Questions and Answers (Q&A)
DAY 1 - JANUARY 18, 2022
Scientific Advancements related to Nutrients and Climate Change
Nutrient Transport and Fate
Groundwater-Surface Water Interactions in the Assiniboine Delta Aquifer Area
What is the importance of this area (the ADA) to the rest of the lake? How does this study contribute to the social-environmental wellbeing of the lake?
The Assiniboine Delta Aquifer (ADA), which straddles the Assiniboine River watershed east of Brandon, Manitoba is the largest surficial sand and gravel aquifer in the LWB (3800 kim2). The contribution of the ADA to the Assiniboine is estimated by Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship to be 4 m3/s along its reach. The Assiniboine River is a major contributor of water to Lake Winnipeg. A previous study of groundwater in the ADA reports that 50% of samples collected from wells located downgradient from agricultural fields - the dominant type of land use above the aquifer (46% of ADA area) - have concentrations above the groundwater-drinking limit.
What are the potential impacts of artificial sweeteners and glyphosate on the lake?
The various impacts of the artificial sweeteners and glyphosate on the lake were not studied in this research, as the effort was concentrated towards “mapping” the water quality and assessing the linkage between surface and groundwater in the ADA.
Can you use Community based monitoring volunteers to collect more samples (i.e. at other locations) and at a higher frequency (event-based) to give better data resolution?
So far this option was not considered. In many cases, collection and processing of water samples (groundwater and/or surface) require highly skilled personnel and specialized equipment and hence, community-based monitoring might have limited benefit or could be detrimental to a monitoring and sampling program that requires high standards. However, depending on the specific research questions associated with various projects, in some cases, community-based monitoring might be appropriate for certain monitoring and sampling activities.
Applying a Bayesian Framework to Track Binational Loads and Sources
You mentioned that pothole prairie areas do not contribute to phosphorous and nitrogen emissions as they retain water and do not contribute to runoff. Does it make sense that you prioritize and advocate for restoring pothole prairies to increase pollution prevention but also water security and flooding prevention?
Yes, we believe that prairie pothole areas should be restored because during major rain/snow melt events these typically non-contributing areas will contribute to the load to Lake Winnipeg. Inclusion of non-contributing areas to our modelling is one of the primary next steps that we are interested in working towards. In our presentation, we identified non-contributing areas such as Devils Lake and other large areas (see Slide 7). All of the modelling work that was presented during the Symposium used the same stream network, in which non-contributing areas were not connected. In the next 5 years, we will correct the stream network and re-run our Bayesian SPARROW models to capture wet/dry seasons/years. This work will allow us to better link the major high flow events with algal blooms in Lake Winnipeg.
Do you have your results for the effect of channel distance from L Winnipeg on delivery of TP yield to L Winnipeg?. i.e. are closer sources more significant to L Winnipeg loading?
In our presentation, the Canadian hotspot is located near the City of Winnipeg. The total phosphorus (TP) load from this hotspot accounts for about 7.2% of the total load delivered into Lake Winnipeg. In contrast, the US hotspot is about 550 km south of Lake Winnipeg and it contributes about 2.6% of the total load (see Slides 15 and 16).
Mulla and Whetter (2020) identified five TP and TN (total nitrogen) hotspots. Three of them (La Salle, Seine, and Morris) are located in Canada about 100 km south from Lake Winnipeg and together they deliver about 9.1% of the total TP load. The remaining two are in the US (Upper Sheyenne and Western Wild Rice about 600km away from Lake Winnipeg and they deliver about 6.9% of the overall TP load (see Slides 17 and 18).
