Agriculture & Food Sustainability Lead, Ducks Unlimited Canada
The long-term resilience of Canada’s food supply depends on a harmonious coexistence with our natural environment. Ducks Unlimited Canada is showing the way.
As we move into the future, it is time to remember that we are all part of the natural environment. Environmental preservation, biodiversity, clean water, and healthy wildlands are not simply ends in themselves, they are also the means by which we ensure the resiliency and sustainability of our society, our climate preparedness, and our food supply.
Acknowledging and acting upon this truth requires that we break down all of our notional boundaries between “natural” spaces and “working” spaces. Biodiversity isn’t only found in untouched natural areas. Working landscapes such as farms also host biodiversity both above and below ground. We need to recognize that Canadian farms and ranches produce more than food. They also produce a variety of environmental benefits that society relies on.
Making food choices that support modern Canadian agriculture is important.
“Biodiversity can help build resiliency,” explains Kristine Tapley, Agriculture and Food Sustainability Lead at Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC). “Diversity in the species we plant — like in pastures and fields — can ensure there is a strong foundation that helps protect our soil even though conditions may be inconsistent or extreme. Diversity across the landscape means including natural spaces that can hold water in times of drought, filter our groundwater, store carbon, and enhance pollinator activity to help produce the food we need. All these benefits are already being offered by Canadian farms and ranches, but they are not currently recognized or rewarded for it.”
For Canadian agriculture, being the best isn’t enough
The interconnection between biodiversity and our food supply is becoming clearer, and it’s a positive message Canada is well positioned to promote. We are already a world leader in sustainable agriculture, but there is always more that we could be doing. “By embracing technology — such as crop protection products, precision agriculture, and genetic research — we can strive for sustainable intensification,” says Tapley. “Sustainable intensification means we can grow more on the same or less land and stop growing food on land that isn’t productive. These marginal areas can be used to provide other benefits by being restored to nature or habitat like grasslands or wetlands. At Ducks Unlimited Canada, we always say to farm the best and leave the rest.”
Making this ambition into reality will, however, require a shift in the way we measure and incentivize practices and productivity. In our current model, natural spaces integrated within farms are generally not considered as assets, despite their incredible value in terms of biodiversity and climate resilience. Reimagining our foundational approaches to how we value nature is no simple process, but conservation groups like DUC are collaborating to blaze trail towards a new framework of nature-based solutions. International initiatives such as the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) — which DUC joined last year — are doing the essential work of formalizing recommendations that can protect both businesses and biodiversity.
“The TNFD is a global voluntary disclosure framework for corporate reporting on nature-related risks, aimed at supporting a shift to nature-positive outcomes,” says Alana Hannaford, National Sustainability Analyst at DUC. “DUC provides nature-based solutions at scale, and is well-positioned to support industry partners looking to integrate the TNFD recommendations as part of their own corporate sustainability reporting.”
Everything is connected: from nature to the market
Every element of our society — from urbanization to agriculture — flows from the systems and incentives that we collectively put in place. Decisions that impact Canadian biodiversity don’t happen only in the legislature, in the boardroom, or on the farm. They happen also at the grocery store and in the kitchen.
“Making food choices that support modern Canadian agriculture is important,” says Tapley. “For example, the prairie ecosystem needs a large grazing animal for rejuvenation and to foster biodiversity. In Canada, cattle fill this role and are extremely important in maintaining one of the world’s most at-risk ecosystems, the prairie grasslands, which are located right in our own backyard.”
By understanding all the angles of biodiversity and appropriately valuing nature on the farm and elsewhere, we can ensure that our agricultural lands are sustainable and our food supply secure. The best path forward is one that adequately prioritizes both sustainable food production and environmental preservation. Because in the long term, these two things are one and the same.
Learn more at ducks.ca.