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OTTAWA—April 1, 2014—Three agreements have been signed involving the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada that together ensure the long-term operation of the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) research facility.
“This opens a fresh, new chapter in the life of the ELA and the promise of many important and exciting research possibilities ahead of us,” said Scott Vaughan, President and CEO of IISD. “What real-world research can tell us about the human impact on the natural environment is indispensable to putting the human relationship with this planet on a sustainable footing.”
The transfer of ELA required separate deals between Ontario and IISD, between Canada and IISD, and a trilateral Canada-Ontario-IISD agreement to support an open data policy for scientific research. The three agreements involving IISD were preceded by two bilateral Canada-Ontario pacts.
As one of the only whole-lake laboratories available on Earth, the ELA’s 58 lakes have attracted scientists studying the impacts of stressors and pollutants from human activity and industrial development on freshwater lakes, streams and surrounding watersheds.
Since 1968, this work has provided the strong scientific evidence required to inform environmental legislation in Canada and worldwide. Findings derived from ELA’s unique research opportunities have contributed to the phase-out of harmful phosphorus additives in cleaning products, to tighter air pollution standards in response to acid rain, and to proposed policies to reduce mercury levels found in fish.
“Pressure on water quality is a growing crisis in many countries, and we need science to help chart a course to protect increasingly precious freshwater resources,” said Vaughan. “IISD’s operation of ELA will ensure that Canada’s role at the forefront of freshwater research is not only maintained but flourishes,” he said.
Since autumn 2012, IISD has been in negotiations with the governments of Canada and Ontario with a view to keeping the ELA open under IISD management. Under agreements reached among the three parties, the ELA transfers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to Ontario, effective immediately, with IISD taking over operations of the facility shortly.
In years past, research at ELA has been restricted to studies that fit DFO’s mandate, relating specifically to freshwater fish and the aquatic environment. Under IISD’s operation, ELA researchers will be able to set and participate in a wider range of research activities including, for example, terrestrial manipulations, or studies of clean water technology.
IISD looks forward to preparing a new science research program for the ELA later in 2014, with inputs from scientists as well as partnerships with local communities, and a commitment to an open and transparent program.
“The combination of applied research capability and a policy think tank creates exciting opportunities to traverse the science-policy divide,” said Vaughan. “Together, IISD and ELA will be positioned to offer ground-truthed, policy-relevant advice on numerous emerging questions such as the impact of mercury from coal-fired electricity generating plants, the impact of micro-pollutants and the impact of climate change on hydrologic cycles,” said Vaughan.
Under IISD, there is now an opportunity to expand the role of ELA to include training, workshops and field courses that will educate and benefit local communities, as well as the greater scientific community. IISD is already in discussion with several universities in Canada and the United States about developing stronger links with ELA.
An electronic press kit is also available, including IISD-ELA FAQs, photography and broadcast-quality b-roll.
IISD contributes to sustainable development by advancing policy recommendations on international trade and investment, economic policy, climate change and energy, natural and social capital, and the enabling role of communication technologies in these areas.