Monday, March 21, 2011

Canada's 'global treasure' of freshwater

Canada urged to protect water in boreal forests
Postmedia News: 'Canada has the unrivalled opportunity to protect the world's largest intact freshwater ecosystem and the responsibility to enact sound conservation and sustainable development policy to safeguard the boreal forest,' says the International Boreal Conservation Science Panel, composed of leading scientists from Canada and the U.S.

The 76-page report, entitled A Forest of Blue: Canada's Boreal Forest, the World's Waterkeeper (.pdf), is published by the Pew Environment Group, a U.S.-based non-profit group... It says that Canada's boreal forest contains 25 per cent of the world's wetlands, more surface water than any other continental-scale landscape. The forests also hold an estimated 147 billion tonnes of carbon -- that's equivalent to more than 25 years worth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The boreal... is a 'vital bulwark; against the global loss of biodiversity, provides irreplaceable food and cultural benefits, and 'ecosystem services,' says the report... There are more than 3,000 abandoned mines in the boreal... 'Many continue to leak toxic byproducts into surrounding waters.'... More water diversion occurs in Canada than in any other country... More than 155,000 active and 117,000 abandoned oil and gas wells exist in Canada's boreal... Alberta's oilsands gets special attention for destruction for destruction of wetlands, lowering water tables, and generating contaminants...

The report calls for reform of mining legislation and hydroelectric policy and creation of a national strategy that stipulates no net loss of wetlands and peatlands. It also calls for protection and conservation of the entire Mackenzie River watershed...

'It is imperative that the world recognize and protect the fresh water that is left,' ecologist Stuart Pimm, at Duke University, said in a statement released with the report. 'Canada has an extraordinary opportunity that does not exist anywhere else in the world to keep its aquatic ecosystems intact and to create a positive ripple effect on the land, animals, birds and people who depend on these resources.'
Image source here.