Lake Winnipeg Nutrient-Bioenergy Projects
What's New in Lake Winnipeg Nutrient-Bioenergy Projects?
IISD has been exploring the use of cattail harvesting to improve water quality for more than eight years. This project was the first time IISD applied the concept in an urban setting.
Cattails Harvesting for Carbon Offsets and Nutrient Capture: A "Lake Friendly" greenhouse gas project
The Cattail Biomass Harvesting project is pursuing and evaluating the commercial-scale harvesting of cattail (Typha spp.) for its multiple co-benefits. This progress report details the project background, descriptions of current cattail biomass harvest sites, a proposed plan for commercial-scale cattail harvesting, and opportunities for carbon offset markets and certification. It concludes with a legislative and regulatory review for cattail harvesting in Manitoba. The Cattail Biomass Harvesting project, a component of the International Institute for Sustainable Development's ongoing Netley-Libau Nutrient-Bioenergy Project, is co-funded by Manitoba Lotteries, Manitoba Conservation Department of Water Stewardship and Manitoba Hydro.
Our Lake, Our Solutions: Two years of progress and partnerships
In 2010, IISD hosted the Lake Winnipeg Basin Summit in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The event brought together 150 stakeholders to talk about solutions for Lake Winnipeg, the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world and one of the most nutrient-stressed.
After the Summit, IISD took ownership of implementing 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 a 2012 harvesting of the common wetland plant, cattail (Typha spp.). This pilot 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.
In 2005, IISD began work on the concept of harvesting the wetland plant, cattail, in Netley-Libau Marsh, located at the south end of Lake Winnipeg, with a goal of capturing phosphorus and reducing algal blooms in the lake. Since then, the concept has flourished and expanded. New benefits to harvesting cattail have been recognized, including the production of bioenergy, potential flood mitigation, greenhouse gas sequestration and habitat improvement. IISD is now working with partners at many urban and rural throughout Manitoba to develop and refine new bioenergy and bioproduct value chains. IISD is also seeking to replicate the concept outside of Manitoba.
The Netley-Libau Marsh Research Project
Netley-Libau Marsh, a 250 km2 freshwater coastal wetland, lies at the mouth of the Red River and the south end of Lake Winnipeg (click here for aerial tour). Considered one of the largest freshwater wetlands in Canada, Netley-Libau Marsh is recognized as an important wildlife area. It is designated an Important Bird Area by Bird Studies Canada and the Canadian Nature Federation, and is also a candidate for designation as a Manitoba Heritage Marsh by the Manitoba government. The area is traditionally used for agriculture and recreation (such as boating, hunting, fishing and snowmobiling). In addition, the wetland is a filter for the large quantity of nutrients flowing through the Red River and into Lake Winnipeg—which is an important and overlooked function of the marsh that is increasingly understood as a key component of an overall Lake Winnipeg nutrient management strategy.
Netley-Libau Marsh is comprised of shallow lakes, channels and wetland areas through which the Red River flows on its way to Lake Winnipeg. It was described in 1857 as "a series of reedy marshes that extend in all directions as far as the eye can see" (Hind 18601). Over the past few decades, however, the structure of Netley-Libau Marsh has been significantly altered. Drainage, dredging and other water management schemes occurring since the early part of the last century have substantially altered the natural flow of the Red River through the marsh. Since the 1970s, Lake Winnipeg water levels have also been managed by Manitoba Hydro for hydroelectric production. Netley-Libau Marsh has experienced a significant loss of plant communities and wildlife and fish habitat, a gradual loss of aquatic vegetation and wetland areas, the erosion of channels, an amalgamation of water bodies and declining water bird populations. Unfortunately, Netley-Libau Marsh is not currently functioning as a healthy coastal wetland. Many of the benefits the lake could provide as a habitat and in removing and storing excess nutrients that have been lost can be revitalized through restoration and management of the marsh.
The Netley-Libau Marsh Research Project: Exploring the Opportunities
The purpose of the award-winning and internationally recognized Netley-Libau Marsh research project is to understand the importance of the marsh to the health of Lake Winnipeg, and how this large freshwater coastal wetland influences the quality of water flowing into the lake from the Red River. Current research on the Netley-Libau Marsh has looked at biomass and nutrient accumulation in marsh plants such as cattail to understand nutrient cycling and nutrient storage within this marsh system. Research has also examined the concept of harvesting and removing marsh plant biomass for the purpose of removing stored nutrients from the wetland. Click here to view brochure (PDF - 3.8 MB).
