April 13, 2023
The Canadian Wildlife Federation is launching an outreach initiative to engage partners and stakeholders in developing a National Native Seed Strategy.
“In the coming years, Canada will need to grow, harvest and deliver native seed for thousands of projects to sequester carbon and meet global biodiversity targets,” says Carolyn Callaghan, senior conservation biologist, terrestrial wildlife. That is why CWF, with funding and support from Environment and Climate Change Canada, will spend the next year bringing together native plant growers, Indigenous communities, government agencies, and others across Canada to envision a framework to grow more ethically raised native plants for restoration.
“Native plants and seeds are fundamental to ecosystem restoration,” says Stefan Weber, CWF’s national seed strategy coordinator. “With few exceptions, native plants and the people who grow and steward them, are overlooked in sustainable development goals, despite their tremendous cultural, medicinal and ecological value.” This negatively impacts wild plant populations and limits the number of new plants and seeds that might be available for restoration.
To address the need for native seed in the most biodiverse and densely populated part of the country, CWF has partnered with Carolinian Canada to co-develop the Southern Ontario Seed Strategy, a multi-sector collaboration that includes Indigenous leadership. Carolinian Canada and its Indigenous partners have taken a Two-Eyed Seeing approach, combining Indigenous and Western ways of knowing in a way that does not value one knowledge system over the other. “Indigenous voices and perspectives are critical to creating a balanced seed strategy, especially when Indigenous People hold a deeper understanding of the land and native plants and can make key recommendations that support an ethical Two-Eyed Seeing approach,” says Sam Whiteye, Carolinian Canada’s Indigenous leadership director.
“Canada is fortunate to be home to 24 percent of the world’s wetlands, 25 percent of temperate rainforest areas and 28 percent of remaining boreal forests. These ecosystems are globally significant as they capture carbon, mitigate against the impacts of climate change and protect biodiversity. Supporting initiatives such as the CWF’s National Native Seed Strategy is the best way to reach our nature conservation goals across Canada as native plants are an important part of the solution. By making investments through the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund, we are making progress toward Canada’s efforts to transition to a net-zero economy by 2050, helping to stem biodiversity loss and contributing to job creation in the green economy,” says the Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
Native plants represent the most important solution to the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. They are specially adapted to the landscapes from which they originate. Native plants grow and thrive by taking carbon out of the air and storing it in their bodies as well as the living soil around their roots. They do this while also providing shade, flood control and food for all other life, including people.
Almost all native plants produce flowers and seeds, and all of them support wildlife, directly or indirectly. Each ecosystem is characterized by unique local plant communities, so a wide range of locally appropriate native plant species is needed to restore ecosystems across Canada. Some species are particularly useful because they produce food and medicine, improve soil fertility, support pollinators, regulate water tables and therefore maintain our agri-food systems. Some native species are adapted to thriving in dry, exposed soils, and so are perfect partners in restoring degraded landscapes.
Realizing Canadian and international commitments to habitat restoration and realizing our potential for natural solutions to climate change will require an enormous supply of sustainably collected native plant seeds. To ensure these restored habitats are adapted to future climates, it’s important that the seeds used to restore Canadian landscapes come from local, wild native plants.
CWF is working with native plant experts across Canada. Sector and regional engagement workshops are being held in 2023 in addition to a survey of over 160 native plant experts across Canada. These efforts will bring together existing regional efforts to share knowledge and brainstorm solutions to the challenges they face related to native plant seeds.
For example, the Southern Ontario Seed Strategy is a regional effort helping to grow more native plants and protect remaining plant populations as sources of seed for future restoration.
“This region is vital to the persistence of many rare species and habitats and impacts the health of millions of people,” says Amy Hall, Carolinian Canada’s manager of ecosystem recovery. “Through native seed conservation, we can begin to heal relationships and to build healthy, resilient landscapes and communities to slow the impacts of biodiversity loss.”
Canada’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund (NSCSF) is a $1.4 billion ten-year fund (2021-2031) administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada to help conserve, restore and enhance the management of ecosystems such as wetlands, forests and grasslands in order to help tackle the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. NSCSF will focus on three main objectives: (1) conserving carbon-rich ecosystems at high risk of conversion to other uses that would release their stored carbon; (2) improving land management practices to reduce their greenhouse gas emission causing impacts on Canada’s ecosystems; and, (3) restoring degraded ecosystems. Overall, these projects will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increased carbon sequestration, while also providing benefits for biodiversity and human wellbeing.
The Canadian Wildlife Federation is a national, not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to conserving Canada’s wildlife and habitats for the use and enjoyment of all. By spreading knowledge of human impacts on wildlife and ecosystems, carrying out conservation actions to protect and restore species and habitats, developing and delivering conservation education programs, advocating for changes to government policy and programs, and co-operating with like-minded partners, CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature.
For more information, visit CanadianWildlifeFederation.ca.
Carolinian Canada is a network of leaders growing healthy landscapes for a green future in the Carolinian Zone, Canada’s extraordinary far south. We bring together science, community and business for innovative solutions for Ontario wildlife. CarolinianCanada.ca
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