The UN Biodiversity Conference "COP-15" continues in Montreal this week. 

The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) focus centers around protecting nature and halting biodiversity loss around the world.

Cameron Wood, a Director with the Nature Conservancy of Canada says conserving grassland ecosystems in Saskatchewan has global impact.

Currently, the world is facing the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. Protecting these lands and waters are important for providing habitat for species at risk and storing carbon. These valuable places are truly our allies in facing the challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Did you know that more than 80 per cent of Saskatchewan’s grasslands have already disappeared? Temperate grasslands, such as Canada’s prairies, are among the most endangered ecosystems in the world, and their loss means that many native species are now critically endangered.

Grasslands are not only just a pretty landscape, but they also hold value beneath the surface. After absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, grassland plants store the carbon within their vast root systems, preventing it from warming the planet. This natural process is one of the best solutions we have to slow the pace of climate change. That’s why we need to act now to protect our naturally occurring climate change fighters – grasslands!

Our well-being is intimately tied to the health of the natural world around us. And we’re at a point now where nature’s health is ailing.

Over the last half-century, bird, wildlife and pollinator populations have declined due to habitat loss and other factors. When these species disappear, lose their range and cease to interact, our natural world is weakened and with it our natural defences against climate change are weakened as well. That’s why each hectare of grasslands we protect in Saskatchewan is a win for nature and all who rely on it.

There’s no doubt we need to do more, faster, to protect these places and the plants and animals that rely on them. For that reason, NCC has ambitious conservation targets, to double its impact and support Canada towards its goals to conserve 30 per cent of its lands and waters by 2030. Of course, it will take a whole-of-society approach to achieve these critical outcomes. That’s why NCC is bringing together communities, Indigenous Nations, non-profits, governments and corporations to accelerate nature protection through examples like Lonetree Lake and Rangeview, two grassland conservation projects announced in Saskatchewan this year.

These conservation projects help safeguard over 1,100 hectares of ecologically significant land and water and some of our province’s most iconic species like the burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk and swift fox – remarkable examples of what we can do when we work together.  

I’m proud to know my NCC colleagues attending COP15 will be able to share the news of conservation successes like grassland conservation projects in the prairies on the international stage.

And while the world works to figure out a plan to halt global nature loss, I’m confident in our homegrown ability to act now in Saskatchewan.

Cameron Wood is Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Regional Director in Saskatchewan.