• All your Science News in one place

    All your Science News in one place

Lab's Research Showcased on the World Stage

Alemu Gonsamo's team in the Remote Sensing Laboratory had reason to celebrate this month.

The lab's two-year research study for World Wildlife Fund Canada was presented at the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland and made national headlines in the Globe and Mail and CBC.

The Mapping Canada's Carbon Landscape study found that 405 billion tonnes of carbon is stored in Canada's ecosystem. The study, which was supported Maple Leaf Foods and the Metcalf Foundation, is the first-ever comprehensive analysis of its kind and has major implications for conversation planning and strategies.

Camile Sothe, a postdoctoral fellow in Alemu's lab, led the two-year study. "I am incredibly proud of Camile," says Alemu. "Camile led such a challenging project, worked with multiple collaborators, and established a working relationship with the Mushkegowuk Cree First Nations community in Northern Ontario to collect more reference data in the coming years to validate the maps." 

Camile SotheThe research aligned with her academic and personal interests, says Camile. "Being a person who loves nature and works for the environment, I'm glad about the positive impacts of this research when it comes to climate change.

"Quantifying and mapping the carbon stocks of plants and soils in Canada are the first steps for future studies to understand the vulnerability of carbon stocks to human actions such as carbon removal by decomposition, fires, harvesting and other disturbances.

"Having the results shared a conference of such magnitude as COP26 only highlights the critical role Canada plays on a global scale when it comes to climate change."

The study is based on data from existing soil and plant biomass samples collected from across the country, as well as long-term satellite data and topographic and climate variables. 

“Tens of thousands of field measurements were fed into a machine-learning algorithm to train satellite observations, including space-based laser scanning data, to estimate carbon stocks in plant biomass and soils across Canada," says Alemu, Canada Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Terrestrial Ecosystems, an assistant professor with the School of Earth, Environment & Society and a member of the McMaster Centre for Climate Change. "The resulting national carbon map will have a huge impact on the way conservation activities and policies are approached to prioritize nature-based climate solutions."

The research will also play a key role in WWF-Canada's 10-year plan to restore one million hectares of lost complex ecosystems, protect and steward 100 million hectares of ecologically rich habitat and reduce carbon emissions by 30 million tonnes.

“The findings of this study are monumental for conservation in Canada, and across the world," says Megan Leslie, WWF-Canada President and CEO. "Knowing where carbon is stored in Canada allows us to strategically protect and manage the right places to prevent billions of tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere. Protecting these areas will also benefit wildlife by safeguarding habitat for important species at risk.”

Congratulate Camile at sothec@mcmaster.ca.
Go Back
McMaster University | Faculty of Science