Category: Canada

P.E.I. farmers test out ways to reduce greenhouse gases and store carbon

Read the full story from the CBC.

Mark and Sally Bernard of Barnyard Organics in Freetown, P.E.I., are part of the new P.E.I. Agriculture Climate Solutions Program, funded by the provincial and federal governments.

With help from citizens, Montreal researchers are tracking the trees in people’s backyards

Read the full story from the CBC.

Environmental scientists have a lot of ground to cover, so they’re calling on a small army of citizens to help.

Canada announces new energy and emissions database

Read the news release.

Improvements in energy efficiency are critical to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The Government of Canada is building a clean energy future to strengthen the economy, create jobs and support the natural resource sectors as we recover from COVID-19.

Lenore Zann, Member of Parliament for Cumberland–Colchester, on behalf of the Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Natural Resources, today announced an $80,000 investment to Sustainability Solutions Group to support the development of the Municipal Energy and Emission Database (MEED), an integrated geospatial platform that tracks greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for municipalities across Canada.

Canada launches Sustainable Finance Action Council, aims to enhance climate disclosure

Read the full story at ESG Today.

The Government of Canada announced the launch of a new Sustainable Finance Action Council, aimed at helping mobilize capital and investment necessary to meet the country’s sustainability goals.

According to the government’s announcement, the council will bring together public and private sector financial expertise to support the growth of a strong, well-functioning, sustainable finance market. With broad representation of Canadian banks, insurance companies and pension funds, financial sector leaders will provide input on the foundational market infrastructure needed for a stable and reliable sustainable finance market, while a public sector coordinating group will play a role in observing council meetings and advising the chair.

Mapping project illuminates links between poor environment, historical racism

Read the full story at Coast Reporter.

A new tool that measures the environmental quality of any urban street in Canada — and maps it out in colour — illustrates vividly the many neighbourhoods in the country that have poor environment scores, neighbourhoods that are often home to racialized communities.

Healthy rivers: Communities use DNA tool to keep tabs on freshwater quality

Community members from Blueberry River First Nations collect STREAM samples in Fort St. John, B.C. (Raegan Mallinson/Living Lakes Canada), Author provided

by Chloe V. Robinson and Mehrdad Hajibabaei (University of Guelph)

Photos of Canada often show the Great Lakes, expanses of wetlands and scenic rivers. The country is described as a water-rich nation, and it is, with seven per cent of the world’s renewable freshwater supply. However, freshwater sources are far from endless.

Many of Canada’s 25 watersheds are under threat from pollution, habitat degradation, water overuse and invasive species. For example, more than half of Canada’s population lives within the Great Lakes watershed, Ottawa basin and St. Lawrence basin, which face multiple threats that degrade water quality and undermine the ability of freshwater ecosystems to keep functioning.

A creek courses through a forested area
Curtis Creek, one of the tributaries within the Columbia Basin, B.C. (Salmo River Streamkeepers)

The story of the Great Lakes watershed is not unique in Canada. Ten additional watersheds, from the Winnipeg to the Fraser-Lower Mainland watershed, face high or very high levels of threats. The water quality in more than half of Canada’s 167 sub-watersheds (smaller freshwater systems that drain into a specific watershed) score poor or fair.

In Canada, these watersheds are vast and often inaccessible, making it difficult to monitor the health of these ecosystems. But with the help of a new tool, scientists and community members are collecting data to better understand the state of Canada’s rivers.

Data deficiencies

Rivers are full of all kinds of small creatures that are highly sensitive to environmental threats. The worms, fly larvae and snails — collectively called macroinvertebrates — that live in the sediment at the bottom of a river (the “benthos”) can serve as biological monitors for water quality. The presence of biological monitor species that are less tolerant of poor water quality is suggestive of a healthy river.

But it can be challenging to sample and identify these macroinvertebrates. Even when there is some data on them, the quality of the data may not be good enough to determine the health of the watershed. To date, 64 per cent of sub-watersheds in Canada lack data on these species.

Left to right: Flatheaded mayfly larvae, green sedge caddisfly larvae and golden stonefly larvae. These species are macroinvertebrates known to be sensitive to changes in environmental conditions. (Chloe Robinson)

Gathering data on these species is challenging: Many watersheds are remote and difficult to access, and the cost of flying to them limits the amount of data that can be collected. We partnered with local community groups to collect river samples so that we could understand river health by identifying macroinvertebrates from their DNA.

DNA profiling

DNA technologies have revolutionized the amount of data we can generate from a single river sample.

For example, one technique called “environmental DNA metabarcoding,” or eDNA for short, involves taking samples of soil or water and searching for fragments of DNA specific to certain species. This method eliminates the time-consuming process of sorting individual samples and enables us to identify the different species present in a river system.

A flow chart showing two different processes for identifying species in environmental samples
The process of manually sorting and identifying macroinvertebrates (top) versus eDNA metabarcoding approach of species identification (bottom). (Chloe Robinson)

Once you’re at a river, collecting samples is fast and easy — all it takes is three minutes of kicking river sediment into a net to capture the macroinvertebrates that live in the benthos. We taught this technique to people involved in a community-based monitoring network called CABIN to create a new biomonitoring project: STREAM (Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring).

Since 2019, STREAM scientists have trained more than 100 community members who have gone on to collect almost 1,000 samples across 10 watersheds. We’re close to our goal of 1,500 samples in 15 watersheds in Canada. Yet we’re already beginning to see how the STREAM project is filling in the blanks for freshwater health across Canada.

STREAM video produced by Living Lakes Canada.

