Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: biodiversity-friendly farming

Protecting wood turtles on farms

Guest post by Simon Greenland-Smith, Wood Turtle Strides project manager and MES alum 2014

An elusive wood turtle found is a good day.

An elusive wood turtle found is a good day (photo: Simon Greenland-Smith)

Working with species at risk almost never provides instant gratification. Wood Turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) are a long-lived, slow-to-mature species that have a bad habit of getting struck by farm equipment, often not making it to reproductive age. This has led to a steady decline in their populations in Nova Scotia and beyond. The same traits make their recovery a particular challenge.

Since August 2016, a collaborative team (Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, Environment and Climate Change Canada and many other organizations) has been working on a novel approach to Wood Turtle conservation in Nova Scotia. Wood Turtle Strides is a program design to encourage farmers to sign stewardship agreements and implement Beneficial Management Practices that will help avoid striking and killing Wood Turtles. Uniquely, Wood Turtle Strides offers financial incentives to farmers that are designed to help farmers meet their production goals while also meeting their conservation goals. Time after time through surveys, interviews and other social science methods, we have learned that both these goals are important to farmers and striking a balance between them is a concept that resonates strongly with farmers. For instance, farmers can receive ‘per-hectare incentives’ to raise their mower blades above the maximum height of the turtles, increasing their chances of survival to reproductive age. Currently, Wood Turtle Strides has 7-9 enrolled farmers, but we are hoping to attract around 30 farms and sign incentive-based stewardship agreements worth over $100K (CAD).

Found one!

Found one!

Wood Turtles live a slow life, and working toward their conservation can be equally slow, but finding Wood Turtles alive and well in the wild can be particularly rewarding. It certainly keeps the energy high among the Wood Turtle Strides team!

For more info on Wood Turtle Strides visit farmbiodiversity.ca/strides. Also, keep an eye out for our new Wood Turtle animated video which will be available (along with two other great animations on biodiversity-friendly farming) on our extension  YouTube channel (Kate says, “we have a YouTube channel?”).

Alumni in the news

Wood Turtles are a species at risk in Nova Scotia.

Wood Turtles are a species at risk in Nova Scotia.

Two SRES grads were in the news together last week. Simon Greenland-Smith, MES and now working for the NSFA (though he still sits down the hall), is launching his new Wood Turtle Strides farmer incentive program for species at risk, with the help of Katie McLean, MREM and now Clean Annapolis River Project. Another recent MREM grad, Mhari Lamarque, is also working on the Wood Turtle Strides project doing program evaluation.

Announcing Wood Turtle Strides

Today marks the soft launch of the farm stewardship and incentive program for wood turtles, Wood Turtle Strides. Funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada, and hosted by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, this program builds off the last six years of research on farm biodiversity in my lab and the collaborative relationships developed with the above organizations and others such as the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. Wood Turtle Strides will partner with interested farmers who have critical habitat for wood turtles on ways to reduce mortality. Program Manager and lab alumnus, Simon Greenland-Smith, was on CBC Radio 1 Information Morning today to talk about the program, directing interested farmers to learn more via the new Facebook page, where he has also posted information about wood turtles such as how to identify them, and our two animated extension videos (modified harvest and riparian management).

New extension video on farm riparian management

Excited to highlight here our new riparian management extension video, another collaboration with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. Simon Greenland-Smith, MES alum and SARPAL project manager, developed this stylish video with the folks at local production company Wonderlust, as part of our series on ‘small changes’ towards biodiversity-friendly farming. During our previous evaluation of the Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation (ABC) program, modified harvest and riparian management were the two practices that were significantly increased by education. We hope through videos like this to get the word out about these ‘small changes’ to more farmers than those who opt into an ABC plan, or visit our BioLOG extension website.

What farm fragmentation looks like in Nova Scotia

Our typology of Nova Scotia farm fragmentation based on the number of non-contiguous parcels and the time to drive across the two furthest apart parcels.

Our typology of Nova Scotia farm fragmentation based on the number of non-contiguous parcels and the time to drive across the two furthest apart parcels.

When I moved back to Canada from Australia, and started interviewing farmers in Nova Scotia, I was surprised at how small and fragmented their holdings were. I found myself wondering how this spatial pattern influenced their management. Does it mean that it is harder to think of a farm as an ecosystem, and manage accordingly? Or is it a boon for biodiversity, as remoter parcels are left to nature? I threw a few questions about farm fragmentation on our Marginal Land survey last year, and those preliminary results are now in, recently presented on a poster at ISSRM, Farm as ecosystem: What is the impact of fragmented property ownership on farm management? It show us that fragmentation in Nova Scotia is intentional, the result of purposeful land acquisition by serious farmers. While it cannot be ascribed to fragmentation alone based on the data we collected, these high fragmentation farmers were less likely to have ponds and wetlands on their properties (as a function of farm area), though they had just as many woodlands, which are seen to have high ecosystem service value (timber, etc). Moreover, high fragmentation farmers were less likely to undertake biodiversity-friendly farming techniques. I think this is enough to suggest more research is warranted. Next time I want to look for diversity within farms. Does the farmer treat far-flung parcels differently than those closer to the heart of his operations?

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