Flowering Trees-Mother Trees-Tree Cities

The Tree Canada newsletter sent to my email on May 13, 2021 was filled with these interesting stories about trees in Canada and so you might want to go look up the newsletter in it’s entirety at https://www.arborday.org

Flowering Trees Across Canada

“Flowering trees or trees that start to show their leaves are some of the first and most striking signs of spring. They are a sign that nature is starting to ‘wake up’ and action is happening! Travel across the country with us and experience some examples of beautifully blooming trees commonly found in each province.”

British Colombia – Pacific Dogwood

“Found in coastal British Colombia, Pacific dogwood bloom white flowers in early spring and have red edible but bitter berries that ripen in early fall and are a common food source for many animals. Dogwood are often used as ornamental trees due to their small size and beautiful flowers. The trees are the host plant for summer and spring azure butterflies, one of the first butterflies to emerge from its pupa in the spring. The butterfly depends on the nectar of early flowering plants, such as the dogwood, as a food source.”

Alberta – Thinleaf Alder

“Often found along riverbanks, the thinleaf alder is a nitrogen fixer (i.e. it improves the fertility of the soil for other species) and their roots help prevent erosion. This tree blooms in early spring, or as early as March in some regions. The male flowers are long, soft catkins and the female flowers look like tiny pine cones. The catkins are known to be edible and are high in protein, although they are very bitter and not very tasty.”

Saskatchewan – Green Ash

Manitoba – Bur Oak

Ontario – Canada Plum

“Beautiful light pink-white flowers appear between April and May before the leaves bud. Plum blossoms are very fragrant with a very flowery smell. Canada plum is an important source of pollen and nectar for native pollinators. Many animals have been seen eating the fruit of this tree including black bears, squirrels, turtles and bats. The fruit is also edible to humans and can be made into jams and jellies or eaten straight off the tree.”

Quebec – American Sycamore

The fruit of the sycamore tree or the chinar is close-up. The side can be seen with ceno-like leaves.

“Small dense flowers appear in April and May at the same time the leaves appear. Each tree has both male and female flowers which are wind pollinated. The male flowers are red while the female flowers are yellow. Once pollinated, the female flowers mature into fruit consisting of a small brown fuzzy ball with many small seeds, which act as a food source for many birds and animals. Naturally occurring sycamore are often found in wetlands, however they were also widely planted in cities.”

New Brunswick – Ironwood

Nova Scotia – American Beech

“One of the most abundant and widespread trees in eastern North America, red maples are usually found in swamps and areas with moist soils and have been nicknamed swamp maples. Red maple is an important host for many native insects, mammals and birds in Canada, such as red squirrels, Downy woodpeckers and Canada warblers.

Flowers appear before leaves in early spring, usually in March or April. The red male flowers and yellowish green female flowers grow on the same tree but on separate branches with the blooms, sometimes producing a mild sweet cherry or almond scent, only lasting about a week. The flowers produce fruit, or samaras, in late spring.”

Prince Edward Island – American Elm

Yukon – Paper Birch

Photo credit Lucy

Nunavut – Trembling Aspen

Northwest Territories – Black spruce

Mother Trees

Written by Danielle St-Aubin, Chief Executive Officer, Tree Canada

“I recently came across some interesting information about  ‘Mother Trees”, a project which highlights research led by Professor of Forest Ecology and leader of the Mother Tree Project, Dr. Suzanne Simard. Her work outlines how some mature trees take on the role of nourishing and regenerating younger trees to help them survive.”

“I had already read about the scientific evidence around how trees create communities, talk to each other and warn each other of danger, and this new information (new to me anyway) has me contemplating the nurturing side of trees. Without wanting to seem too “out there” I have to say that I find comfort in the thought of mature trees taking on the role of ensuring the successful growth of their seedlings or “offspring”. It just seems good, and right.””

“May is the month we traditionally celebrate mothers, spring and renewal, and mental health. We celebrate their role in nurturing their children or offspring and in helping them become strong and healthy adults who thrive within their community. With that in mind, I would like to thank and acknowledge all the mother trees in our communities who are in turn nurturing all of us.”

Tree Cities of Canada

“Arbor Day foundation the USA recognizes 15 Canadian tree cities of the world out of 120 recognized. Now more than ever, trees and forests are a vital component of healthy, livable, and sustainable communities around the globe. The Tree Cities of the World programme is committed to inspiring cities and towns to care for and celebrate their urban tree canopy.”