STREAM case studies

Not only has the STREAM project provided data on the health of the Great Lakes and Ottawa River watersheds — and the threats to them — it has enabled communities to ask questions about their aquatic ecosystems.

A woman kicking muddy water into a net
Darcie Quamme from Integrated Ecological Research collecting a wetland benthic kick-net sample. (Darcie Quamme)

In collaboration with Slocan River Streamkeepers, an environmental stewardship group based in Winlaw, B.C., and Integrated Ecological Research, an environmental consulting service based in Nelson, B.C., STREAM has been able to assess changes in macroinvertebrate communities after the completion of a wetland restoration project. Although this project is ongoing, early results show the wetlands already have a high variety of macroinvertebrates, with 178 species identified. A quarter of these species are indicators of good wetland health, meaning water quality in the area is likely improving.

With Living Lakes Canada and the Ghost Watershed Alliance Society, parts of the Bow River, in Alberta, are now being screened for sludge worms, which can carry the parasite that causes whirling disease, an infection that can wipe out up to 90 per cent of young salmon, trout and whitefish. Loss of these fish has ecological, economic and social consequences in Alberta, where they are important recreational and sustenance fisheries. DNA results from 2019 indicated that the host sludge worms had not spread beyond the known whirling disease zone.

Members of Ghost Watershed Alliance Society at CABIN Training and Certification event with WWF-Canada Freshwater Specialist, Catherine Paquette (left) and Living Lakes Canada STREAM program manager, Raegan Mallinson (second from right). (Ghost Watershed Alliance Society)

STREAM provides a unique opportunity to bring benefits to both people and the environment. Through using DNA-based technology, it is possible to determine changes in water quality at local, sub-watershed and watershed levels. For continued monitoring of the Bow River for example, the rapid result turnaround provided by STREAM means any indications of sludge worm dispersion can be dealt with by closing angling access to the area to prevent potential spread.

STREAM empowers local communities to lead freshwater research and equips people to address their own environmental questions — and it can easily be applied to other countries as a means to monitor freshwater systems.

Chloe V. Robinson, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph and Mehrdad Hajibabaei, Associate professor, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Canada Water Agency: Government hopes to consolidate water data and management

Read the full story at Great Lakes Now.

Canada is home to the third largest renewable supply of fresh water in the world, spread across a vast swath of lakes, rivers, aquifers and glaciers. Fresh water is critical to the country’s economy and health, and a key part of the nation’s identity – paddling a canoe through northern waterways is a rite of passage, and more than 30% of Canadians live surrounded by water in the Great Lakes region.

And yet, experts say the country is suffering a drought when it comes to accessing data on water quality and quantity – essential for managing this crucial resource.

“It may surprise Canadians to hear it’s very hard to get your hands on water data,” said Carolyn Dubois, director of the water program at the Toronto-based Gordon Foundation, where her job is to improve community-based freshwater stewardship. “It isn’t for lack of data. It’s just that it lives in places and formats that are inaccessible, like filing cabinets and private servers.”

Dubois was speaking at a webinar about leveraging data to protect the country’s fresh water, hosted in September by the Winnipeg-based think tank, the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

“We’re missing the big picture,” added Scott Higgins, a researcher with the Experimental Lakes Area, a non-profit research centre in northwestern Ontario that assesses human impacts on whole aquatic ecosystems. “Data have been collected on behalf of the public, and often paid for by the public purse, but it’s not being put together.”

The result, said Higgins and Dubois, is that basic questions about water are unanswerable on a national scale. Which is why they, along with water management experts across the country, are now pinning their hopes for open and usable freshwater data on the soon-to-be-launched Canada Water Agency.

COVID-19 driving Canadians to waste less food: survey

Read the full story at Canadian Manufacturing.

new survey shows that Canadians are wasting less food while COVID-19 public health measures have been in place. Love Food Hate Waste Canada, delivered by the National Zero Waste Council in conjunction with its campaign partners, worked with the Mustel Group to understand how food purchasing, storage, consumption and waste behaviours have changed since the introduction of quarantine and physical distancing measures.

Ready, Set, Grow: How the green building industry can re-ignite Canada’s economy

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Following an unprecedented global health crisis resulting in nearly half of all Canadian
households losing work, Canada is preparing for an economic recovery. Similar to the
2008 recession, the country will turn to its economic pillars, including construction and
infrastructure projects, to help re-ignite the economy and create urgently needed jobs.
While we find ourselves in extraordinary circumstances, this remains the critical decade
for climate action. The decisions the government makes now could set a new course
that can benefit Canadians for the next 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years. The economic
recovery this health crisis has precipitated could be the tipping point we need to
transition Canada toward a sustainable and low-carbon economy. There is no reason
why economic recovery and climate action can’t go hand in hand. Science tells us that
without targeted action on climate change today, we will subjugate future generations to
significant environmental, economic and social disruptions.

As Canada transitions to a low-carbon future, construction will be at the forefront of
change, as it represents over 7 per cent of Canada’s GDP, and almost 30 per cent of
Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when building operations, construction and
materials are included.

CaGBC recognizes that the federal government must balance the needs of Canadian
businesses with supporting a recovery that successfully advances the low-carbon
economy. Investing in low-carbon construction and infrastructure can accomplish both
while enabling the Government of Canada to meet its climate goals of reducing
emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

B.C. dramatically overestimates old growth forests, faces climate impacts without better protection

Read the full story at The Energy Mix.

British Columbia is dramatically overestimating the size of productive old growth forests that have all but vanished across the province, according to an independent science report that warns of serious climate impacts if remaining forests aren’t protected.

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