Investing $3m in citizen science, open data for birds, biodiversity

eAwazLocal News

Ottawa – Birds are the most accessible and effective indicators of the health of air, water, and land. They are at the heart of Canada’s biodiversity and play an essential role in maintaining healthy, resilient ecosystems in communities. When bird populations and their habitats are thriving, communities also benefit. When birds forage for food, build nests, and perform other necessities, they disperse plants and seeds that can reduce flooding and erosion, better filter groundwater, and provide more spaces to appreciate nature.

Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced an investment of $3 million to Birds Canada over five years. The funding will support citizen science programs and open data, providing access to hundreds of millions of data records gathered by volunteers and professional biologists on the distribution, abundance, and population trends for birds in Canada.

The new funding will allow Birds Canada to build and improve the tools needed to collect, analyze, and share open-access data that will inform a wide range of conservation efforts. Also, experts and citizen science volunteers will be mobilized across Canada to monitor migratory birds, including species at risk, to identify priority habitats and inform land-use management to better protect them.

The funding will support Birds Canada’s NatureCounts platform, one of the world’s largest biodiversity databases. The information and data in the NatureCounts platform can be used to inform environmental impact assessments, climate research, and industry practices. The data can also help determine the impacts of climate change stressors on ecosystems, biodiversity, and species, and evaluate the effectiveness of conservation and recovery actions.

Each year, tens of thousands of volunteers participate in Birds Canada’s citizen science monitoring and research programs. These citizen science programs, and the dedicated people who contribute to them, form the backbone of bird conservation in Canada. From February 16 to 19, 2024, bird enthusiasts of all ages, from beginners to experts, are invited to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, a worldwide annual tradition that creates a real-time snapshot of where birds are over those four days.

“Birds are the chorus to nature’s biodiversity. Embracing collaboration and making biodiversity-related data publicly available will lead to a deeper understanding of our environment as we continue making progress toward conserving 30 percent of land, fresh water, and oceans in Canada by 2030. I am inspired by the leadership of communities, citizen scientists, and organizations such as Birds Canada, who are stepping up and working together to build a nature-positive future.” – Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change