Rebecca Rooney discusses wetlands and Bill 23 on Beyond the Bulletin

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

 Beyond the Bulletin  2 vintage mics against yellow background with a headshot of Rebecca Rooney on right.

The latest episode of Beyond the Bulletin features Dr. Rebecca Rooney, a wetland ecologist and professor in the Department of Biology. She discusses the value of wetlands, the actions she’s taking to help protect them and Bill 23.  

Canada is home to 25 per cent of the world's wetlands. Wetlands are a distinct ecosystem that is flooded or saturated by water, either permanently or seasonally and can be identified by its soil and plant composition.  

Rooney, is a world expert on biomonitoring and wetland assessment. She examines how human-caused and natural ecological disturbances influence wetland communities, including birds, invertebrates and plants. 

Her research supports the implementation of wetland policy, invasive species management, and the protection of species at risk. Her results improve the design of restored and reclaimed wetlands, provide tools for evaluating their integrity, and identifies the most successful techniques for invasive species control.

On the podcast, she spoke about the value and functions of wetlands. Wetlands act like a sponge and slow down the flow of water, protecting our homes and property from flood damage. They also break down pesticides, store carbon and provide habitat to species at risk.

"Wetlands are these climate change superheros."

Unfortunately, many wetlands have been drained to make space for farming, urban and suburban areas. Some have been replaced with stormwater ponds but those don't have the full portfolio of ecosystem services that wetlands provide. 

Housing affordability is a crisis in Ontario and Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster, aims to address it by opening some areas of the protected Greenbelt land for development. Rooney highlights the impact of this bill, and the 15 other proposals being put forward, on wetlands, local ecosystems, species habitat and the Environmental Registry of Ontario.

She encouraged the public to learn more about the issue and get involved. Rooney helped found Save Ontario Wetlands, a group of 70 researchers, ecologists and scientists who are working together to help save Ontario wetlands. 

Earlier this month, she and her Waterloo Wetland Lab organized a successful wetland information session and clean-up of an urban wetland at the corner of Columbia and Fisher-Hallman roads. She and her graduate student started the event by talking about wetlands, the services they provide and threats they face. Together, the group of researchers and community volunteers pulled out 18 large garbage bags worth of trash and litter from the wetland - enough to fill a truck.

Want to learn more? Watch Rooney's clip on YouTube - Disappearing Wetlands.

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