_Parks. (2010). New Brunswick Tourism Indicators Summary Report 2009 Fredericton: Province of New Brunswick.

Department_of_Tourism_Culture_and_Heritage. (2010). Tourism Stats. Retrieved 29th December, 2010, from

Environment_Canada. (1995). Ecological Framework of Canada: Ecozone and Ecoregion Descriptions. Retrieved 27th December, 2010, from

Forbes, D., Orford, J., Carter, R., Shaw, J., & Jennings, S. (1995). Morphodynamic evolution, self-organisation, and instability of coarse-clastic barriers on paraglacial coasts. Marine Geology, 126(1-4), 63-85.

Gaston, A., Hipfner, J., & Campbell, D. (2002). Heat and mosquitoes cause breeding failures and adult mortality in an Arctic nesting seabird. Ibis, 144(2), 185-191.

Hutchings, J. A., & Reynolds, J. D. (2004). Marine fish population collapses: Consequences for recovery and extinction risk. Bioscience, 54(4), 297-309.

H_&_R_Block. Atlantic Map. Retrieved 3rd January, 2010, from

Lemmen, D. S., Warren, F. J., & Lacroix, J. (2007). From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007. Ottawa: Natural Resources Canada.

Myers, R. A., & Worm, B. (2005). Extinction, survival or recovery of large predatory fishes. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 360(1453), 13-20.

P.E.I._Statistics_Bureau. (2010). Statistical Review 2009. Charlottetown: Department of Finance and Municipal Affairs.

Sabine, D., Morrison, S., Whitlaw, H., Ballard, W., Forbes, G., & Bowman, J. (2002). Migration behavior of white-tailed deer under varying winter climate regimes in New Brunswick. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 66(3), 718-728.

Shaw, J., Taylor, R. B., Forbes, D. L., Solomon, S., & Ruz, M. H. (1998). Sensitivity of the coasts of Canada to sea-level rise. Geological Survey of Canada, 505.

Statistics_Canada. (2007). 2006 Community Profiles. Retrieved 29th December, 2010, from

Statistics_Canada. (2009a). Gross domestic product (GDP) at basic prices, by Industry Classification. Retrieved 29th December, 2010

Statistics_Canada. (2009b). Population urban and rural, by province and territory. Retrieved 30th December, 2010, from

Statistics_Canada. (2010a). Aboriginal Population Profile. Retrieved 6th January, 2011, from

Statistics_Canada. (2010b). Gross domestic product, expenditure-based, by province and territory. Retrieved 28th December, 2010, from

Statistics_Canada. (2010c). Labour force characteristics. Retrieved 5th January, 2011, from

Statistics_Canada. (2010d). Median family income, by province and territory. Retrieved 30th December, 2010, from