Impacts of Agricultural Activities
Canadian farms are getting bigger and more productive to keep up with increasing competition and consumer demands. As this happens, it becomes essential to find a sustainable balance between agricultural productivity and environmental quality.
Agriculture is the dominant land use in much of the populated area of Canada and is a major source of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) to surface and ground waters. Soil, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and pathogens of agricultural origin also have the potential to affect water quality. Abstraction of water for irrigation and increased water usage by crops compared to native vegetation can reduce the quantity of water in wetlands and streams.
Water S&T Research
Environment Canada scientists are investigating the impacts on water quantity and quality of current and innovative tillage, fertilizer and manure management practices, and are learning more about pathways for transport of nutrients and contaminants.
Scientists are also studying the effect of agricultural pollutants on aquatic biota and developing indicators of environmental performance to reduce the effects of excessive inputs of nutrients, sediments, pesticides and pathogens on water quality of streams and rivers in agriculturally dominated watersheds.
Scientists are investigating the importance of wetlands and riparian zones adjacent to agricultural lands as sources or sinks of carbon and the impact of predicted climate changes on carbon stocks within these systems.
Scientists with expertise in modelling are developing and applying integrated surface and subsurface water modelling techniques to evaluate the impact of human activities on aquatic ecosystems.
Groundwater specialists are determining the impacts of agricultural pollutants on groundwater quantity and quality, with emphasis on transboundary aquifers. They are also investigating the effectiveness of clay layers for protecting the groundwater in underlying aquifers from contamination by nitrate and other contaminants.
- Donald Baird (water quantity impacts)
- Glenn Benoy (sediments and beneficial management practices)
- Ghosh Bobba (agricultural impacts on ground water)
- William Booty (modelling)
- Rick Bourbonniere (greenhouse gases and agricultural fields/wetlands)
- Allan Cessna (pesticides and pharmaceuticals)
- Patricia Chambers (nutrients)
- Joseph Culp (sediments)
- Tom Edge (pathogens)
- Jane Elliott (runoff and nutrient transport)
- Vesna Furtula (pesticides and pharmaceuticals)
- Isaac Wong (modelling)
- Dale Van Stempvoort (groundwater)
To learn more, visit these websites:
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: National Agri-Environmental Standards Initiative (NAESI)
- Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment: Effects of Agricultural Activities on Water Quality (Workshop Report)
- Environment Canada: Finding a Balance Between Agriculture and the Environment - The National Agri-Environmental Standards Initiative
- Environment Canada: Microbial Source Tracking in Aquatic Ecosystems - The State of the Science and an Assessment of Needs
- Environment Canada: Threats to Sources of Drinking Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Health in Canada – Agricultural and Forestry Land Use Impacts
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