EcoWeek,  July 9, 2007

Edmonton to participate in biodiversity study with cities around the world

The city of Edmonton has been chosen to participate in an international study of biodiversity, joining cities such as Barcelona, Perth and Seoul. The three-year pilot project, called Local Action for Biodiversity (LAB), aims to improve the quality of life in municipalities through the study of biodiversity. It will look at environmental issues at the local level and how to manage natural resources to ensure community sustainability. The selection of Edmonton as a participant was based on its track record of environmental leadership and involvement in biodiversity initiatives, notably its EcoVision Edmonton program.

The LAB project offers an international networking opportunity and will allow the city to continue applying environmental practices that are recognized worldwide. Final reports on the project will be presented in 2009 at the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) World Congress. Edmonton hopes to host this event, and recently submitted a bid for the 2009 global convention.

In related developments, the Alberta government recently announced $4.2 million in funding to support a new biodiversity monitoring program. Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton said the data collected will help to keep track of changes over time and provide decision-makers with important information to maintain a healthy biological diversity.

The program, a joint undertaking involving government, industry, academics and non-governmental organizations, will provide independent and scientifically rigorous biodiversity information about Alberta's plants and animals, their habitats and the activities that affect them. The monitoring also includes how humans interact with Alberta's plant and animal species.

The program will be run by the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. Based at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the Institute is well positioned to administer the program, as it monitors biodiversity at 1,656 sites across the province.

Alberta's wealth of biological diversity takes in more than 80,000 species, ranging from fungi and mushrooms to trees and mammals, including humans. Biodiversity includes the interrelationship between all living things, and a healthy biodiversity is a key indicator of a healthy and functioning ecosystem. It substantially underpins Alberta's economy and quality of life, providing harvestable trees, productive soil, beautiful scenery, and plants with agricultural and medicinal value.

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