Lab Canada

Prairie climate change research receives $2.7M federal funding

Ottawa, ON – The federal government is providing $2.7 million in research to explore the potential of prairie wetlands and agricultural lands to act as carbon sinks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have each committed $300,000 per year for three years, for a total of $2.7 million, to determine the potential of Canada’s Prairie pothole region to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The research is being led by Ducks Unlimited Canada in collaboration with a number of prominent researchers from universities across Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Alberta Agriculture, the Environment Canada’s National Water Research Institute and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Major components of the research are the following:

(1) a quantitative assessment of the role of prairie wetlands and buffer zones as net carbon sinks; (2) recommendations for beneficial management practices that will enhance carbon sink potential of uplands, buffer zones, and wetlands; and
(3) development of support systems to assist landowners with management decisions relating to greenhouse gases and carbon sinks.

The Canadian Prairie pothole region, spanning Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, contains 80% of the agricultural land in Canada, in addition to more than 4.5 million hectares of wetlands within this same landscape.

There is evidence that wetland soils in the region can store up to twice as much carbon as adjacent agricultural lands. However, the ability of these wetlands and buffer zones to store carbon is unknown, due to the absence of data on carbon storage and GHG emissions from these systems.

This project examines the linkages between prairie wetlands, buffer zones and their adjacent agricultural fields. Canadian farmers are beginning to adopt soil conservation methods which can enhance the carbon sink capacity of agricultural soils. The impact of these soil conservation methods on the adjacent buffer zones and wetlands is unknown and must be assessed.