First, thank you for inviting us back to talk more specifically about wetland conservation. Over the course of this presentation I want to give you a little about wetland basics: the kinds of wetlands we have in Canada; what some of the benefits are of wetlands; a brief overview of wetland loss in Canada; DU's wetland conservation approach; the value of conservation in Canada; and what the federal government can do to help advance wetland conservation.
First, let's talk briefly about some of the different types of wetlands. At the very basis, what is a wetland? It is land that is saturated with water long enough to promote wetland or aquatic processes. It's indicated by poorly drained soils, water-loving vegetation, and biological activities adapted to the wet environment.
In Canada there are five different classes of wetlands. The first two, bogs and fens, are called organic wetlands and they're the wetlands that develop peatlands. The other three, swamps, marshes, and shallow open water, are referred to as mineral wetlands. Just to give you an idea of what these wetlands look like, on the left here we have bogs. Bogs are isolated from groundwater. They're very low-nutrient wetlands, and any nutrients they do get come from precipitation; vegetation types are mosses, trees, and shrubs.
On the right, that is a fen. Fens are exposed to groundwater. They have higher nutrients. They're less acidic than bogs and the plants include more grasses.
Looking at the mineral-forming or non-peat-forming wetlands, the first are marshes. Marshes have varying water levels. The vegetation types include reeds, sedges, and rushes and they're very nutrient rich. Swamps, on the other hand, usually have standing water and are characterized by dense tree stands with water-loving plants. Lastly, we have the shallow, open water wetlands. They're typically in your lake-marsh transition, with some submerged plants.
Let's just briefly touch on some of the benefits of wetlands. First and foremost, wetlands really are biodiversity hot spots. Wetlands support a disproportionately high number of terrestrial and aquatic species compared to other ecosystem types. One third of the species at risk listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada live in or near wetlands.
Wetland habitats are also particularly important for species at risk in that species dependent on both fresh water and coastal wetlands are declining faster than those reliant on other ecosystem types.
They're important for thriving fisheries. Two-thirds or more of all fish that we consume in North America are dependent on coastal wetlands; for example, 75% of the U.S.'s commercial fish and shellfish stocks depend on estuaries. They're important for recreation and tourism. In 1988 Environment Canada estimated that non-consumptive recreation, fishing, and hunting in Canada's wetlands generated $4 billion per year.
They're particularly important for water quality. Wetlands capture and hold back sediments, harmful bacteria, and nutrients—example, nutrients from fertilizer—from entering downstream waterways where they can cause human health issues. As an example, wetlands are able to retain up to 70% of sediments and up to 95% of nitrogen.
Just to give you a real-world example of what can happen with poor water quality, the image you see here is Grand Beach, which is on Lake Winnipeg. It's touted as being one of the best beaches in North America and it's a great beach on a good day, not so great a beach on a bad day. Lake Winnipeg has been known to have extensive algae outbreaks in late summer and this has been causing a considerable amount of trouble for the lake.
Wetlands also provide protection from floods. They collect and hold water, which reduces the amount of water moving downstream, thus reducing threats from floods.
I'm going to go through a series of images here that helps to depict how wetlands go about helping to reduce floods. The image you see here is one of a number of intact wetlands—those are the little blue dots—with a stream running through it. The darker green area is what's considered to be the contributing area to that stream. Once wetland drainage starts to happen, it starts to connect those wetlands' basins to the contributing area and the contributing area becomes bigger. There's more flow going into the stream. You continue to have wetland drainage. The stream flow begins to increase even more, and ultimately, with substantial amounts of wetland drainage, you end up having downstream flooding impacts.
We've talked a little about some of the detriments of wetland loss. I want to give you a brief overview of some of the estimates of wetland loss in Canada and some of the impacts.
The first example shows wetland loss in southern Ontario. This was a study that we did that looked at wetland loss from 1800 to 2002. Over that period of time, as you can see by the different colours, in anything that's orange or red, those particular areas have lost more than 65% of their wetlands.
Overall in this area, 3.5 million acres or 72% of the wetlands were lost up until 2002, basically due to settlement. This is a very conservative estimate, in that this wetland loss study only looked at wetlands that were 25 hectares or larger. A 25-hectare wetland is a very large wetland, so this is a very conservative estimate.