The delivery fraction represents the amount of TP that is delivered to Lake Winnipeg from a specific location within the Red-Assiniboine-River network which depends on the source (e.g., manure/fertilizer), the losses (e.g., settlement in reservoirs), and land-to-water-delivery (runoff). In our Bayesian framework, each reach (n=72,800) in the Red-Assiniboine River Basin has a delivery fraction which varies with losses and runoff. The delivery fraction represents the percentage of the incremental load from each reach that will be delivered to Lake Winnipeg. In the Red River watershed, the delivery fraction typically ranged from 50% to 100%. In the Upper Assiniboine River watershed, as well as, in the Souris River watershed, delivery fractions were typically lower, ranging between 5% and 50%. Across the Red-Assiniboine River Basin, upstream regions located in the most eastern part of the basin, as well as, in the northwest end of the basin have delivery fractions of less than 1%.
How could concentrations be integrated into the load-oriented nutrient management?
At sampling locations (n=101, see Slide 7) TP concentrations and flows are used to calculate observed loads. These loads were used to calibrate our Bayesian SPARROW model and to predict TP loads at each of the river reaches (n=72,800) within the Red-Assiniboine River Basin. Our Bayesian modelling framework can be used to compute the probability that each reach has of exceeding nutrient targets based on loads or concentrations. These calculations can be scaled up to station catchments, River Basins (e.g., Red River), and political boundaries. Our next steps in the next 5 years include examining nutrient targets (TP and TN) across different spatial and temporal scales and reporting on exceedances.
Do you have a sense of how much smaller rural wastewater systems are contributing to TP and TN loads to the lake?
Overall across the Red-Assiniboine River Basin, wastewater systems in urban areas on average have a delivered incremental TP load of 15,000 kg/yr. In rural areas, wastewater systems average a delivered incremental TP load is much lower at about 850 kg/yr.
In our Canadian hotspot (Slide 15), wastewater systems have high delivered TP loads to Lake Winnipeg. In the City of Winnipeg, wastewater systems deliver TP loads between 100,000 kg/yr and 200,000 kg/yr. At the edge of the city, TP loads typically range between 200 kg/yr and 5,000 kg/yr. In small rural areas, TP loads are generally lower ranging between 5 and 400 kg/yr.
Our next steps in the next 5 years include applying our Bayesian framework to predict TN loads to Lake Winnipeg. We will also examine the contributions of wastewater systems and relate our findings in the context of treatment type and the effects of wet and dry years resulting from climate change.
Fate of Bioavailable Nutrients from Episodic Wastewater Lagoon Releases
You mentioned a little bit about flows (and stream temperature) varying between the three sampling campaigns - what sort of transit time(s) did you see between the pipe inflow and your downstream sampling sites? and were diffuse N and P contributions along that reach included in the estimates of nutrient transformation and uptake?
The segment of the stream we measured was not gauged and flow changed quickly throughout the lagoon release period which made accessing the sites to measure flow based on stream cross-sections via wading unsafe; therefore, we did not have formal measures of transit time. However, we did wait until we were confident effluent had reached all sites before sampling, and based on data from the nearest gauging station, we can say that transit times were higher during the fall sampling campaign than in the two summer campaigns. We used a conservative tracer of wastewater (acesulfame) to correct N and P for dilution by other sources (e.g., from upstream, by groundwater or other inflows), but it is possible that downstream increases in nutrient concentrations could be related to other unaccounted for sources (e.g., nutrient release from sediment).
You mentioned smaller rural wastewater lagoons are not required to meet nutrient discharge limits. Do you have a sense of how much these systems are contributing to TP and TN loads to Lake Winnipeg?
Previous estimates based on lagoon volumes suggest lagoons and other small wastewater treatment systems do not account for much of the total TP/TN load to Lake Winnipeg. However, these estimates do not account for the variability in the number of lagoon releases per year, emergency releases that do not meet nutrient limits/timing, and other sources like leaking septic systems, leaching from septic fields, etc. Moreover, the types of nutrients released are important – sewage contains a high concentration of the bioavailable forms of N and P relative to other sources. Updated estimates including loads of bioavailable N and P, rather than total concentrations, are needed. We also need to consider the impact of direct-to-stream discharge of large nutrient pulses – even if the individual impact on the lake is low, the impact on stream ecosystems across the province is high.
