As global leaders prepare for the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in Montreal this December, the conservation community is rallying to change how nature is prioritized in policy and in public investments. There’s still time to save one million of the planet’s plants and animals from extinction—but the clock is ticking.
What’s threatening global biodiversity? A variety of primarily human-driven factors impact wildlife species, including habitat loss and degradation, pollution, species over-exploitation, climate change, and invasive species and disease.
We don’t want to imagine a world without natural spaces abundant with wildlife and perhaps we don’t have to.
The conservation actions required to stop and reverse this trend are core to the work Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) has been doing for decades. It involves a multi-pronged approach of research, education, advocacy, industry partnerships and landscape-scale conservation operations. Best of all, we know it works.
The 2022 State of the World’s Birds report released by BirdLife International shows that while 49 per cent of bird species are in decline globally, waterfowl populations are generally improving in North America. This is largely attributed to the focused conservation efforts and the continental approach Ducks Unlimited in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have taken to protect critical habitat along migratory flyways in partnership with governments and like-minded organizations.
Fortunately, this recipe for success isn’t limited to ducks.
10 ways Ducks Unlimited Canada is supporting a wide variety of species and Canada’s biodiversity objectives
Nature doesn’t observe borders and when it comes to conservation, neither should we. Ducks Unlimited organizations in North America have banded together to conserve 15 million acres of wetlands and associated habitats that are critical for hundreds of species that criss-cross international land, water and airspace.
Protecting threatened habitats for waterfowl, grassland birds and other wildlife means finding ways of making conservation work for working agricultural landscapes. DUC has partnered with leading industry members and ENGOs to develop a sustainable agriculture framework and operates a diverse suite of initiatives which support biodiversity goals including farmgate incentive programs, extension, research on best management practices and supporting sustainable sourcing initiatives.
Indigenous peoples hold traditional knowledge about how to protect nature, which is vital to future global biodiversity. DUC greatly values our partnerships with Indigenous communities and governments and supports Indigenous Guardians programs across Canada. In 2018, DUC was proud to support the establishment of Canada’s first Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area at Edéhzhíe in the Northwest Territories and continues to support Indigenous land-use planning by braiding our knowledge systems to advance shared conservation goals.
Research and technological advances continue to be a powerful force in conservation. Remote-sensing tools have helped DUC map and manage vast swaths of Canada’s natural landscape. Drone technology and artificial intelligence have helped operate programs that can detect invasive species. Data collected through research, conservation operations across thousands of sites, academic partnerships, and open-source community science applications is now being used to develop predictive biodiversity modelling to support data-driven decisions on where conservation funds should be directed.
Extreme weather events due to climate change are detrimental to wildlife populations and the habitats that support them. The frequency and magnitude of these events are expected to worsen in the coming years. DUC partnered with 15 leading insurance organizations to create Nature Force, an unparalleled private investment in nature-based solutions for climate resiliency. These natural solutions include wetlands, which in addition to providing wildlife habitat, help to sequester carbon, mitigate flooding and provide additional landscape resilience during periods of drought.
Access to clean water is critical for sustaining all life. DUC research has proven the effectiveness of restored wetlands in filtering nutrients like phosphorus before they reach our waterways. DUC has also advanced innovation around the use of aquatic vegetation in municipal water treatment and naturalized stormwater systems.
Invasive species and disease pose serious threats to our wildlife, habitats, food security and economy. From educating the public about avian flu to conducting research on biocontrol agents to leveraging the latest technologies including micro-drones in our on-the-ground efforts, DUC is on the job.
Canada has lost up to 70 per cent of its wetlands in developed areas but there is still an opportunity to recover and create thriving natural habitats to support biodiversity. While it is ideal to leave these habitats undisturbed, DUC is the country’s leading expert in recovering, restoring, and naturalizing wetland and upland habitats to help nature rebound.
To achieve large, landscape-scale impact that’s so urgently needed, we need leadership. Advocating for provincial land-use planning and offset policies, membership in the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) Forum, participating in national and provincial invasive species councils, and collaborating to propose a new federal Sustainable Agriculture Framework are just some of the ways DUC is working with key stakeholders to influence positive outcomes for biodiversity.
Protecting our dwindling natural habitats for wildlife while maintaining economic benefits and social values is a delicate balance. DUC’s science-based approach to conservation includes informing industry operating guidelines and providing resources and education to support responsible and sustainable practices. Additionally, DUC partners on protected wildlife areas and participates in waterfowl and wildlife population monitoring and surveillance projects, including the recently released Sea Duck Key Habitat Sites Atlas.
As the clock ticks down to COP15, we can’t afford to lose our momentum or our resolve. Our natural ecosystems and the wildlife that rely on these habitats are in trouble. Fortunately, by conserving and restoring these ecosystems we can stop these losses. Increased investment in nature-based solutions combined with sustainable land-use policies can yield positive outcomes for biodiversity while providing a host of other benefits to our communities.
We need to act now, before the clock stops entirely.
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