August 03, 2021
Our province is rich in natural resources and intellectual capital. We know that innovation is a key component in bringing together those economic pillars. We also know that the responsible stewardship of our resource sectors is essential to environmental stability today and in the future. Our resources sectors are under increasing pressure to adapt, mitigate and act in the face of climate change and a growing global population. Genomics offers new and disruptive ways of addressing some of these challenges to alleviate environmental stresses.
The agrifoods and natural resource sectors already have a rich history of applying genomic tools to existing challenges. Genome BC and Genome Canada have been investing in genomic tools, resources, and policies for more than two decades. To date, we have applied this knowledge to identify which trees should be planted today for more resilient forests in the future. We have identified tools to monitor and manage at-risk species including goshawks, grizzly bears, and beluga whales and to invasive species such as Asian longhorned beetle and Asian gypsy moth.
“Genomics is a critical tool for managing BC’s environment. With this innovation we are now able to make evidence-based decisions not only in the detection of threats, but also in proactive planning for the future.”
— James Mack- Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy
Novel methods to mitigate mine remediation and biosolids are being developed and applied in real-time. For instance, the ability to measure environmental DNA (eDNA) in soil communities enables more precise measurements of soil biodiversity. This increases our understanding of the soil microbiome and its capacity to adapt, evolve and contribute to mine reclamation. This in turn allows accurate environmental assessments at mine sites leading to healthier more productive soils overall. Environmental assessment is a critical step in evaluating the health of reclaimed mine sites, and is vital to the local community, because it has direct implications for human and environmental health.
The development of a reference encyclopedia, or DNA library, for all known freshwater fish species in BC, both native and invasive, is also underway. This will enable scientists to confidently use eDNA tools to develop an accurate species list for sampled areas and ensure full traceability of data. This reference library will become a trusted foundational resource that government managers and First Nations can rely on for regulatory and enforcement purposes.
Genomics has the potential to support provincial and national goals through the development of innovative, accessible and applicable tools to ensure Canada’s biodiversity.
The Government of Canada has committed to protecting 25% of Canada’s land and oceans by 2025 and working toward 30% by 2030. These efforts will be grounded in science, Indigenous knowledge and local perspectives and will continue to support partnerships with provinces and territories, municipalities, and Indigenous communities across the country.
This article appears in Genome BC’s 2020/21 Annual Report.
View the whole report here.