Climate Change Implications on Hydrology
Snowpack Response in the Assiniboine-Red River Basin under Global Warming Scenarios
Rajesh R. Shrestha
Can you explain why the rate of snowpack melt is expected to slow down?
In the future climate, projections based on the snowmelt model indicate slower snowmelt rates. This is likely due to the shift of the snowmelt to earlier in the year, which is a time of lower available energy (for example, net solar radiation). A number of studies provide a detailed explanation of this change (e.g. Barnhart et al., 2016; Musselman et al., 2017).
Barnhart, T.B., Molotch, N.P., Livneh, B., Harpold, A.A., Knowles, J.F., Schneider, D., 2016. Snowmelt rate dictates streamflow. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 8006–8016. https://doi.org/10.1002/2016GL069690.
Musselman, K.N., Clark, M.P., Liu, C., Ikeda, K., Rasmussen, R., 2017. Slower snowmelt in a warmer world. Nature Clim. Change 7, 214–219. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3225.
With a switch to a more hybrid regime, do you anticipate greater or lesser connectivity between wetlands and the tributaries under the future scenarios?
In the future climate, analysis based on the snowmelt model results indicates a transition from snowmelt-dominated to rain-snow hybrid regime. While the smaller snowpack and lower snowmelt-driven runoff can generally be expected to lead to lesser connectivity between wetlands and tributaries in the spring melting period, increasing runoff can be expected to increase soil moisture and enhance the connectivity during winter months (both compared to the historical period). Additionally, other factors such as changes in precipitation amount and intensity, evapotranspiration, soil moisture as well as compound events (e.g. rain-on snow) will also play a role in decreasing/increasing seasonal variability of the connectivity.
Assiniboine Watershed Modelling to Predict Nutrient Loading Under BMPs and Climate Change Scenarios
Were allowances for the use of the Portage Diversion factored into the modelling?
Yes, Portage Diversion was included in the SWAT model based on the historical observed data
Did the mean load calculation consider the log relation between flow and concentration?
In the version of the model presented, we have assumed a linear relationship between flow and concentration. However, we are planning to identify the nature of the relationship from the observed data and use that information for the next version of the model.
How do the results of your model compare with the SPARROW model that was presented this morning by Agnes?
While the fundamentals of the two models are different, (one is process-based and the other is statistical), the regional distribution of nutrient hot spots identified by the two models are similar.
How much of the nutrient load discrepancy seen between the actual and SWAT model results is due to flow and how much is due to concentration?
The discrepancy between observed and modelled nutrient load could have come from both; some from error in the hydrologic simulation, and some from the representation of the nutrient processes in the model.
Did you also include the Lake of the Prairies and the use of the Shellmouth Dam?
Yes, Lake of the Prairies (Shellmouth reservoir) is one of the 12 reservoirs included in the SWAT model of the Assiniboine watershed
Towards a Linked Hydrological-Biogeochemical Modelling System to Assess Stressors on the State of Lake Winnipeg
If you moved away from a chemostatic model for your nutrient load simulations, what sort of model would you apply?
Yes. It is one tool, but not the only tool.
If we need to reduce the flow on the Red, is wetland restoration the tool by which to achieve that given that the pothole region tends to flow into the Assiniboine?
Chemodynamic, or a numerical model with a better representation of processes. This is the direction we would like to go.
DAY 2 - JANUARY 19, 2022
Advancing the Knowledge of In-lake and Watershed Science
Wetland Vegetation Change in Netley Libau Marsh
Could you explain a bit on how the hydro operations upstream/downstream of the lake may affect vegetation and nutrients?
Anything that reduces the frequency of prolonged low water conditions will affect emergent plants negatively. Hydro regulation of Lake Winnipeg is one of the factors that can reduce the frequency of low water.
What do vegetation losses mean for Lake Winnipeg?
Plants uptake nutrients and provide surfaces on which bacteria and other microbiota live. Collectively, this reduces nutrients in water that otherwise flow into Lake Winnipeg. Loss of vegetation therefore translates into more nutrients going into the lake.
