Ecosystem Health and Wealth

A Position Paper submitted to Genome Canada (July 4, 2008)
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Relevance of Ecosystem Health for Canada. Terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems support a significant proportion of Canada's economy, including forestry, fishing, and ecotourism. As such, the sustainability of Canada's natural capital relies upon healthy ecosystems. In addition to supporting major industries, healthy ecosystems provide water filtration services, wild life habitat, carbon storage facilities, and allow for effective pollination. Knowledge of interrelationships between ecosystem components is essential for effective, long-lasting management. This position paper aims to address major issues which are becoming challenges to ecosystem health in Canada, including,

  • Impacts of contaminant, as in waste water (municipal, industrial), oil sands, etc;
  • Impacts of industry: logging, mining, hydroelectricity production, navigation, etc;
  • Biotic threats to our forests, flora and fauna: pests, invasives, from globalization;
  • Worldwide demands for water will put increasing pressure upon Canadian resources for sustainable management and protection;
  • Impacts of accelerating environmental change, including climate change, upon forest adaptability and productivity.

Genome Sciences Can Help to Ensure a Healthy Future for our Ecosystems. In the simplest of terms, Canadians want better ways to repair, use, and protect ecosystems in order to derive environmental, economic and social benefits. Canada is known to have great strengths in these areas thanks to long term investments in research and stewardship of land and aquatic ecosystem resources [Read more]. Genome sciences have already begun to revolutionize the ways in which we sustain and manage our resources; just like DNA fingerprinting has revolutionized forensics.

Vision Developed in this Paper. The proposition of this paper is that by building upon our existing strengths and seizing upon the opportunities, genomics can lead to more effective and efficient solutions for identifying issues; assessing and monitoring the situation, associated risks, and impacts; repairing or protecting systems against negative impacts; and monitoring /assessing the effectiveness of the solutions. The next phase of enhanced applications and impacts of genomics to ecosystem health and wealth requires an integrated approach, covering multiple ecosystem components.  In order to illustrate how we can address the problems, risks and impacts affecting the health and wealth of Canada's ecosystems, specific examples and approaches are proposed under two major strategic areas of focus:

  • Water/Soil Quality and Safety
  • Adaptation to Accelerated Environmental Change

Consultation process. The Ecosystem Health and Wealth proposition has been developed through a bottom-up process that relied on input and comments from stakeholders who are interested in these issues and their importance for the well-being of all Canadians. [Read more]

John MacKay
Laval University, Quebec (Qc), G1K 7P4, 418-656-2278
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