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Healthy ecosystems and wildlife are at the heart of Jasper National Park’s importance to Canadians. Natural processes, such as wildfires and avalanches, help to create and maintain the range of terrestrial and aquatic habitats that support a rich diversity of life.
Historic activities and developments have had a profound influence on the ecosystems we see today. Wildfire suppression for much of the 20th century has resulted in forests that are more uniform in age and less diverse than would be expected. Construction of roads, railways, visitor facilities and a townsite has fragmented terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Parks Canada has been working diligently to address historical effects by, for example, restoring fire to the landscape, and improving terrestrial and aquatic connectivity where it was constrained.
While this work continues, new challenges emerge: climate change is influencing our mountain ecosystems; an increasing number of native species are becoming at risk; and the threat of new invasive species is growing. Four ecological issues will require more focus during the plan review:
The three South Jasper caribou herds are at risk of imminent extirpation (local extinction); their numbers are so low they cannot recover on their own.
In addition to the lack of fire in Jasper forests, mountain pine beetle is changing the landscape, with consequences for wildfire risk, public safety and long-term forest succession.
Invasive Species and Disease
White pine blister rust and non-native plants are threatening species and ecosystems; whirling disease is a new threat on Jasper’s doorstep.
The number of human-wildlife conflicts is increasing, suggesting new approaches may be needed to address this longstanding issue.