IISD is working with several key project partners as part of a new Wetlands Working Group, hosted by the Department of Water Stewardship, which clearly emphasizes the growing commitment and renewed interest for the research, future management and rehabilitation of this critical coastal wetland. The award-winning and internationally recognized Netley-Libau Marsh research project continues to evolve with an enhanced and expanded research program for 2009–2010, with financial support from Manitoba Water Stewardship and from Environment Canada's Lake Winnipeg Basin Stewardship Fund.
Netley-Libau Nutrient-Bioenergy Project Recognized Nationally and Internationally
IISD’s innovative phosphorus harvesting project achieves global recognition: Netley-Libau Nutrient-Bioenergy project named a Sustainia100 solution at Rio+20
IISD’s innovative solution to help improve Lake Winnipeg water quality by harvesting cattails to remove nutrients, produce bioenergy, and improve food security by recycling captured phosphorus was chosen at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) as a Sustainia100 solution—solutions gathered from 56 countries around the world that move society towards sustainable development. On June 20, 2012, sustainability legend Gro Harlem Brundtland, media guru and philanthropist Ted Turner and 150 VIP guests celebrated the launch of Sustainia100. IISD is proud to announce the work of the Netley-Libau Nutrient-Bioenergy project has been chosen for this prestigious list of solutions.
Sustainia100 solutions are nominees for the Sustainia Award, which honours outstanding performance within the field of sustainability. The winner will be announced at a ceremony later this year in Copenhagen.
The full list of Sustainia100 solutions can be found at http://www.sustainia.me/sustainia100.
Netley–Libau Nutrient-Bioenergy Project wins provincial sustainability award
The Netley–Libau Nutrient-Bioenergy Project, conducted in partnership with the University of Manitoba and Ducks Unlimited Canada, won a Manitoba Excellence in Sustainability Award at a ceremony at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Thursday, April 5, 2012. These annual awards are given out by the Manitoba Round Table for Sustainable Development to recognize and honour people, projects and ideas that successfully integrate the Principles and Guidelines of Sustainable Development into concrete and lasting achievements. The Netley–Libau Project won in the “Innovation and Research for Sustainability” category, and Richard Grosshans, lead project researcher since 2006, was there along with Hank Venema to receive the award from the Honourable Gord Mackintosh, Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship. For more information, check out the list of award winners and the provincial news release on the awards.
Media coverage of IISD's award-winning and internationally recognized Netley-Libau Marsh research project
- An Unconventional Pellet Feedstock Pages 36-41
- Wetlands good flood-fighters: Also offer economic spinoffs – Winnipeg Free Press
- Cattail harvester provides fuel, captures phosphorus – Farm Show Magazine
- Converting Cattails to Fuel Could Save Vital Marsh – Winnipeg Free Press
- Converting Cattails to Fuel Could Save Vital Marsh – Brandon Sun
- Swollen lake slowly killing wetland: People and vegetation disappearing, too – Winnipeg Free Press
- Netley–Libau Nutrient-Bioenergy Project Video – MB Chamber of Commerce
- Lake Winnipeg in serious ecological trouble, says new report – Outdoor Canada
- Netley–Libau Nutrient-Bioenergy Project Brochure – MB Chamber of Commerce
- Flooding lake's silver lining: culling cattails: May wipe out marsh-choking species
- Premier to tackle rehab of wetlands - Phosphorous levels threaten lakes – Brandon Sun
- Premier Unveils Plan To Save Lake Winnipeg – Nation Talk
Bio or Bust: Does the solution to Lake Winnipeg's peak phosphorus problem herald a new bioeconomy for Manitoba? (PDF - 2.2 MB)
Reprinted courtesy of Water Canada.
Manitoba researchers convert cattails into pellets (PDF - 234 KB)
Reprinted courtesy of Biomass Power & Thermal.
Cattail farming could help save troubled lake (PDF - 239 KB)
Reprinted courtesy of The Western Producer.