Quantifying Ecosystem Services in an Agricultural Region in Southern Ontario Using a GIS-Based Approach and Open Source Data
thesisposted on 05.10.2022, 17:31 authored by Griffin Morgan
There has been a land use battle in Pickering, Ontario between conservation groups and Transport Canada over the development of another International Airport in Southern Ontario on valuable farmland. The purpose of this research is to quantitatively assess the claims made by the conservation groups about the importance of the local farmland for maintaining the area’s water quality. The research has three objectives: (1) to determine whether or not the use of publicly available data and a GIS-based approach is appropriate for an ecosystem services survey related to water quality and nutrient loading in the area of the proposed airport; (2) to examine the relationship between crop yield and nutrient loading to understand if the ecosystem disservice related to excess nutrient export can be reduced without reducing crop yield; (3) to make spatially explicit recommendations on mitigating efforts that farmers in the PLA region take to reduce nutrient loading for both nitrogen and phosphorus. The results of this study suggest that the coarse resolution of publicly available data results in multicollinearity that renders the GIS-approach ineffective at quantifying spatial relationships among ecosystem (dis)services at this spatial scale. The GIS-based nutrient indices approach will likely be more effective at larger (e.g. multiple counties, provincial) spatial scales and is still a useful tool for identifying key areas for prioritizing the implementation of agricultural best management practices. The most affective mitigating efforts to reduce nutrient loading include changing fertilizer application methods to non-broadcast methods and to improve land use types in areas that are close to surface waters and headwaters.