There a­s a marshy spot in central Alberta where majestic flocks of white tundra swans make a decorative pit stop on their 3,700-kilometre journey from central California to their spring breeding ground in the Northwest Territories.

Closely aligned with Earth Day 2012, the Saskatchewan Research Council recently released a study that examines the effect climate change will have on the Prairie’s grasslands.

The report, titled The Vulnerability of Prairie Grasslands to Climate Change, looks closely at how Saskatchewan and the other Prairie grasslands’ will react to climate change over the next century.
Jeff Thorpe, lead researcher on the paper, said climate change will result in the less indigenous species and a massive shift in vegetation to the north of the province.

“Everything is going to shift northward,” said Thorpe.

“It starts with the vegetation zone’s shifting northward—probably the biggest thing people will notice is that we’ve got that boundary line running through the province where we’ve got grasslands to the south of it and forest to the north of it; and that line depends on climate and it is expected to shift northward.”

Thorpe said in addition to forcing vegetation and wildlife north, climate change will also have an effect on the types of vegetation in the prairies; with species from the U.S. eventually ending up here.
 “We expect different kinds of grassland to come into Canada,” said Thorpe. “This warmer climate that’s being predicted, if you look where this climate exists now, it’s down in the States, so the kind of grassland that they have to the south of us in the Dakotas, Montana or Wyoming, we expect to gradually move northward into Canada.