In the midst of the worst wildfire season in Canada’s recorded history, it is time to re-evaluate how we approach forest ecosystem restoration. megan leslieThe President and CEO of WWF-Canada delivered a keynote address at the recent Collision Tech conference in Toronto on how indigenous led conservation And technology can help build resilience in the face of climate change.
“One thing about me is that I am an incredible optimist, and it has been very difficult to maintain that position lately. As wildfires burn across Canada, we are seeing trees and vegetation disappear. Trees and vegetation that are important habitats for wildlife also contain significant amounts of carbon in their roots, stems and soil.
And it’s all – literally – going up in smoke. As unreal images of smoky, orange-lit cities were broadcast around the world, people were losing their homes and facing uncertainty. And while many species have adapted to either fleeing wildfires or hiding under intensity It is becoming difficult for them to escape from today’s fire.
And then there’s the effect on climate. The trees and soil of forests store vast amounts of carbon that is absorbed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. When those forests burn, that carbon is released back into the atmosphere, further increasing global warming through a positive feedback loop.
Why is all this happening?
Of course, we know that wildfire can be a Natural part of ecosystem activity but let me assure you that this frequency and severity of fire not natural,
Forests are more vulnerable to fire than ever before. And it’s all connected – climate change has altered the rain cycle and created hotter and drier conditions in some regions, while milder winters have allowed new invasive insects to spread, creating vast stands of dead trees. Those who do the work of igniting the forest fire go. In addition, humans have weakened the resistance of forests to fire because of the way we manage them, mainly for Yield.
All the other plants are missing in that picture: the understory, the wild flowers and shrubs, and the species diversity. They are not really forests. Forests are rich, disordered, complex, thriving ecosystems.
In many cases, we fail to see the forest for the trees because we all plant trees. Resilience, wildlife and climate change have been left out of the equation.
We can do better than this
We passed To do better than this.
So let’s talk about what we can do to recover from these terrible fires and also prevent this terrible fire from happening again because it is possible to do both at the same time!
First, we must do everything possible to combat climate change and avoid its worst effects. It is meant to reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions through decarbonisation.
And since ecosystems store carbon, it also means avoiding the release of carbon from nature by preventing the loss and destruction of carbon-rich ecosystems such as our peatlands and forests.
we have to to protect These spaces not only protect against development, but also protect against future fires. This means we need to change the way we manage forests to promote resilience and ultimately, this means increasing the absorption of carbon in nature. Restoring The land has already been converted or damaged.
And that’s the solution I want to explore with you, because technology has so much potential to change the way we do this.
let me tell you about it Secwepemcùl’ecw Restoration and Stewardship Society Reforestation efforts at Elephant Hill.
This is about 200,000 hectares of their territory near Kamloops BC that burned three months during 2017. The aftermath of the fire shocked members of the community. Many people lost their homes, and massive erosion and landslides following the fire forever changed the surrounding landscape, further threatening the already damaged salmon habitat.
Rather than reforestation using the standard approach of modern forestry, which prioritizes coniferous trees with high economic value for logging, the community sets its own goals. own approach, an approach based on their own values and indigenous knowledge that prioritizes resilience and biodiversity.
It also meant planting deciduous trees, which are more fire resistant! This meant prioritizing the placement of the understory under the canopy. It also means measuring and monitoring the carbon released in their landscape (and how it is changing over time) so that they can validate their approach and attract new investors to support their restoration efforts.
And this is where technology comes in. Historically, measuring and monitoring carbon in nature has been extremely costly and time-consuming, making proper “before-and-after” assessments very difficult and impossible to determine how carbon will change in response to conservation. How does the level of Attempt.
We needed a cheap and efficient approach to measuring carbon in nature that was also user-friendly. So WWF-Canada made Nature x Carbon Tech ChallengeCatalyzing the tools for nature-based climate solutions is a challenge and now one of the finalist awardees is working with SRSS to help validate their efforts.
Innovatri Carbon Group Limited developed a software that relies on LiDAR data and machine learning to calculate the carbon found in forest biomass. This technology creates information that can be scaled under individual trees.
And this level of detail is important because there is a lot of variability when it comes to carbon sequestration.
Imagine that dirty jungle again. I mean, trees grow at different rates and even adjacent trees can have different shade and moisture levels. More detailed analysis provides a greater level of accuracy and precision. It can also tell us whether these trees survive after restoration.
Now you must be wondering why do we need to bother with reforestation. Why are forests not regenerating on their own after a fire?
Some of us learned in school how the heat of a fire breaks open conifer cones and then the seeds inside are distributed. Well, in some of the fires we’re seeing today, conditions are so hot that they’re scorching soils and conifers, leaving nothing to grow. Reforestation assistance is needed, and technology is being harnessed to make it faster, easier and cheaper.
There are some dark things going on, but I have hope. This is a lot And that’s because we have solutions and opportunities. There are incredible examples of how technology developed for one purpose can be adapted to serve a different, yet important purpose for nature, wildlife and climate.
Technology is a cornerstone of conservation, helping us amplify our impact beyond our wildest dreams. Technology is making conservation better.
And as we can see in Interior BC, technology, combined with indigenous knowledge, is changing how we can work to restore nature after these fires burn.