DUC supports peatlands conservation strategy
Oak Hammock Marsh, Man., December 9, 2010— The importance of boreal peatlands is immense, especially when it comes to storing freshwater and carbon, and Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is hoping these significant areas will eventually be protected by the development of a peatlands conservation strategy for Manitoba.
A workshop of experts and interested stakeholders sponsored by DUC, the Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI) and the Province of Manitoba was held last week to discuss the state of boreal peatlands at the University of Winnipeg. Information gathered from the participating experts and interest groups will be summarized and provided to the Province to help them move ahead with a peatlands conservation strategy.
“One of the most easily recognizable values of peatlands is they hold large amounts of freshwater, but the storage of carbon is increasingly recognized as being of key importance. Canada’s boreal forest and associated peatlands are huge carbon stores and hold twice the carbon found in the tropical forests of the world,” said Chris Smith, DUC manager of industry and government relations for the Western Boreal Program. “Canada has over half the world’s intact boreal forest, so it’s important that these areas are conserved and a Manitoba peatlands conservation strategy is the right action to help ensure this happens.”
Peatlands, which are often referred to as “muskeg” are wetlands that have accumulated large amounts of organic material over time. This organic material, called peat, keeps accumulating because it doesn’t decompose as fast as dead plant matter is added due to the climatic conditions in the boreal forest. Peatlands are boreal wetlands called fens and bogs.
According to the CBI, if all Canada’s carbon in the boreal forest was released, it would be equivalent to 26 years of global fossil fuel emissions. Therefore, conservation of these areas is extremely important to mitigating climate change.
“A staggering 19 billion tonnes of carbon is estimated to be stored in the peatlands of boreal Manitoba alone,” said Pascal Badiou, research scientist at the Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research. “This amount of carbon is equivalent to almost a century of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and could be released if these wetlands were altered.”
Peatlands are also important to Manitoba’s First Nation communities as much of these areas are considered traditional territory.
Ray Rabliauskas from the Poplar River First Nation, which is located on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, said the people of the area have been there for 1,000’s of years and believe they have the right to speak for peatlands and protect them from major development. The Poplar River area is currently under interim protected under the Parks Act to secure it from major changes.
“The elders here have always known the benefits of the muskeg and protecting it is not an issue to be debated,” said Rabliauskas, who spoke at the public forum on peatlands. “Protecting this area is not a choice as it covers half of our land.”
As a precious water resource, the wetlands of the boreal forest are important habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. Canada’s western boreal forest annually provides breeding habitat for 12 to 14 million ducks. This region also provides critical summer habitat for prairie nesting waterfowl during years of drought.
With all of these benefits the boreal forest, and specifically peatlands provides, DUC is hopeful a peatlands conservation strategy in Manitoba will ensure the continuation of all of these values for future generations. DUC also stresses that a provincial wetland policy protecting all wetlands in Manitoba is the best situation to preserve these important ecosystems and looks forward to the report that will be coming out of the public consultations on wetlands held this summer.
DUC’s vision for Canada’s boreal forest is that it remain an ecologically intact ecosystem and provides habitat that will continue to sustain a high diversity and abundance of wetlands, waterfowl, associated water birds and other wildlife. DUC supports a balanced approach to boreal conservation including a combination of protected areas and sustainable resource management by working with all land managers including government, First Nations and industry to find solutions to lessen the impact of development on the landscape. These solutions can include, but are not limited to, developing enhanced management practices, setting aside protected areas and participating in policy development and implementation.
For more information, contact:
Karli Reimer, firstname.lastname@example.org
National Communications Specialist – Conservation
Ducks Unlimited Canada