“To be recognized as a Tree City, a community must meet five core standards that illustrate a commitment to caring for its trees and forest. Our goal is to connect cities around the world in a new network dedicated to sharing and adopting the most successful approaches to managing community trees and forests.”


Establish Responsibility

The city has a written statement by city leaders delegating responsibility for the care of trees within the municipal boundary to a staff member, a city department, or a group of citizens—called a Tree Board.


Set the Rules

The city has in place a law or an official policy that governs the management of forests and trees. These rules describe how work must be performed—often citing best practices or industry standards for tree care and worker safety—where and when they apply, and penalties for noncompliance.


Know What You Have

The city has an updated inventory or assessment of the local tree resource so that an effective long-term plan for planting, care, and removal of city trees can be established.


Allocate the Resources

The city has a dedicated annual budget for the routine implementation of the tree management plan.


Celebrate Achievements

The city holds an annual celebration of trees to raise awareness among residents and to acknowledge citizens and staff members who carry out the city tree programme.”

Photo credit Lucy

The Canadian cities that are recognized as Tree Cities of the World are: 

  • Victoria
  • Surrey
  • Kelowna
  • Edmonton
  • St. Albert
  • Regina
  • Cambridge
  • Guelph
  • Mississauga
  • York
  • Richmond Hill
  • Toronto
  • Whitby
  • ThunderBay
  • Halifax


Photo credit Lucy

Climate Action on Plastics Waste

Photos: Donna Bratle Kendall, an Edmonton photographer, is sharing her soft florals this week in our blog, so we can offset the harsh reality of plastics with the beauty of the movement in her nature photos. Thank you Donna, you are such a talent.

One theme that keeps coming up in our past year of learning about how to make a difference on global warming and climate change is that of the need for change at the systems level, to boost and accelerate the positive actions by individual actors, whether individual people, companies, agencies, cities, or nations.

Where Do Ocean Plastics Come From?

Images of once majestic rivers now clogged with plastics waste, and floating islands of ocean plastics waste are shocking to see. The message is clear that this sorry mess is one created by humans alone.

Where some might feel that the scale of the ocean plastics problem seems insurmountable, others, such as Boyan Slat, CEO of The Ocean Cleanup are actually quite optimistic that this is a solvable problem, and one that he and his colleagues are taking action on.

The bad news that research by The Ocean Cleanup is finding is that the size of the problem is much larger than previously thought – “about 1000 of the world’s rivers are the source of 80% of the global ocean plastic pollution according to new research.”  

Even though it was previously thought that 10 rivers accounted for the majority of global ocean plastic pollution, Boyan Slat and The Ocean Cleanup are undaunted by their new research findings.

Hear why not. We find this two-minute BBC video clip with Boyan Slat to be inspiring evidence of the positive difference that one person is making to show the way forward for tackling the systems level climate change problem of ocean plastics. (BBC – https://bbc.in/3f77PAE)


The “systems level” action message is echoed in the launch materials for the CPP, begun in January 2021. While Canadian, this CPP is not about pensions, rather, the Canada Plastics Pact.

It is focused on stakeholder collaboration to build a circular economy in Canada.

From its press release we learn that –

“An ambitious pre-competitive, multi-stakeholder platform, the CPP will enable companies across the Canadian plastics value chain to collaborate and innovate. It will build on significant work that has already been underway to reduce plastics waste, and will grow over time. Together, Partners will rethink the way they design, use, and reuse plastics, thereby charting a path toward a circular economy for plastic by 2025.” (Continue reading the press release here – EN/FR)

“Here are CPP’s actionable targets by 2025:

  • Define a list of plastic packaging that is to be designated as problematic or unnecessary and take measures to eliminate them 
  • Support efforts towards 100% of plastic packaging being designed to be reusable, recyclable or compostable 
  • Undertake ambitious actions to ensure that at least 50% of plastic packaging is effectively recycled or composted 
  • Ensure an average of at least 30% recycled content across all plastic packaging (by weight)”
Photo Credit Donna Bratle Kendall

CPP Founding Members List

We recognize many of the 30 companies listed as founding members of the CPP, and, together with their 25 implementation parnterns, want to give them a profile by listing them here.

We certainly feel better knowing that businesses we regularly shop at, such as, Canadian Tire for example, are members of such an organization, committed to real action on plastics, from eliminating plastic packaging where possible, to a longer-term goal of 100% of plastic packaging ultimately being ‘reusable, recyclable or compostable’.  https://plasticspact.ca/partners-list/


“The CPP considers Signatory Partners to be business organizations committed to achieving the CPP’s four targets.

