Despite its remote location, the Peace-Athabasca Delta is vulnerable to ecological impacts from human and industrial activities (environmental stressors), some of which originate upstream. Ecosystem components that may be affected include:
- Water quality
- Water quantity
- Aquatic life (benthic invertebrates and fish)
- Air quality
Here is a list of the environmental stressors that may have an impact on the Peace-Athabasca Delta:
|Environmental Stressor||Sources of the Stressor|
|Climate Change||Burning fossil fuels; deforestation; some agricultural and industrial practices; vehicle emissions.|
|Industrial and Municipal Discharge (into the river system or other parts of the watershed)||Pulp mills; Oil Sands operations; Municipal development; Natural gas (fracking).|
|Water Withdrawals and Retention (from rivers upstream of the delta)||Pulp mills; Oil Sands operations; Municipal development; Hydroelectric development; Natural gas (fracking).|
|Flow Regulation (dams)||Hydroelectric development|
|Landscape alteration||Agriculture; Forestry; Oil Sands operations.|
|Invasive Species||Soil disturbance; Land cover conversion; Roadways; Seismic exploration.|
The Peace-Athabasca Delta Ecological Monitoring Program Vulnerability Assessment has identified water quality and water quantity as the ecosystem components most vulnerable to environmental stressors. The environmental stressors identified as having the most impact are flow regulation, industrial and municipal discharges, and climate change.
However, because all of the ecosystem components in the delta are interconnected, any stressor impacting the water (either water quality or water quantity) will also have a potential effect on the other components (sediments, aquatic life, vegetation, and wildlife). This increases the potential for cumulative impacts that may cause damage to the ecosystem over time.