Why does there need to be a Grassland Inventory?
Grasslands are vitally important ecosystems. They are also the most fragmented and altered terrestrial ecosystem on the planet. Conversion of grassland reduces its capacity to support biodiversity and further threatens to reduce critical services – carbon storage, nutrient cycling, forage production, water storage and pollination.
Approximately 80 to 85 per cent of Canada’s native grasslands have disappeared. Consequently, project partners recognize a need for an ongoing, comprehensive grassland inventory. While other land-use types are regularly assessed using a consistent methodology, there is no national inventory methodology applied to Canadian grasslands (native and tame). Further, grassland classification terminology has not been nationally defined, thus limiting effective collaboration across Canada. Management and accounting of ecological services have been hindered as a result.
What is proposed?
This project will identify and describe all existing grassland inventories in Canada and determine how various inventories can be harmonized to develop a cohesive national grassland inventory. The ultimate aim is to construct a national grassland inventory, including all major grassland types and ecoregions. This would update and inform grassland policy, decision-making and risk assessment across Canada going forward.
The inventory will also allow the Canadian grassland sector and stakeholders to more accurately assess carbon stores in grassland soils and to predict real or expected loss of grasslands over time.
Who will contribute to the grassland inventory?
The project development team comprises agriculture representatives, NGOs and provincial and federal collaborators. As such, the first and last components of this project will be to create a collaborative network that can drive grassland inventory and remote-sensing projects into the future.
Natural habitat in Canada is currently facing severe anthropogenic and climate change-driven impacts and we have become accustomed to witnessing grasslands altered due to land conversion, land management practices, invasive species encroachment and severe drought (Gauthier & Wiken, 2003). Factors that degrade grasslands affect habitat for species at risk (SAR), causing concerns for conservation and biodiversity (Brooks et al., 2002; Marques et al., 2020). A major challenge for ecologists and policymakers is to develop a foundation for establishing conservation priorities (Amar et al., 2012; Gauthier & Wiken, 2003; Stephens et al., 2008). Given the current loss of native grassland in Canada and in the Canadian Prairies, restoration and conservation efforts must proceed with a solid understanding of grassland extent and spatial heterogeneity and its susceptibility to climate change impacts (McInnes et al., 2015; Thorpe et al., 2008).
This initiative aims to develop a national grassland inventory that maps the extent of Canada’s native and tame grasslands and tracks the changes within them regularly. This is the foundation for supporting the development of consistent and evidence-based Federal and Provincial grassland policy, risk assessment, decision making, biodiversity and soil carbon accounting.
On April 21, 2022, CFGA hosted a webinar to share the feedback that was received through a series of interviews and surveys. The following are recordings and slide decks of the presentations.
Grassland Inventory Project Deliverables
Cedric MacLeod, Executive Director - CFGA/ACPF
Setting Policy and Program Goals for a National Grassland Inventory
Barb Kishchuk, PhD - Science Consultation Services
Technical Challenges and Opportunities for Building a National Grassland Inventory
Nasem Badreldin, PhD - Grassland Analytica
Ground Truthing the Geospatial Data
Data Collection & Training Guide Development
Heather Peat Hamm
Toward a National Grassland Classification System
Introducing the Canadian National Vegetation Classification
Don Faber-Langendoen, Senior Ecologist & Conservation Methods Coordinator - NatureServe