  • Bimbo Canada
  • BOSK Bioproducts
  • Canadian Tire Corporation
  • Club Coffee
  • Coca-Cola Canada
  • Colgate-Palmolive Company
  • Danone Canada
  • EFS-plastics Inc.
  • Emterra Group
  • Fraser Plastics
  • GDI Packaging Solutions Inc.
  • General Mills
  • HypoIndustries Ltd.
  • Ice River Sustainable Solutions
  • Keurig Dr.Pepper Canada
  • Kraft Heinz Canada
  • Kruger Products L.P
  • Loblaw Companies Ltd.
  • Maple Leaf Foods
  • Mars Canada
  • Merlin Plastics
  • Mondelēz Canada Inc.
  • Nestlé Canada
  • Pyrowave
  • Ryse Solutions
  • Save-on-Foods
  • SPDU.ca
  • Tempo Plastics
  • Unilever Canada
  • Walmart Canada”


The CPP considers Implementation Partners to be organizations across the plastics packaging value chain supporting the CPP’s vision.

  • Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation
  • Canadian Beverage Association
  • Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association (Recycle Everywhere)
  • Canadian Produce Marketing Association
  • Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance Inc.
  • Circular Innovation Council (formerly Recycling Council of Ontario)
  • Circular Plastics Taskforce
  • City of Edmonton
  • Cleanfarms
  • Council of the Great Lakes Region
  • David Suzuki Foundation
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada
  • International Institute for Sustainable Development
  • Metro Vancouver
  • Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba
  • National Zero Waste Council
  • Ocean Wise
  • PAC Packaging Consortium
  • The Recycling Council of Alberta
  • Retail Council of Canada
  • Return-It
  • Smart Prosperity Institute
  • The Natural Step Canada
  • The Recycling Council of Alberta”

Global Plastics Pact Network

“The Canada Plastics Pact is part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network, joining other Plastics Pacts in Europe, Africa, North America and Latin America, in a network of national and regional initiatives working towards a common vision of a circular economy for plastics.”

Based on their own description of the plastics problem, these plastics pact groups are serious and ambitious about taking significant action —

“More clean-ups and better recycling won’t solve our plastic pollution problem. Achieving a world without plastic waste or pollution will take new levels of innovation and collaboration.”

For more on Global Plastics Pact Networkhttps://bit.ly/33uN7VK

Photo Credit Donna Bratle Kendall

A Circular Economy for Plastics

“Approximately 47% of plastic waste in Canada is due to plastic packaging. And although 32% of that plastic packaging is currently recycled, there is still significant progress to be made, which is why the CPP is focussing its immediate efforts on plastic packaging.” 

“Currently in Canada, approximately 9% of all plastic is recycled – the other 90% winds up in landfills, or the environment. If you could put a price tag on that plastic waste, it would be labelled a $7.8 billion “lost opportunity”¹

“Financial modelling done by Deloitte for the Government of Canada shows that by taking ambitious action, a circular economy for plastics in Canada by 2030 would — in addition to drastically reducing waste — save $500 million in costs every year; create tens of thousands of jobs; and be a substantial source of greenhouse gas emissions savings.”

“The Canada Plastics Pact believes Canada is uniquely positioned to build and realize a circular economy for plastics.”

For more on the CPP, its governance, and the Solutions it is targetting – https://bit.ly/2R8fKWn


In reading CBC What On Earth, April 22, 2021, Mark Crawley reports on a new study that has shown “large amounts of microplastic are floating into the atmosphere from roadways, oceans and farm fields. Once there, it can be carried by winds to the most remote places on Earth.”

“Airborne microplastic takes many forms and comes from many sources, but a key contributor is discarded plastic waste, according to the researchers, whose study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Plastic biodegrades very slowly, and fragments into smaller pieces that can be carried by air currents. A significant percentage of these fragments comes from synthetic textile fibres like in clothing and carpets. These microplastics are much smaller than what you could see with the naked eye.

In the Western USA there is reported to be about 1000 tonnes of microplastics, and it is estimated we inhale about a credit card worth of microplastics every single week. Researchers are investigating how this might affect cloud formation and the weather as well as how it could be affecting our lung health.