Moving into the Prairies, unlike southern Ontario, where a lot of the wetland loss is due to urban expansion, we see that in the Prairies much of the wetland loss is often due to expanding agriculture. This image from eastern Saskatchewan shows a drainage ditch that was put in, in about 2008-09. It's a big ditch. Different images of drainage across the Prairies can look different. On the top left-hand corner of the image is a shallow ditch. You can see more extensive ditching in some of these other shots. When we're talking about wetland drainage, that's what we're looking at. That's what we're talking about.
I want to give you a real-world example from Manitoba. We did a study on the Broughton's Creek watershed. The Broughton's Creek watershed is shown as a little black polygon in the left-hand side of this image. The water from that watershed flows into the Little Saskatchewan River, which then flows into the Assiniboine River and ultimately the Red River, and then into Lake Winnipeg. We've already talked about the fact that Lake Winnipeg is having issues with over-nutrification.
This image shows a very small part of that Broughton's Creek watershed. All of the blue colour you see is intact wetlands. The little red hatched areas are drained or degraded wetlands, and the red lines are actually drainage ditches. This is what the image looks like in 1968. This is the number of wetlands that were in that area in 1968.
But next is how many were there in 2005. All of those red hatched areas are wetlands that have been drained or degraded, and all of the red lines, the deep red lines, are new drainage ditches that have gone in. During this time, there has been a 21% reduction in wetland area, and nearly 70% of the wetland basins have been lost or degraded.
What does this impact? What are the impacts of 37 years of wetland drainage? Well, ultimately, it means more water, sediments, and nutrients moving downstream, causing issues with flooding, erosion, and water quality.
That drainage in the Broughton's Creek watershed increased the contributing area by 53%. It increased the total stream flow by 62%. There was a 37% increase in peak flow, a 32% increase in phosphorous loading, and a 57% increase in nitrogen loading. This has significant issues for downstream communities. As we've already talked about, Lake Winnipeg was named the world's most threatened lake in 2013. This is not a title that we particularly wanted.
One of the other impacts that has less to do with things moving downstream and more about releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is that wetlands are very effective at sequestering and storing carbon, so the carbon in those wetlands that would have otherwise been trapped is released into the atmosphere once those wetlands are drained and then cultivated, compounding the climate change issues. The drainage of those 5,900 wetlands has resulted in the release of 34,000 tonnes of carbon. This is like adding the annual emissions of over 23,000 cars to the atmosphere. To relate this back to that hypothetical diagram we looked at earlier on, the drainage of the 28 wetlands in this image would release the equivalent of the annual emissions of over 108 cars.
This all sounds fairly doom-and-gloomy. What can we do about it? Ducks Unlimited has been working, and continues to work, towards wetland conservation. In this next series of slides, I want to briefly touch on some of the tools we use to conduct wetland conservation.
The first is conservation easements, or CEs. A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement between a property owner and a qualified easement holder that allows the title to remain with the landowner while restricting certain land uses or management practices in order to protect specified environmental values. In our case, our CEs are typically “no break, no drain”, meaning that you can't drain the wetlands and you can't break the uplands or wetlands.
To give you an example, in this image we have a real-world example in southern Saskatchewan in the Missouri Coteau. This is one of our CEs. The area shown outlined in colour is the area in that quarter section where the CE is placed. It includes both the wetlands and the native prairie.
Another tool we've been using is land purchase. Particularly, as we go forward, we'll be doing this through a revolving land conservation program. The key thing here is that it involves a willing seller and a willing buyer. DU buys the land, restores it if necessary, and resells with a conservation easement. This is particularly important for other program types, specifically mitigation, which we'll talk about later on.
To give you an example, here's a quarter section in Alberta. You can see the drainage ditches in that quarter section. We purchased this quarter section. We went in and put in ditch plugs. All of those little red dots on that image are ditch plugs that help to restore those wetlands. So we restored all the wetlands, we restored the grassland cover. Then we put a CE on it and turned around and sold it.
