OTTAWA, April 16, 2014 /CNW/ - The restoration of pollinator-friendly habitat in southwestern Ontario will be the focus of a new partnership between CropLife Canada and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).
The project involves the restoration of a 10 acre (4 hectare) field, owned by NCC in Norfolk County.
The field will be planted with approximately 60 plant species that are native to the area. The plants will flower at varying times during the growing season to attract and accommodate a rich variety of pollinators.
"Pollinators are essential to having healthy crops and we have a vested interest in strong pollinator populations because they are crucial to the success of agriculture," says Pierre Petelle, vice-president, chemistry for CropLife Canada. "Our industry is pleased to partner with NCC on this project to restore a property to its native habitat and provide pollinators with friendly habitat to forage as part of our commitment to supporting long-term solutions for strong pollinator health."
Pollinators come in all sizes. The best known are insects such as bees, flies, butterflies and moths, but birds, bats and other animals also perform this vital job. Together they are responsible for the pollination of more than 90 per cent of our flowering plants. Their daily work is essential for more than $1 billion of Canadian farm produce. Conservation of pollinators has become a key element in efforts to protect our biodiversity.
According to experts, fragmentation and loss of native habitat are two of the major threats to biodiversity. Habitat loss is also one of the major threats to overall pollinator health. Restoring and connecting natural habitat helps to ensure healthy ecosystems.
At one NCC property that is approximately six kilometers away from this new restoration site, a university researcher looking at pollinator populations found almost 100 species of bees, along with many other pollinators, were present and actively using the property within several years of restoration.
"NCC's work doesn't end once a property has been secured. Our science and stewardship team develops land management plans for each of our properties to ensure their proper care and conservation for the long-term. We forge strong partnerships with organizations, such as CropLife Canada, to help conserve Ontario's lands and nature," says James Duncan, NCC's regional vice-president in Ontario.
This small property is part of NCC's larger mosaic of natural forest cover, lands recently restored back to native habitat and active agricultural fields in Norfolk County. This region includes rare Carolinian forest that provides habitat for listed and rare species such as the eastern hog-nosed snake, eastern foxsnake, American badger and prothonotary warbler.
"CropLife Canada and its members are proud of the contributions our products make to protect the environment, such as increasing yields on already farmed land so natural habitats and the wildlife within is protected. We see this project as an important opportunity to help protect Canada's biodiversity and pollinators, including the honeybee, which our industry relies on," says Petelle.
CropLife Canada is the trade association representing the manufacturers, developers and distributors of plant science innovations — pest control products and plant biotechnology — for use in agriculture, urban and public health settings.
Pesticides have been an important part of significantly increasing food production over the last 50 years. The ability to improve farm yields means farmers can produce more food to meet the current needs without expanding their land base. This in turn helps protect biodiversity.
Without the use of pest control products and plant biotechnology, Canada would need to turn 37 million more acres into agricultural land to generate the same production it currently does. That is roughly equal to the total cropped acreage of Saskatchewan or four times the cropped acreage of Ontario.
Pesticides can also play an important role in protecting food crops as well as forests and other wildlife habitats from invasive species of plants and non-native insects and other pests.
Pollinators are the animals that pollinate over 90 per cent of all flowering plants, and primarily include bees, flies, butterflies, moths, and other insects, although birds, bats, and other animals can also be pollinators. Together they are an indispensable natural resource, and their daily work is essential for over a billion dollars worth of apples, pears, cucumbers, melons, berries, and many other kinds of Canadian farm produce. The conservation of pollinators has become part of biodiversity conservation efforts.
Other projects that CropLife Canada and its members are involved in include: international biodiversity programs to boost the number of pollinating insects; research to increase bee populations and blueberry yields in the Maritime Provinces; and educational campaigns on the importance of pollinators and what individuals can do to help.
This partnership is another opportunity for our industry to conserve natural areas and to help provide pollinators with productive and stable areas to forage to further protect and promote strong pollinator health.
Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC)
Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is Canada's leading national land conservation organization. NCC is a private, non-profit organization, that partners with individuals, corporations, other non-profit organizations and governments at all levels to protect the natural areas that sustain Canada's plants and wildlife. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to conserve more than 2.6 million acres of ecologically significant land in Canada.
The 10 acres (4 hectares) of land that will be restored was previously planted with soybeans and is part of a 49-acre property consisting mainly of wooded swamp, including Provincially Significant Wetland, interspersed with upland deciduous forest. This land is part of a larger block of properties owned by NCC in southern Norfolk County that includes a mosaic of natural forest cover, lands recently restored back to native habitat and actively farmed agricultural fields. This is the first project that CropLife Canada and NCC have partnered on.
NCC restores land with native plants that are characteristic to the area. To date about 1000 acres (400 hectares) have been restored in Norfolk. This work has also included rebuilding sand dune and sand barren features, creation of seasonal wetlands and swamp forest, and the establishment of early successional meadows and sand plain features.
Norfolk County is a biodiversity 'hotspot' and is part of the Carolinian Life Zone - a unique ecosystem that extends northward from the Carolinas to southwestern Ontario. Within Ontario, the Carolinian Life Zone is positioned south of a line running from southern Lake Huron to Toronto and includes the entire north shore of Lake Erie. Comprising less than one percent of Canada's land mass, it is one of the country's smallest ecoregions. Carolinian Canada is home to 25 per cent of the country's populations and contains productive agricultural lands, forests and wetlands. It also provides habitat for nearly 25 per cent of Canada's species at risk.
Norfolk contains the highest percentage of forest cover in southwestern Ontario, long and connected ravines and floodplain systems, globally rare coastal dunes and beaches, internationally significant wetlands and more that 45 provincially, nationally or globally rare plants and animals - one of the highest densities of rare and endangered wildlife in Canada. This initiative will add to existing natural habitats and help create larger connected blocks of habitat, benefiting a variety of species at risk and many pollinators.
Timeline for 2014:
April 2014: The field will be tilled in preparation for planting native seeds. The property was planted with soybeans in 2013 and the land was not tilled after the crop was harvested to protect the soil during the winter.
May 2014: As weather allows, the 10 acres of land will be planted with approximately 60 plant species seeds, including: wildflowers, grasses, shrubs and trees. All the plants are local native species and have been, in part, selected to ensure there are a number of plants flowering throughout the entire season so pollinators have options for foraging.
June and August 2014: Site visits will be made throughout the summer months to keep track of success and challenges throughout the project. In addition, the site will need to be monitored for invasive species that could affect the restoration's success.
October and November 2014: Re-evaluate if additional planting is required on the site.
The site will be maintained and closely monitored for two additional years to ensure the restoration is a success.
SOURCE: CropLife Canada
For further information:
Senior communications officer
613-230-9881 ext. 3228
Nature Conservancy of Canada
Communications manager, Ontario region
416-932-3202 ext. 2250