What "management system" would best make it possible to harvest cattails as biomass to maximize nutrient (particularly phosphate) removal?
The technology for harvesting cattails is still in development. Richard Grosshans at the International Institute for Sustainable Development is, I think, the expert in this area and he may be able to advise you better on the most desirable management system for harvesting cattails.
I live in the area of the red River Selkirk. I believe they stop dredging the red River in 1990. This has cause several areas to be shallow including the mouth of the river. The sediment at the mouth is so low that pontoon boats are stuck. In the spring, the province has been ice breaking up to the cut in the marsh. Thus causing the water from flooding to flow through the marsh increasing its depth. Should the province dredge the mouth for better flow?
Dredging was ended in the late 1990s as a cost-cutting measure by the federal government. Consequently, sedimentation at the mouth of the Red River, where dredging activities used to be concentrated, is dramatic. One of the virtues of our marsh restoration project is that dredging of the Red River channel would provide sediment for re-establishing marsh vegetation while improving navigation potential for the river.
You mentioned shallow water leads to emergent vegetation re-establishment. What specific water elevations promote the regrowth of species such as cattail and bulrush?
I don't know the specific elevations but the water depth that tends to promote the reestablishment of cattails ranges from a few centimetres to about 3/4 of a metre.
Yesterday we heard about increasing hydrologic variability expected under climate change - have you considered what those impacts mean for the vegetation of the marsh?
No, we haven't actually, that would be potentially desirable because the greater hydrologic variability is what vegetation needs to maintain health. So, in theory, yes it would be a good thing but no we haven't investigated that.
Do you see any potential in the basin or Netley Libau Marsh for starting a wild rice planting for food security and to regenerate ecology? Any interest in seeing how to restore wild rice to the Winnipeg basin as it grew in so many rivers in the basin?
One of the groups that we were involved within this project to restore vegetation were Indigenous groups that were quite interested in the possibility of re-establishing country foods in these marshes and wild rice would certainly be one of them. The only thing I guess in my experience is that wild rice tends to occur in sort of stable, rockier bottoms. And that's just not the Netley Libau Marsh. It's typically a very mucky bottom, I'm not sure therefore that wild race would establish there. But there are other plants that could, and so I think there's definitely some potential there for re-establishing some of those other native species.
Can agricultural herbicides be ruled out as a factor in emergent vegetation decline in Netley Libau Marsh?
I think so, yes. Though it is true that there are agricultural herbicide residues in the Red River, but the levels are generally quite low, based on the testing that is done routinely by the provincial and federal governments, but also if they had been effective at killing the vegetation in the marsh, they should be equally effective at killing off algae and they aren't. We aren't seeing a corresponding decline in the amount of phytoplankton than in the water, so no I don't think the herbicides in the water are a major factor in the decline of vegetation.
Could we or do we monitor the effects of carp reductions and subsequent vegetation changes in Delta Marsh and possible similar efforts on Lake Wpg?
Carp are certainly present in Netley-Libau Marsh and they likely have the same degrading effects as in Delta Marsh. But I don't think it would be feasible to attempt carp exclusion at Netley-Libau Marsh due to the large size of the connections between Lake Winnipeg and the marsh. It would be prohibitively expensive to build the type of carp exclusion structures that were built at Delta.
Numerical study on Circulation and Inter-Basin Exchanges in Lake Winnipeg
Are there zooplankton modules in models to reflect the interactions of algae growth and zooplankton and fishes?
The model is capable of using zooplankton. It has all the modules required. However, the current set up does not include zooplankton and their grazing on phytoplankton, so grazing is included in the loss term. However, our plans for future are to use (as the data becomes available) phytoplankton/zooplankton modules to predict the effects on phytoplankton of changes higher in the food web. This might also allow the model to provide input to food web models for fisheries.
Has any work been done to compare the hydrodynamic model water mass mixing results with the oxygen isotope mapping being done by Geoff Keoller?
