New peatland research program to help reach net zero carbon

<p>Photo of a group of people walking in a very large clearing next to a boreal forest consisting mainly of conifers. We see a long line of edging trees going into the distance and the clearing is mainly covered with a carpet of small shrubs with the</p>

<p>rare lonely conifer popping out in the middle here and there. People, who seem to be looking for something, have colorful jackets, making a nice contrast with the tan of the shrubs, the green of the trees, and a greyish-blue sky.</p>
(Photo credit: Nipissing University)

Dr. Colin McCarter, Assistant Professor at Nipissing University and Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Climate and Environmental Change has partnered with the City of Greater Sudbury and Vale Base Metals, along with Drs. Pete Whittington (Brandon University), Ellie Goud (St. Mary’s University), Nathan Basiliko (Lakehead University), John Gunn and Peter Beckett (Laurentian University) to further his team’s work on climate change and ecosystem restoration research.

Supported by an Alliance Missions grant, Dr. McCarter’s research is examining how metal and sulfur pollution from historical mining activities in Northeastern Ontario has impacted carbon storage, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil and water quality in wetlands. A key goal is also to develop novel reclamation techniques to restore both the biodiversity and ecosystem services of severely polluted peatland wetlands.

“Peatlands are the most common wetland to Northern Ontario and play an important role in both water quality and carbon sequestration,” shared Dr. McCarter. “The information gathered will be important to understand how this affects climate change in Northern Ontario and help us to understand how to protect our environment and community. Our hope is that this research will offer northern solutions to northern problems.”

Sudbury, Ontario is one of the world’s largest metal mining centres and historically was among the largest global point sources of sulphur dioxide and metal pollution. Ecosystem reclamation is a prominent goal of the City of Greater Sudbury’s Regreening Program, and both Vale Base Metals and the City of Greater Sudbury have a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The knowledge generated by this research will be important to achieving net zero in part through the restoration of the natural carbon sequestration function of peatlands within regions of Northeastern Ontario, and broadly in Canadian and global mining-impacted landscapes.

"We're excited to support this foundational research," said Lisa Lanteigne, Manager, Environment, Canadian operations at Vale Base Metals. "Vale Base Metals has made substantial investments to reduce our environmental footprint including significant reductions in air emissions. This program is a key component in Sudbury's long-term regreening strategy with potential to restore peatlands across the wider region."

Dr. McCarter says the research will determine if the peatlands are sequestering or emitting carbon to the atmosphere and will answer the question: “can they be restored?” 

The research team includes collaborators and co-investigators from other small universities including Saint Mary’s University, Lakehead University, Brandon University, and Laurentian University.The project also creates opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students to participate in important research in collaboration with other university, industry and government partners.

“Colin’s leadership in climate change research will have a positive and lasting impact on our communities,” said Dr. Barbi Law, Interim Associate Vice-President, Research, Innovation and Graduate Studies at Nipissing University. "We are pleased to see his work receive this well-deserved recognition and support from NSERC.”

This article was adapted and republished with permission from Nipissing University.

Up next

Engineering the sustainable treatment of Ontario’s drinking water

Growing up in a small neighbourhood in Cameroon, Maeva Che, a Civil and Mineral Engineering PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, was aware of challenges of accessing clean drinking water.

Contact Newsletter

Get highlights of things happening at NSERC delivered to your email inbox. View all Newsletters

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Youtube
  • Instagram