Grasslands are critical in the fight against climate change—and Ontario beef plays a key role
Earlier this month, we came across an interesting episode of the CBC podcast What On Earth that discussed a region of prairie grasses in Saskatchewan known as the Northeast Swale. This protected area within city limits is home to a number of plant and animal species including leopard frogs, sharp-tailed grouse, jackrabbits and more. You’ll see crocuses, wild roses, crowfoot violets as well as a variety of rare and native grasses. In fact, according to the city: “Its diverse environment offers a habitat for a large variety of plant species (more than 200), birds (more than 100), mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects and also provides flood control for the surrounding community.”
These grasslands are more than a simple park or green space. “Right beneath our feet is a climate change solution,” explained host Leisa Grebinski (filling in for regular host Laura Lynch) before launching into a more detailed explanation.
How grasses fight climate change
Protected and well-cared for grasslands are critical to thriving ecosystems, and the existence (and ideally, abundance) of healthy grasslands can actually help fight climate change. “Grasslands and prairies are amazing for their ability because they put [carbon] in the ground,” explained one expert who was interviewed on the show. “So the plants themselves, the above ground parts of the plants aren’t really impressive to some eyes but they have such deep roots and they put all of their energy into those roots and that material stores carbon. So grasslands as a whole, they’re like the storage reservoir that's half full, so they’re a remarkable resource for us. If we protect the surviving fragments of natural grasslands and if we restore grasslands—put more land back into permanent culture, especially with a diversity of species—we can store carbon underground.”