We simulated the oxygen isotope as a passive tracer to further validate the numerical model. The model results agreed well with the observed data collected in the lake during 2007 (Zhao et al., 2011, JGLR). We will explore to use such an analysis for our current model setup.
Nutrient Sources in the Watershed
Using Load Apportionment Model to differentiate Diffuse and Point Source Phosphorus Inputs to Streams
Total P release with flow graph, the low flow period seems like mostly dissolved form, while the high flow period can be dominated by particulate P. If true, will this help improve the model?
I haven't really thought about that. I would probably need to look into the model.
How does LAM compare with other regression models such as LOADEST and Weighted Regressions on Time, Discharge, and Season (WRTDS)?
We did compare it LOADEST and the Stratified Beale Ratio (Schwab et al. 2009) which revealed no statistical differences in estimated loads between the methods. Therefore, we proceeded with the interpolated loading estimates.
Regarding the point source signal in the Western arm of the LaSalle - there are numerous winter cattle holding facilities in farmyards along the bank of this reach of the LaSalle some areas of which can be compromised with overland flooding during large spring freshets
We were perplexed to see a constant point signal within this sub-watershed, but we did realize that there was a small lagoon that may be discharging effluent throughout the year. Perhaps due to a seepage or leakage? Also, it's interesting that you mentioned the winter cattle holding facilities. I would not be surprised that a slurry pond could contribute to phosphorus export.
You referenced Regulations (since 1976) as one of the culprits related to nutrient loading. Can you elaborate on what you meant by this?
I've mentioned it as being one of looking at human nutrient activities and looking at land use form for coming by. Through that critical element by regulations of what we should impede going into the water.
Contribution of Nitrogen Sources to Streams in the Red River Valley
Most regulations stipulate ammonia levels - do they need to consider nitrate as well?
This is a difficult question to answer. At high enough concentrations, nitrate can be hazardous to animal and human health. On the other hand, nitrate reduction is costly, and, unlike phosphorus, nitrate has a loss pathway whereby it is transformed to nitrogen gas and exits the stream into the atmosphere. Preserving stream and wetland capacity to reduce nitrate is one potential solution. However, while preserving capacity of this loss pathway may keep nitrate levels in check, it also may enhance emissions of nitrous oxides which are harmful green house gasses. Therefore, considerations of potential trade-offs are needed as well as more research in this area to truly understand how these processes work in Manitoba streams.
Are you able to differentiate between wildlife and livestock contributions?
We first used stable isotopes to identify a waste signal, but we are unable to differentiate which source the waste signal comes from (humans or animals) using stable isotopes alone. To help make this differentiation, we measured the concentration of artificial sweeteners present. Artificial sweeteners typically indicate human waste because they are specific to human food products, but one sweetener, saccharin, is also often used as a feed additive for pigs. Because saccharin was the most prevalent sweetener in the snowmelt samples, combined with nitrogen isotope signatures indicative of a waste source, we concluded that the waste source was most likely hog manure. We also know that typically, waste sources would have to present in large amounts to overwhelm other sources in the stream – this is not something we would typically see with wildlife in the area thus it is highly unlikely that wildlife waste would influence the results of this study.
How might this influence development/reassessment of provincial N guidelines for lagoon discharge?
There is a need to balance socioeconomic needs with aquatic ecosystem health. End-of-pipe nitrogen reduction is more costly than that for P. Imposing further guidelines on current lagoon infrastructure is likely not feasible for operators and municipalities without significant investment. Rather, it may be more important that stipulations be made for new or upgraded wastewater systems to be designed to be more protective of downstream ecosystems (e.g., continual discharge systems, incorporation of constructed wetlands).
DAY 3 - JANUARY 20, 2022
Actions Throughout the Basin
Indigenous Engagement on Lake Winnipeg Basin Nutrient Issues in Treaty 4, 5,and 6, Saskatchewan
Is the data gathered posted anywhere and available to be used by the public?