New Plastics Designers and Engineers

“Our plastics obsession is exacerbating the climate crisis. Annual emissions from plastic production and incineration could exceed 2.75 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, according to the Center for International Environmental Law.”

“To combat this, we need to eliminate as much unnecessary plastic as we can, and completely rethink the plastic products that we still need, according to the New Plastics Economy project, a collaboration between more than a 1,000 governments, NGOs, universities and businesses.” (TED Countdown, https://bit.ly/3rW93ni)

Vertical Hydroponics And Regenerative Farms

Last weeks blog mentioned research in New Zealand on how to reduce the methane cows create using diet supplements called “kowabucha” and we thought that was brilliant and funny. So this week we are looking into innovations in the farming industry in Canada such as vertical hydroponic farms as well as other unconventional or old-fashion agricultural techniques that can sequester carbon while improving soil, including cover crops and rotation of crops.

We read that 10% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are from crop and livestock production, in the form of nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, methane (CH4). It seems Canada is doing better at sinking the CO2 in the soil as we have been aware of erosion issues for decades. But knowing we can do even more to sink ghgs in the soil is great news. There is more research and action needed with sequestering the nitrous oxide and methane gas.

The federal agency Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada notes that earth’s existing farmland could absorb all of the world’s ghgs for the next 100 years at current rates if properly used.

Vertical Hydroponics

Vertical hydroponics is described as the leading-edge technology to the food sector to produce the extremely fresh, safe, pesticide free, sustainable, local, traceable and package free produce that makes for less food waste. The plants float on rafts while their roots dangle directly into nutrient-rich water, and grow indoors under various LED lights up to 13 layered levels high using elevator equipment to rotate. Growing conditions are consistent all year round, producing a reliable supply of healthy vegetables. There is a large amount of energy use in the lighting and temperature control, so using renewable sources of energy would be required to make this a favourable option. 

We had seen vertical farming being used in Europe and wondered about Canada so are glad to read there are several companies developing vertical hydroponics in Canada. ‘We The Roots’, ‘Local Leaf ‘(which is expanding across the country) and ‘Elevate Farms’ (with government contracts in the North) are just three of the larger scale ones, but smaller vertical farms are popping up supplying local grocers, markets and restaurants. When one googles hydroponic vertical farms one mostly finds sites to buy DIY equipment. Vertical farming can be scaled to all sizes of need,  and is clearly a budding industry.

“McGill University professor Mark Lefsrud, an expert in food security and urban agriculture, says that, while vertical farming currently accounts for less than 1 per cent of all farming in Canada, within 20 years, “I’d expect it to slowly creep up to around 20 per cent of the total market.””

“In a March report, Ontario’s Greenbelt Foundation identifies vertical farming as a priority to expand fruit and vegetable growth in the region and lists six vertical farms operating in Ontario (not including Elevate Farms): one in Kingsville, two in Guelph, and three in Toronto. All grow leafy greens, herbs, and microgreens (such as kale). The report notes that global investment in vertical farms is estimated at US$3.1 billion; about a third of that takes place in North America.”

“To Youbin Zheng, a professor and expert in controlled environment facilities at the University of Guelph, building more vertical farms in southern Ontario makes sense: “If you look at the Greenbelt and Golden Horseshoe, our land is limited, very limited, but our population has been increasing. If you grow vegetables in the field, there are only a few months in a year you can produce outside. If you grow inside with vertical farming, what you can get is just enormous.” The Greenbelt Foundation report states that, by building up, a vertical farm can produce the equivalent of more than 4,000 square metres of greenhouse space using just 185 square metres of floor space.” 

“Proponents also cite the significant benefits of vertical farming when it comes to food security and safety. The farms can be close to major population centres, reducing the need for transportation. In the case of Elevate Farms, Welland’s easy access to transportation routes means lower transportation costs and fresher, more nutrient-rich food for the consumer. Closer monitoring of produce and the fact that it stays within one country’s border may also reduce the risk of contamination. Before the pandemic, Kanellos says, “we had numerous outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella in different products across the supply chain”.”


Elevate Farms has contracts in the North of Canada where food insecurity is an issue. Although leafy greens cannot sustain the population, the intention is not to try and replace traditional agriculture but to supplement the existing market with what the farm produces. Labour is expensive, and energy costs are high: lighting accounting for about 40 per cent of capital costs so First Nations communities will have a hard time covering this costs without serious subsidies from the government. The start up cost alone is huge.