I want to move all the way out to the B.C. coast and give you another example. This is the Chemainus River Estuary on Vancouver Island. This was a land purchase that we did in order to protect the tidal wetlands that are in the area. It was a partnership with a paper company and the B.C. public land trust. In this case we will be selling off the agriculture land back to farmers in the local area, with a restricted covenant on it. We will retain title to the tidal areas to protect the estuary.
Let's move into Quebec. This is an example of a wetland in Quebec. This is an actual Ramsar site. I want to highlight this project because it's one that we've done in partnership with the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources. It was done to enhance the waterfowl value of the marsh and to engage the community in reducing sedimentation from adjoining farmland.
The project will enhance 1,400 acres of wetlands on the south shore of Lac Saint-Pierre. The total value of the project is $1.5 million, with proposed investment by DU of $500,000, so we were able to leverage our investment by three to one.
I want to talk briefly about mitigation. Within the federal wetland policy there is a mitigation sequence that is proposed: first of all, to avoid wetlands if possible; secondly, to minimize the impacts; and thirdly, to replace them by a ratio of three to one if avoidance cannot be realized.
In those provinces where wetland mitigation is being implemented, it is a very effective way of providing revenue for us to restore wetlands. Unfortunately, wetland mitigation is only being utilized in Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
I want to talk briefly about how we work in the boreal. When we are working in the working landscapes of the boreal, the most important factor is to work in conjunction with the industries. I want to highlight the document on the left. This is a document we did, along with Suncor Energy Foundation, where we held a workshop with the oil and gas industry to describe and explore ways where oil and gas development could be done in a way that would minimize impacts to boreal wetlands.
On the right is a fact sheet we have developed with the forest industry that outlines ways to build roads in ways that will reduce the detrimental impacts on fens and bogs. There are images of a corduroy road going into a boreal landscape.
The other way we work in the boreal is through existing conservation processes. One of those is the protected area strategy in the Northwest Territories. We are currently a member of the protected area steering committee that oversees all of the protected areas activities in the Northwest Territories. We've been involved since 2000-01 and support the process both financially and with in-kind. Primarily we've been helping them with wetland inventories and doing waterfowl surveys, which help to identify key areas for waterfowl that the community is interested in.
One of these projects that I want to highlight is Edéhzhíe. Edéhzhíe is currently in an order of council interim withdrawal. It has been proposed as a Northwest Territories national wildlife area. We provided financial assistance for the ecological assessment of this area. Unfortunately, devolution in the Northwest Territories has made some of the Northwest Territories protected areas partners uncertain about the future of the protected area strategy and the overall security of critical wildlife habitats that have been earmarked for protection. We have been encouraging Environment Canada to begin the consultation process on the establishment of the proposed Edéhzhíe national wildlife area with the hopes of formally designating it in the near future.
Finally, I just want to touch on a couple of key partnerships with government. The Atlantic habitat partnership was done in 2009. It was a joint partnership between Environment Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and the Atlantic provinces. This money has been used to maintain critical infrastructure such as upgrades to 560 water control systems, 150 fish ladders, and 106 miles of dikes on more than 150 square miles of wetlands.
Second is the partnership with the federal government on the southern Ontario development program, where $3 million from the federal government was matched with another $1.3 million from Ducks Unlimited Canada to ensure that 30,000 acres of wetland projects remained on the landscape and 57 projects were rebuilt.
We've talked about the different conservation tools and programs that we can do. What return on investment does this give to Canadians? We have worked with a resource economist by the name of Mark Anielski to do an assessment on that. We will soon be releasing that report, but we just wanted to give you a sneak peek here today of a couple of the findings he came up with.
Wetland conservation definitely provides valuable ecosystem services. These ecosystem services include many that we've already talked about: carbon storage, water purification, regulation of water flows, erosion, etc. The total value of these ecosystem services associated with Ducks Unlimited's total amount of secured land of 2.538 million hectares is estimated to be $4.27 billion per annum, with most of those services being related to climate regulation, water supply, and water purification.
Wetland conservation also provides a high return on investment. Between 2008 and 2012, DU's annual spending resulted in direct economic benefits of $77 million in GDP, 970 full-time equivalents in jobs, $60 million in employment income, and $15.8 million in operating profits for Canadian business.
At this point I want to turn it over to Jim Brennan, who is going to give a brief overview of existing policy in Canada.