Some data was collected by Indigenous community members within their reserve borders. Each community will decide whether, and under which conditions, that data will be shared according to OCAP and research agreements. Once the student's thesis is published, her dataset will also be published, likely through the Global Water Futures program's GWFNet data portal as we are an affiliate project.
Are you are going to continue using the "Nutrient App" in your citizen science program?
The App is something that community members and youth really enjoy, but it is not very accurate yet. The developers are working on improving it. A benefit of the App is the ease of use, accessible reagents (easy to buy from pet stores) and low cost. If we find that there is a simple correction we can use or a way of improving accuracy, then absolutely, we will continue with it. The photometers are interesting, and older youth are happy using them, but they are more expensive and the reagents are too. The important piece for us was that both the photometer and the App increased engagement, and knowledge of nutrients in waterways. If that is your goal, then I would say yes, go ahead and use the App.
Hotspots have been identified - now what?
Along with Chief and Council from each community, we are considering next steps. There is the desire to build relationships with watershed organizations but there remains a poor record in inclusivity that needs reconciliation and restorative actions. This is where we as researchers partner for training, data management and analysis, and ally ship, but leave the decisions around any actions to the communities.
Swan Lake First Nation Watersheds Stewardship Project
Derek Kornelsen and David Scott
So very inspiring that you lowered Indian Springs dam to let more water flow and have more natural water fluctuations. Please tell us who owns this dam and how difficult it was working with the government regulatory issues.
The dam project and surrounding waters are all on Swan Lake First Nation (SLFN) land. Because SLFN is signatory to the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, which enables SLFN to govern their own land and to develop their own land code and land legislation, it was not necessary to work through typical Indigenous Services Canada channels. Therefore SLFN was able to complete the project in collaboration with Pembina Valley Watershed District with approval from SLFN Chief & Council.
What advice do you have for other Watershed Districts who want to engage with First Nations in their own area?
In our case, I was sent out by my Chief and Council to reach out to our neighbors. There is still a fear of our neighbors to come knocking on our doors. The way I went around it was to go out and discuss these issues with them. My advice is, don't be afraid, go and knock on their doors, keep them informed of any plans that you may have within your districts. Make sure that you have somebody from each of those communities to speak on behalf of leadership. Leadership doesn't necessarily always have the time to engage with each district. We are in a different era now where we shouldn't be afraid to do that. It's a big learning curve, so we just have to keep plugging away at it. Be proactive in terms of engaging when projects are coming up, even potential projects. Often there's talk about engagement, until section 35 comes and it's forced on somebody. Having those discussions ahead of time, even when it's maybe not mandated or important at the time, being proactive in keeping those relationships, and showing that respect consistently is really important.
Building Watershed Resilience with Manitoba’s First Nations and Watershed Districts
Is there any opportunity for other interested parties to see the demonstration of traditional water and land management practices?
We don't have recordings of the demonstrations that occurred, but I would encourage you to reach out to either your local First Nations communities to see if they are available to share their practices and traditional knowledge. As David Scott encouraged, proactive outreach is a great way to initiate learning and grow your understanding.
What tools did you use to better engage with the Indigenous communities?
Our project focused on creating opportunities for connection and knowledge sharing, whether that be through a workshop, breakfast or smaller group meetings. We worked directly with Indigenous speakers and experts, requesting and honouring their traditional knowledge and expertise. A specific resource that we found very helpful were the guidebooks developed by the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, CIER. We invited CIER to demonstrate the First Nations Integrated Watershed Planning Guidebooks at our recent conference. https://yourcier.org/resources/document-library/
Now that the funding for your project has come to a close, how do you think you're going to be able to keep the momentum going?
A big part for us is encouraging that continued collaboration. Building on Dave Scott's comments, don't be afraid to reach out to your local communities, whether you are part of a larger district or within the First Nation itself. Potentially you have that opportunity to connect and to champion these causes as Derek and Dave's presentation highlighted very nicely. What we have also heard is that we need champions to go out and share the information that's available and work to build these relationships because there's so many long-term benefits to that continued collaboration. That's where our focus is - to communicate out what we've learned and provide the opportunity to continue to collaborate.