What can be grown in vertical hydroponics? So far romaine and other lettuces, arugula, kale, broccoli, strawberries, bok choy, baby spinach, dozens of herbs, including basil, cilantro and parsley are grown in these vertical farms, and there is research on growing other food like blueberries and legumes.

In Edmonton if you wish to purchase hydroponic vegetables for pick up or delivery check out: “Vertical Roots”.

Cover Cropping

Canada’s farmland could increase its absorption of greenhouse gas emissions, experts say. Brent Preston, who run The New Farm in Creemore, Ont., belong to a group calling for new policies and a larger voice for farmers in addressing climate change. He is advocating for a practice known as cover cropping, an ancient but now uncommon technique in which crops are planted during the off season to keep soil healthy and active. Under the snow, the ground is unexpectedly green, with a medley of peas, sunflowers, clover and oats alive and thriving in the dead of winter. The more diversity you have, the healthier the soil is going to be.” While the plants are alive, Preston has no intention of ever harvesting them. When the growing season arrives, he will plow them back into the soil, making way for the salad greens, spinach and cucumbers he produces at his organic farm. “There’s never any bare soil in nature,” Preston says. Cover cropping is a very helpful way to sequester nitrous oxide.

Nick Boisvert, CBC News Feb 20, 2021

How Regenerative Farming Could Help Canada Meet Its New Carbon Emission Targets

Written by Mia Sheldon · CBC News · Posted: May 01, 2021

“Claudia Wagner-Riddle, an agro-meteorologist at the University of Guelph, says cover cropping, integrating livestock and increased diversity are key components to using agriculture to fight climate change through improved soil health.” 

Planting crops like alfalfa, oats or winter wheat throughout the year instead of leaving the ground bare over the winter — cover cropping — makes soil healthier. The cover crop might not be feeding physical livestock or feeding people, but it’s feeding the biology below our ground right now. It helps feed microbes below ground that keep the soil healthy and productive. 

Brett Israel’s family farm in Wallenstein, Ont., rotates through 20 different types of crops and has reduced tillage to help keep the soil healthy.

Also rotational grazing with livestock encourages plant regrowth, naturally distributing nutrients and allowing roots to grow deeper.

“It can take up to a decade to see the benefits of regenerative farming and carbon sequestration, and the practice has remained a relatively fringe approach to agriculture until recently. But a growing body of research is showing its effectiveness in reducing agricultural emissions and improving the soil.”

“A big hurdle is persuading farmers of the benefits. It’s extra work for the farmers; basically they have to plant the cover crop by the seed without getting an income, because they’re not selling it to feed people or animals. They’re using it to feed the soil.”

“Another issue hampering wider adoption has been the difficulty of quantifying the economic and environmental impact of regenerative farming, because hard data has been scarce. This is being researched now. General Mills began working with farmers across North America in 2019 to advance regenerative agriculture over about 400,000 hectares, a project that includes 45 oat farmers in Saskatchewan. The company offers soil testing and coaching to participating farmers, to help offset its own carbon footprint.”


Barriers to Change in Farming Practises

The federal agency Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada notes that earth’s existing farmland could absorb all of the world’s ghgs for the next 100 years at current rates if properly used. But according to Farmers for Climate Solutions, the existing system of industrial agriculture makes it impossible to realize the carbon fighting potential of Canada’s 160 million acres of farmland. The group points to soil tilling, chemical products, fossil fuel usage and low biodiversity on farms as key areas that must be improved upon. Failing to do so, they argue, will prevent the nation’s farmland from reducing carbon and make farms more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. “It’s really impacting our ability to grow food,” said Flies, pointing to the longer droughts and unpredictable weather making it harder for Canadian farmers to operate.”

“While Geitmann, a professor at McGill University’s plant sciences program, hailed the coalition’s “ambitious” plan to tackle climate change, she noted that several major obstacles could make it hard to achieve its goals. Chiefly, she pointed to potentially higher costs and the challenges of implementing new practices that have been in place for decades. Moving away from soil tilling, for example, may require a more laborious system of removing weeds from soil that could be challenging to some farmers.”

“Bringing those changes to life will likely require new federal incentives to help farmers, Geitmann said. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture also called the plan to become carbon neutral “prohibitively costly” without policy changes such as exempting farmers from the federal carbon tax. Farmers for Climate Solutions also acknowledge that the powerful chemical and fertilizer industry will likely resist widespread change that points farmers away from its products.”

