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220.127.116.11 Organizations/ Communities
How You Can Make Choices That Treat the Earth Well
The Association for Canadian Educational Resources – ACER
Biodiversity Monitoring and Climate Change
Citizen Science for the Environment
An environmentally literate society is familiar with its ecosystems and what keeps them healthy. The Association for Canadian Educational Resources (ACER) is an organization that helps citizens become environmentally literate through direct contact with local ecosystems. ACER’s current and very timely focus is biodiversity monitoring.
In a period of climate change, keeping records of the growth and health of trees and other plant species on an international basis will make an important contribution to managing change over time. ACER’s programs allow students and citizens to be part of this vitally important work. Participation in ACER’s “citizen science” programs brings people and ecosystems together in a way that benefits both local environments and international understanding of species adaptation.
Biodiversity monitoring can happen in a wide variety of places. ACER teaches program participants to monitor species in forest plots, streetscapes and schoolyards. They work with educators, volunteers, scientists, landowners, organizations and governments, measuring locally, and reporting their findings globally.
How Does Climate Change Affect Ecosystems?
While there is still some debate about climate change, reports from a vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is happening. Further, they have declared that human activity burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) is a major contributor to it. Scientists are concerned that rapid global warming can affect species and ecosystems’ chances to adapt naturally. If plants or animals are unable to adapt to new conditions, they risk extinction. As a combined result of human activity and a warming atmosphere, some scientists fear that the risk of species extinctions in the 21st century is a very real one. (see article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3375447.stm)
Deforestation and the introduction of non-native species have caused about 12.5% of the world’s plant species to become critically rare. Climate change with both temperature changes and movement of species to new climate ranges may endanger ecosystems and species further.
Biodiversity maintaining a healthy mix of interdependent species within ecosystems is essential to continued ecosystem survival. Another concern is that of human dependence on many kinds of plants some of which risk becoming endangered as sources of medicine.
As the global climate warms, the need to observe and record the well-being of many species within their changing habitats will be of vital importance. ACER’s programs with their training and recording methods make it possible for a growing number of citizens to help with this work.
Measure Up is a biodiversity monitoring program focused on Ontario native species (trees and shrubs). It is specifically designed to be carried out by volunteers, and yield data useful to scientists. Monitoring takes place on designated plots or quadrats whose existing species are measured. The measurements for each plot are gathered and entered into a database for studying health and growth over time.
The Measure Up Program is flexible. It can be carried out in forest or in neighbourhood environments.
1) Forest Plots participants monitor tree species’ diversity and health on standard one-hectare forest plots. ACER now has 17 forest plots being monitored in different locations around Ontario.
2) Community Monitoring – The Measure Up! program can be done in your schoolyard, your neighborhood, on a local riverbank or in a city park near your home, school or clubhouse.
ACER’s second biodiversity monitoring program, Let’s Plant!, is carried out on newly planted restoration and naturalization sites. The Humber Arboretum in Toronto provided ACER’s first site for monitoring biodiversity in an urban setting. Over a 3-year period volunteers planted, labeled and measured an entire hectare of native species. The health of these new plantings will be monitored, and compared to species in ACER’s other plots over a 40-year period.
The city environment in Toronto is approximately one degree Centigrade warmer than outlying areas due to what is called the urban “heat island effect.” This difference results from an accumulation of heat absorbed by buildings and pavement. This warmer temperature will allow the native plants planted at the Arboretum to be studied as an “advance cohort” of species subjected to the warmer temperatures expected with climate change.
Learning from Citizen Science
The Measure Up and Let’s Plant programs offer excellent learning experiences for teachers and their classes, for community groups, and for naturalist clubs. Opportunities are available to create new biodiversity monitoring projects in new locations, or to participate in maintenance and monitoring in ACER’s existing plots. ACER staff are available for consultation on monitoring projects.
ACER has developed resources to assist teachers and group leaders in biodiversity monitoring in settings of their choice. Monitoring tools, instructors’ kits, and tree tags are available for doing your own projects.
ACER also has monitoring protocols and software available, as well as videos and educational CDs. For a complete list and ordering information, please visit ACER’s website at: http://acer-acre.org/resources/index.html#protocols
ACER’s partner organizations: Humber Arboretum, Essex Field Naturalists, Dufferin County, EcoAction Canada, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Rotary Club, International Society of Arboriculture.
You can visit ACER’s program website at: http://acer-acre.org/trees/index.html
The Humber Arboretum, home of ACER’s Let’s Plant! program
- Why is it so important for people to monitor biodiversity during this period of climate change?
- What is the advantage of monitoring tree species in an urban environment?
- Why are scientists concerned about the rapid global warming?
Teachers: Consider the many ways data-gathering from biodiversity monitoring can help students learn
Biodiversity restoration and monitoring provides:
- Hands-on community involvement in environmental quality assessment
- Experience in measurement and data-gathering
- Teamwork in “citizen science”
- Contribution to a long-term international project
- Field experience to add to classroom science learning techniques
- Applied math experience
- Direct local involvement with climate change action
- An introduction to Ontario native species and local ecosystems
- An opportunity to watch a local biodiversity plot change over time
- A contribution to positive environmental change
- Opportunities for ongoing youth involvement with and stewardship of local natural areas
- How can environmental monitoring connect to classroom learning opportunities?
- What are possible interdisciplinary applications of international biodiversity studies?