I will also note that we are always looking for project opportunities to collaborate with First Nations partners on. Currently, we are supporting work with Swan Lake First Nation and Pembina Valley Watershed District through the Living Labs Eastern Prairies project (funded by Agriculture Agri Food Canada). I've linked the most recent copy of the LLEP newsletter below if you'd like to learn more. https://manitobawatersheds.org/living-lab-eastern-prairies-1
As new funding programs are announced, we continue to apply for project funding to support collaboration between Watershed Districts and First Nations partners.
I think it would be a useful tool for scientists and policy makers if you were able to put together a presentation on the traditional management practices that could be shared. Even a place to develop materials for environmental science students.
One of the consistent themes our conversations uncovered was a desire for increased access to and the development of resources to support Indigenous engagement. While we don't have a resource available currently, I would encourage you to explore the CIER resource library. I haven't had the chance to complete all of their workshops but there is one titled "First Nations and the Environment" which might be a good starting point for continued learning.
Improving Riparian Health and Grazing to Benefit Water Quality
Do you think you'll ever run out of landowners who are interested in doing this work?
The quick answer is No. Landowners change and the types of projects we support changes as we learn more about what is effective and what is not. Advances in technology also give people flexibility, such as operating solar-powered watering systems and portable electric fencing from a distance by an app. Things are changing in technology and what we want to focus on sometimes, like the regenerative agriculture movement, is really changing how people use the land.
Wetland and Riparian Area Restoration/Enhancement Protection Program
You mentioned that a regenerative agriculture project had been completed. Was it successful and will it continue this year?
Regenerative agriculture was a new initiative for the watershed district this year. It came out from the direct requests from landowners who participated in the EIWD conservation auction. The district received several bids (17) from landowners interested in implementing regenerative ag on their land, predominately the use of cover crops on fields.
The GROW committee selected 2 bids that showed the highest return on EG&S. One project site was in the process of converting an area from conventional grain farming and integrating short term intensive grazing, the other project site was a combination of multi species cover crop for green manure and poly-cropping. There was a drought, so some of the species that were planted did not come to fruition on the poly cropping site, the green manure and integration of livestock seemed to fair quite well given the circumstances this year.
Innovation & Collaboration
Building Community-led Natural Infrastructure through the Collaborative Leadership Initiative
What does the CLI need to scale up these pilot projects? Are any additional steps being taken to advance this work?
The big thing that CLI needs to advance these projects is funding. One of the barriers we encountered early on, especially for infrastructure projects, is a lack of funding for regional projects with multiple community partners. What's encouraging is that we've seen changes in recent years, especially around climate resilience infrastructure. There's more flexibility across funding sources, both for smaller-scale projects and for regional projects that involve multiple community applicants. That is a good direction. The CLI is also working with the Municipal Natural Asset Inventory to create a natural asset inventory for the region to get a sense of the land base and the natural assets within each community. We want a dashboard where we can pinpoint exactly where we can get the most bang for our buck for different projects. Those pieces are ongoing. Then the idea would be to secure the funding needed to a coordinated network of natural infrastructure across the region.
Community-Based Monitoring Program
Do you receive any funding from the Manitoba government?
We do not receive funding from the Manitoba government.
How do you become a community volunteer? And how much commitment is involved?
The best way to become a volunteer is to reach out via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The commitment is most intense during the snowmelt period, which can vary between two weeks or a month. Sampling during that period is conducted two to three times a week. If a sampling site is on your way to work or near where you live that commitment is pretty small because it only takes about five minutes to collect a sample. Once the spring months are done, sampling goes down to once every two weeks and after large rain events. Please email us for more information if you’re interested in participating.
Manitoba Métis Lake Winnipeg Basin Community Based Monitoring Program
For this project, is there any Indigenous knowledge being gathered, or is it used to guide where samples are collected? If it's gathered, how is it being used to inform others so it can inform decision making and collective action?
