June 5th is Environment Day!
While we are waiting to go out on our annual easement monitoring visits, we wanted to highlight some of the environments that are present on the farms we have protected with Farmland Easement Agreements. And what better day to do than that World Environment Day?
Did you know that we protect over 400 acres of forest on our farms? Not only do the trees in these forests produce oxygen, but they store carbon, which helps to fight climate change (Colombo et al. 2008). Forests also provide habitat for wildlife, and during our site visits we are lucky enough to see many bird species that call these forests home. Often times, we also see evidence of other animals that live in or use these forests, such as tracks from deer or coyote.
Another type of habitat we have protected with our easements are meadows. These patches of grasslands are incredibly valuable within the landscape of Southern Ontario. While grasslands used to be much more common within the province, they are now fairly scarce (Paiero et al. 2010). This means that the grasslands that remain are even more important to protect. On one of our easement farms, an easement donor has been restoring a patch of meadow to include habitat for wildlife, including grassland birds like Bobolink, and pollinators like Monarch and bees!
Many of our easement properties also contain aquatic habitats like wetlands, ponds and rivers. Wetlands provide several important ecosystem services to the environment. Not only do they help to keep the water in our rivers and lakes clean by filtering sediments and other substances, but they also help to prevent flooding by absorbing water from heavy rain events and releasing it slowly back into the water system (Clarkson et al. 2013). This prevents the rain from rushing into the system all at once, which can lead to flood events that can damage homes and other infrastructure. They also provide habitat for species at risk like the Snapping Turtle or the Least Bittern, both of which have been observed on our protected farms.
And finally, the farmland! Yes, in addition to providing us with food, farmland itself can actually provide habitat for wildlife. As we learned above, natural grasslands are no longer common in much of Ontario, so some species have adapted and now nest and forage in pastures and hay fields rather than meadows (McCracken, 2005). Some of the grassland species that we have observed using the farmland on our protected properties include both Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark. Even the fencerows that run through fields are used by wildlife, and grassland birds like those mentioned above can be seen using fence posts as perches while singing. Farm structures like barns can also be used by wildlife! For instance, Barn Swallows, a species that is provincially listed as threatened, build their nests on barn walls, and forage for insects in the surrounding fields.
With our farmland easement agreements, these habitats and the environmental benefits they provide will be protected in perpetuity.
Clarkson, B. R., Ausseil, A. G. E., & Gerbeaux, P. (2013). Wetland ecosystem services. Ecosystem services in New Zealand: conditions and trends. Manaaki Whenua Press, Lincoln, 192-202.
Colombo, S. J., Chen, J., and Ter-Mikaelian, M. T. (2008). Carbon Storage in Ontario’s Forests, 2000-2100. The Carbon Forestry Chronicle. Retrieved from https://collections.ola.org/mon/22000/270558.pdf
McCracken, J. D. (2005). Where the bobolinks roam: the plight of North America’s grassland birds. Biodiversity, 6(3), 20-29.
Paiero, S. M., Marshall, S. A., Pratt, P. D., & Buck, M. (2010). Insects of Ojibway Prairie, a southern Ontario tallgrass prairie. Arthropods of Canadian grasslands, 1(1), 199-225