“Paul Slomp, who raises beef cattle in Saint-André-Avellin, Que., said his farm has already moved away from chemicals and artificial feeds. His 200 cows now graze exclusively on grass, which he manages with the goal of maximizing the land’s ability to capture carbon. He questioned the worries around higher costs, and said he’s now making more money than he did before the changes. “Because we’re reducing the amount of input that we need to purchase, we’re actually able to generate a much better profit margin,” said Slomp, who is not a member of Farmers for Climate Solutions. “The cows are meant to do this; they thrive in a system like ours, and it can be quite profitable.””


What Information is Available on the Canadian Government Web Site

(We collected information in this next section from the site https://cutt.ly/kbUKw7S, which is a very informative Government of Canada-Agriculture and the Environment site.)

Ways to Reduce Nitrous Oxide

Cover cropping is just one way to reduce NO2.

Since N2O is produced mostly from excess available nitrogen in soils, another way to suppress emissions of this gas is to apply fertilizer judiciously: adding just enough, at the right place and time, to meet crop demands, but avoiding excess amounts left over. This can reduce fertilizer costs to producers and reduce the amount of nitrogen lost through excess fertilizer application.

Fertilizer can be used more efficiently by:

  • adjusting fertilizer rates to coincide with plant needs
  • placing fertilizer near plant roots (but not too deep in the soil)
  • applying fertilizer several times each year, rather than only once
  • using slow-release forms

Similarly, using manure efficiently can also help limit N2O emissions-not only because less is released from the manure, but also because less fertilizer now needs to be used. Perhaps the most fundamental way of reducing N2O from manures is to alter feeding rations so that less nitrogen is excreted in urine and feces in the first place. (Should we warn the cows that they are about to go on a new diet?)

Other practices that can sometimes reduce N2O emissions from farms include:

  • greater use of legumes as a nitrogen source
  • use of cover crops (sown between successive crops) to remove excess available nitrogen
  • avoiding use of summer fallow (leaving the land unplanted, with no crop nitrogen uptake, for a season)
  • adjusting tillage intensity (sometimes, but not always, no-till practices can reduce emissions)

Despite much progress, the nitrogen cycle on farms still results in the leakage of N2O and reducing these leaks remains a research priority.

What Farmers Can Do To Enhance The CO2 Sink

To reduce CO2 farmers must basically consider three things: 

  1. increase plant yield (photosynthesis);
  2. increase the proportion of fixed carbon added to soil; or
  3. slow the rate of organic matter decomposition.

Here is a list of things that can be done:

  • Reduce in tillage
  • Restore degraded land
  • Improve pasture management
  • Reduce fallow periods
  • Add animal manures to the soil
  • Crop residue management
  • Use legumes and/or grasses in crop rotations
  • Convert marginal crop land to perennial grass or trees
  • Use rotational grazing and high-intensity/short duration grazing
  • Plant shrubs and trees as shelterbelts
  • Restore wetlands

In addition to sequestering carbon in the soil, these practices also increase soil productivity, enhance the quality of water running off or draining from agricultural land, and provide a more hospitable environment for wildlife inhabiting agricultural lands.These practices can also help improve profitability. For example, minimum tillage increases energy efficiency by reducing machinery use. Improved crop varieties and crop fertilization can increase yields and soil carbon.

Good news, Canadian croplands have been a net sink for CO2 starting in about 1990. However, until recently the removals on croplands were offset by carbon losses from forests and grasslands recently converted to cropland. It is only since about 2000 that agricultural lands have been a net sink for CO2 when land use change is taken into account.The annual total GHG emissions from farms in Canada have increased from 1990 to 2009 with the main driver is the increase in the beef and swine populations, although they have stabilized in recent years. 

Ways Farmers Can Reduce Methane

Beyond altering the diet of cows, methane emissions can be reduced indirectly by choosing management practices that enhance productivity:

  • extending lactation periods of dairy cows
  • using more efficient breeds
  • improving reproductive performance
  • increasing rates of gain in beef animals so they reach the market sooner

While these practices may not reduce emissions per animal per day, they can lower the amount of CH4 emitted per kilogram of milk or meat produced. Research has also shown that CH4 from manures can be reduced. Management practices that can be effective include: 

  • aerating manure 
  • storing manure at low temperatures (below ground)
  • removing manure from storage more frequently
  • using bedding material to improve aeration 
  • composting manure 
  • using biological filters
  • trapping the CH4 (methane) and burn it as fuel


Edmonton Root For Trees: Deadline for Volunteers to Register

Edmonton Root for Trees is accepting volunteers to plant trees in the city. There will be a sign up online on May 25 so mark your calendar. I see they will be planting trees in Blackmud Ravine area, which is the closest area for me to volunteer, but there are various locations around the city. Check out their website.

