A key point that came out of the Summit was that the problem of phosphorus loading to Lake Winnipeg could be flipped on its head and viewed as an opportunity -- one for innovation and for economic development. Phosphorus is critical to agriculture and to global food security. As the steward of Lake Winnipeg, and the recipient of nutrients from three other provinces and four states, Manitoba is actually sitting on a remarkable sustainable development opportunity -- one that could be good for the economy, the environment and for all Manitobans.
After the Summit, IISD took ownership of making into reality the idea of a bioeconomy, an economy in which the basic building blocks for industry and the raw materials for energy come from plant-based renewable resources. For example, this video showcases harvesting in 2012 of the common wetland plant, cattail (Typha spp.). This pilot harvesting initiative proved that large-scale harvesting of this source of biomass is possible. In total, IISD harvested 850 cattail bales at Netley-Libau Marsh, in ditches along the Trans-Canada Highway and at Pelly's Lake in the LaSalle Redboine Conservation District. The resulting bales removed roughly 900 kilograms of phosphorus, equivalent to the amount of phosphorus in 3,300 bags of lawn starting fertilizer. The harvesting also offset roughly 630 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to the average annual greenhouse gas emissions from about 120 cars.
This pilot is being carried out in collaboration with Manitoba Hydro, and shows how ecological biomass like cattails can be turned into a coal substitute called biochar, helping Manitoba meet its goal to phase out the use of coal.
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