Yes, specific Indigenous community knowledge has been collected through all of these processes. We work very closely with Chelsea at the Lake Winnipeg Foundation to determine prioritizing areas of concern for the Nation where our Citizens live as Chelsea mentioned. Many of our Citizen Scientists have chosen to sample in areas where they prioritize harvesting. From that perspective we are able to gather both, specific Indigenous Knowledge as well we are able to look at specific mitigation because we are able to tie those two components together. For the second question, using that information there are a couple things that come in to play. It factors into the work that the foundation is doing, the work that Manitoba is doing, the work that Canada is doing through ECCC and other partnerships. But primarily the MMF’s concern is how do we make best use of that information to the benefit of our Citizens and how are we able to factor that information into prioritizing areas of concern for the Nation. We are also able to focus on relationships with Canada and other governments to ensure that programs and projects that are being undertaken by the Red River Métis government have that information as the foundation of their priorities. So whether it's us working with ECCC, NRCan or whomever, we are able to take that information and measure it to other programs and projects like the Indigenous Advisory Monitoring Committee or with the Impact Assessment Agency.
Land Management for Reducing Phosphorus Losses
Do we know what the best practices are to draw down phosphorus?
We have analyzed data from the long-term research that has been done by Dr. Jane Elliott with Environment and Climate Change Canada in the South Tobacco Creek watershed in Manitoba. Basically we found that when the phosphorus fertilizer input was reduced for three to five years but crops were grown to remove phosphorus from the soil, the practice significantly reduced the soil test phosphorus concentrations in high-phosphorus soils and reduced phosphorus concentrations in both snowmelt and rainfall runoff. Another good news is that it didn't decrease crop yield. So, based on that research, reducing phosphorus inputs and continuing to harvest phosphorus through crops is the best way to draw down phosphorus from soils that contain too much phosphorus. However, we would not want to apply this practice to deplete phosphorus in low-phosphorus soils, where it could lead to severe yield reductions. As soil test phosphorus concentrations vary both within a field and between fields in a watershed, variable rate phosphorus applications by considering the spatial variability of phosphorus distribution would be the best way to draw down phosphorus in high-phosphorus areas, but meanwhile maintain or build up phosphorus in medium- or low-phosphorus areas to achieve overall reduction in phosphorus losses and increase in crop yield. We have been developing research to assess the agronomic, environmental and economic benefits of variable rate phosphorus applications in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
You mentioned that David Lobb developed a phosphorus management tool in your presentation. How does this compare to the tool that the Government of Alberta developed as part of the Alberta Phosphorus Watershed Project?
Given the small size of the research fund that David received for developing the tool, he did not have enough time to compare his tool with the Alberta tool. However, the comparison could be interesting and should deserve some future funding in the area of tool calibration and validation.
Identifying fields, or areas within fields with excess P, especially near surface, is a good approach. Including those that are more likely to generate runoff and contribute to flow in the local streams would seem to be a great approach. Challenge will be to find an efficient way to identify (sample and map) those areas and to convince farmers to "drawdown" P and hopefully maintain profit/acre. Any thoughts on good approaches to work with producers on this because it appears to be a potential win-win if profits can be maintained?
These comments are great. And a great question. Indeed, researchers, environmental managers and producers need to work hand in hand to address this challenging issue. We're learning to work better with producers to tackle this challenging problem. I think one good way would be engaging producers in research. We're actually doing this, e.g. doing research on producers' land. I think in this way it will tremendously increase the mutual trust between researchers and producers. There are also other ways, such as having extension meetings and field days with producers, and developing useful extension materials for producers. In terms of extension materials, we have been developing a blog called “Agricultural Nutrients and Water Quality - recommendations and considerations from our research in the prairies” at the University of Saskatchewan to deliver research findings in a plain language to producers. The blog is at https://words.usask.ca/agwaterquality/.