Climate Change Canada – WWW.Canada.ca

Canadian Photos credit Lucy

Recent news (and last week’s Blog post) have reported highlights of Canada’s climate plan, including new commitments for greater, faster reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030, enroute to carbon net zero by 2050.

We decided to dig a little deeper at the source – the federal government’s official website on climate change for “Canada’s action, climate future, partnerships, adaptation, health, science, emissions reporting,” at:  https://bit.ly/3xGvjoM

Here we found the following list of topics –

  • Causes and effects of climate change
  • Canada’s international action on climate change
  • Climate change funding programs
  • Take climate action
  • Climate change: Indigenous and Northern communities
  • Climate action map
  • Climate science 2050
  • Canada’s climate plan
  • Results of Canada’s climate change action
  • Climate change science, research and data
  • Women and climate change
  • Canadian Centre for Climate Services
  • Canada’s Changing Climate Report

Canada’s international action on climate change section, and the environmental indicators section, for example, while quite technical, provide useful details on calculating methodology and the data behind Canada’s regular reports on progress as a signatory to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).

Setting Newfoundland Photo credit Lucy

Many charts and long descriptions break down the sources and trends in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, by economic sector, province/territory, and by seven gas types – “carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)”.  (https://bit.ly/338uya0)

While the top five emitting provinces are identified as Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, “Figure ES–8: Greenhouse gas emissions by province and territory in 2005, 2010 and 2019,” provides more nuanced detail, showing for example, an overall downward trend in emissions by Ontario for example, in contrast to Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s upward trend in emissions and Quebec’s holding pattern over time. The accompanying long descriptions explain the drivers for these and other trends.

“Figure ES–7: Breakdown of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector (2019),” underscores the need for contributing climate action by all sectors of our economy if Canada is to achieve its GHG reduction targets and carbon net zero goal —

Agriculture – 10%

Buildings – 12%

Heavy Industry – 11%

Waste and Others –  7%

Oil and Gas – 26%

Electricity – 8.4%

Transport – 25%.

(Canada’s Climate Change Environmental Indicators –https://bit.ly/338uya0)

Setting Newfoundland photo credit Lucy

“Cow cocktail joins battle to reach net zero”

In terms of the agriculture sector, Canada may want to keep track of experiments underway in New Zealand as a potential source for how the sector might further reduce harmful methane emissions.

In this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, with the eye catching title of “Cow cocktail joins battle to reach net zero,” we learn that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “estimates a global methane reduction of 40 per cent to 45 per cent by 2030 is needed to limit global warming to 1.5C as cheaply as possible. Moreover, because methane stays in the atmosphere for only a decade, reducing its output can deliver a relatively quick win compared with CO2, which lingers for centuries.”

Methane is where the cows come in.

The New Zealand experiments in “Kowbucha” (we did not make this up!) supplements are testing whether cultures for making yogurts and cheeses can “reduce the amount of methane cows burp when they digest grass and feed.”.. “Kowbucha is one of the possible candidates for the (Fonterra) co-operative, which is looking at other options including seaweed.”

“The company, which has an annual $72 million (U.S.) research budget, has also worked on developing ‘climate-smart’ cows whose stomachs emit less methane, as well as vaccines.” For the full Sydney Morning Herald article, see: https://bit.ly/3gQn4jU

Photo credit Lucy

Canada’s Changing Climate

Headline statements found in this section paint a worrisome set of climate change patterns, ending with projections for two very different kinds of scenarios for our future  (https://bit.ly/3vybVs0).

  • “Scenarios with limited warming will only occur if Canada and the rest of the world reduce carbon emissions to near zero early in the second half of the century and reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases substantially.”   We are pleased that Canada’s climate action plan commits to the scenario we want – limited warming – for the sake of our children, grandchildren and future generations. We are committed to doing our part to realizing this better, livable future, and to holding our governments and businesses to account for striving forward on Canada’s goal to be carbon net zero by 2050.
  • “Canada’s climate has warmed and will warm further in the future, driven by human influence. Global emissions of carbon dioxide from human activity will largely determine how much warming Canada and the world will experience in the future, and this warming is effectively irreversible. {2.3, 3.3, 3.4, 4.2} “
  • “Both past and future warming in Canada is, on average, about double the magnitude of global warming. Northern Canada has warmed and will continue to warm at more than double the global rate. {2.2, 3.3, 4.2}”
  • “Oceans surrounding Canada have warmed, become more acidic, and less oxygenated, consistent with observed global ocean changes over the past century. Ocean warming and loss of oxygen will intensify with further emissions of all greenhouse gases, whereas ocean acidification will increase in response to additional carbon dioxide emissions. These changes threaten the health of marine ecosystems. {2.2, 7.2, 7.6}”
  • “The effects of widespread warming are evident in many parts of Canada and are projected to intensify in the future. In Canada, these effects include more extreme heat, less extreme cold, longer growing seasons, shorter snow and ice cover seasons, earlier spring peak streamflow, thinning glaciers, thawing permafrost, and rising sea level. Because some further warming is unavoidable, these trends will continue. {4.2, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 6.2, 7.5}”
  • “Precipitation is projected to increase for most of Canada, on average, although summer rainfall may decrease in some areas. Precipitation has increased in many parts of Canada, and there has been a shift toward less snowfall and more rainfall. Annual and winter precipitation is projected to increase everywhere in Canada over the 21st century. However, reductions in summer rainfall are projected for parts of southern Canada under a high emission scenario toward the late century. {4.3} “
  • “The seasonal availability of freshwater is changing, with an increased risk of water supply shortages in summer. Warmer winters and earlier snowmelt will combine to produce higher winter streamflows, while smaller snowpacks and loss of glacier ice during this century will combine to produce lower summer streamflows. Warmer summers will increase evaporation of surface water and contribute to reduced summer water availability in the future despite more precipitation in some places. {4.2, 4.3, 5.2, 5.4, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4}”
  • “A warmer climate will intensify some weather extremes in the future. Extreme hot temperatures will become more frequent and more intense. This will increase the severity of heatwaves, and contribute to increased drought and wildfire risks. While inland flooding results from multiple factors, more intense rainfalls will increase urban flood risks. It is uncertain how warmer temperatures and smaller snowpacks will combine to affect the frequency and magnitude of snowmelt-related flooding. {4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 5.2, 6.2}”
  • “Canadian areas of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans have experienced longer and more widespread sea-ice-free conditions. Canadian Arctic marine areas, including the Beaufort Sea and Baffin Bay, are projected to have extensive ice-free periods during summer by mid-century. The last area in the entire Arctic with summer sea ice is projected to be north of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. This area will be an important refuge for ice-dependent species and an ongoing source of potentially hazardous ice, which will drift into Canadian waters. {5.3} “
  • “Coastal flooding is expected to increase in many areas of Canada due to local sea level rise. Changes in local sea-level are a combination of global sea level rise and local land subsidence or uplift. Local sea level is projected to rise, and increase flooding, along most of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Canada and the Beaufort coast in the Arctic where the land is subsiding or slowly uplifting. “
  • “The loss of sea ice in Arctic and Atlantic Canada further increases the risk of damage to coastal infrastructure and ecosystem as a result of larger storm surges and waves. {7.5}”
  • “The rate and magnitude of climate change under high versus low emission scenarios project two very different futures for Canada. Scenarios with large and rapid warming illustrate the profound effects on Canadian climate of continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Scenarios with limited warming will only occur if Canada and the rest of the world reduce carbon emissions to near zero early in the second half of the century and reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases substantially.”

Canada’s Changing Climate Headline Statements – https://bit.ly/3vybVs0

Canada’s Changing Climate Full Report, Digital Interactive Version –https://changingclimate.ca/CCCR2019/

“Force of Nature”

We recommend Justin Worland’s Time magazine article, “Climate is Everything: How the Pandemic Can Lead Us to a Better, Greener World,” Some more sobering food for thought about the tipping point humans have arrived at, and the choices at hand for charting our future path, written from an American perspective but relevant broadly.

“Whether it leads to a more resilient world or exacerbates the worst elements of our society depends on whether we adjust or just stumble through,” contends Worland.

He quotes climate leader Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, “We are at the point where climate change means systems change – and almost every system will change….That understanding is long overdue, but I don’t think we know exactly what it means yet. It’s a moment of maximum hope; it’s also a moment of high risk.” (https://time.com/5953374/climate-is-everything/)

Cover Photo of Time Magazine by Red Hong Yi