Protect & Restore Natural Ecosystems

Regenerative practices aim to preserve or reclaim habitats like peat bogs, wetlands, prairies and forests. These ecosystems play important roles in the maintenance of the water cycle, the purification of groundwater, sequestering carbon dioxide, cooling the air and protecting the diverse populations of plants and wildlife that inhabit them.


Dr. Rebecca Harbut, a professor in KPU’s Sustainable Agriculture program engaging with participants during the 2023 Stories of Regeneration tour inside the passive solar-heated dome greenhouse where seedlings are typically started at the beginning of the growing season. Photo source: Hamaka Creativity Lab

Preserving and restoring natural habitats, including wetlands, forests, prairies, and peat bogs, is vital for fostering ecological benefits. However, many of these ecosystems face increasing degradation and endangerment. Regenerative agriculture principles offer hope for protecting and restoring threatened habitats through holistic land management.

During our 2023 Stories of Regeneration summer tour, the Regeneration Canada team visited Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU)’s Teaching and Research Farm in Richmond, BC, distinguished as the only agriculture program in Canada with a four-year degree curriculum entirely focused on organic production.

Situated atop an ancient peat bog at the Garden City Lands, creative land management enables both peat restoration and community-focused agriculture education, cultivating 8 hectares of its 55-hectare expanse. This encompasses a six-plot crop rotation system featuring two cover-cropped rest plots, complemented by a passive solar greenhouse and two movable high tunnels. The program underscores the critical role of regenerative practices in sustaining ecosystems while training students to lead the transition toward sustainable food systems.


Importance of Protecting Key Habitats

Protecting habitats is essential for maintaining healthy ecosystems that provide “ecosystem services”—functions that are essential to support all life, such as purifying water, storing carbon, preventing floods and erosion, pollination, pest control, and climate regulation.

In the last five decades, the primary driver of habitat loss, and subsequent biodiversity loss, has been the conversion of natural ecosystems for crop production or pasture:

● Wetlands: They regulate water, cycle nutrients, and support pollinators. In Canada, around 15,000 hectares of wetlands are lost annually to crop production, impacting global migratory species and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

● Grasslands: Canada’s prairie grasslands are one of the most endangered ecosystems globally, with over 70% converted for farmland and urban development. Intact prairies play a crucial role in stabilizing soil, retaining moisture, supporting pollinators, and purifying water.

● Forests: In Canada, deforestation is mainly driven by converting forests into cropland and urban development. This not only eradicates crucial forest plant biodiversity but also leads to substantial carbon loss and diminished soil health, particularly in the surface soils (0-5 cm). These effects can be long-lasting and challenging to reverse.


Peatland remnants underlying the KPU Farm once dominated the Fraser Delta and comprise its richest carbon ecosystems. Photo source: Hamaka Creativity Lab

Our focus now shifts to the unique and endangered peat bog ecosystems, exploring their importance, threats, and the role of regenerative practices in their conservation. These habitats are unique wetland ecosystems characterized by the accumulation of deep peat deposits over thousands of years. They provide vital habitat for specialized biodiversity and serve as crucial long-term carbon sinks, storing almost 30% of all soil carbon on only 3% of land area globally––surpassing all other vegetation types combined. This makes peat bogs the largest natural terrestrial carbon reservoir.

However, peat bogs face increasing threats from disruption due to land conversion for agriculture and peat mining. When drained and mined, the carbon stored over millennia in peat bogs releases rapidly, contributing to climate change. Further, harvesting peat moss devastates essential habitat for birds, insects, reptiles, and small mammals. Most mined sphagnum peat moss is used for horticultural purposes as the main component for potting mixes due to its availability, cost-effectiveness, and favourable structure. When used as a soil amendment, peat moss lacks nutrients, has a low pH, and fails to attract crucial soil microbes, further impacting biodiversity and soil health.


Protecting Peatlands at KPU’s Teaching and Research Farm

Historically, the 55-hectare peat bog where the KPU Teaching and Research Farm sits was carefully managed by Indigenous peoples who cultivated berries and medicinal plants. However, heavy metal contamination from subsequent 20th-century industrial uses left the land unsafe for farming.

Through remediation efforts in 2017, mineral soil was deposited over three hectares of the contaminated peat bog to a depth of 70 cm. This layer was then amended with compost and chicken manure. This protected the peat from oxidation and formed an insulating layer between the bog and the agricultural land. Perforated drainage tiles were embedded in the permeable mineral layer to allow controlled moisture drainage to benefit crops rooted above, simultaneously preventing any disruption of the native peat’s consistently water-logged, acidic biochemistry essential to the intact bog habitat preserved below.

Students in KPU’s Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program practice on the farm located on the Garden City Lands while working toward their Bachelor’s degree, within walking distance from the program’s main campus. Photo source: Hamaka Creativity Lab

Crop planting commenced in 2018, and production has continued using regenerative and organic practices on the west side of the site, while adjacent peatlands underwent ecological restoration on the eastern side.

This commitment to protecting and restoring natural ecosystems while producing food is a core value for those farming at KPU.

At KPU’s Teaching Farm, Dr. Michael Bomford explains how they seek to find a balance between prioritizing peatland conservation for its ecological services while concurrently focusing on restoration and sustainable food production. Their program is based on holistic ecological and social values, being mindful of the current climate and food crisis and how we can shape an agroecosystem that reduces greenhouse gases (GHGs) and sequesters carbon while providing nearby communities with healthy food.

Operating a teaching farm beside a protected peat bog in a metropolitan setting provides invaluable opportunities to educate and learn about peat’s significance in the carbon cycle and its relation to agricultural GHGs. KPU remains committed to monitoring and assessing the impacts of farming on buried peat while actively promoting peatland conservation and restoration.

Learn more about this restoration project here.



Regenerative Practices to Protect Habitat


Conserving habitats and downstream watersheds is vital for wildlife and climate resilience. As such, safeguarding natural ecosystems and focusing on regenerating soil health on land that is already under cultivation is crucial for both ecological preservation and agricultural profitability.

Farmers and gardeners can help preserve ecosystems above and below ground by using regenerative practices like no-till, cover cropping, compost amendments, managed grazing and agroforestry, as discussed in our previous blog posts.

Additional beneficial management practices include:

Dr. Michael Bomford, who teaches in KPU’s Sustainable Agriculture program, surveys the landscape at the KPU Teaching farm, with glimpses of Metro Vancouver in the background. Photo source: Hamaka Creativity Lab

● Establishing riparian buffers: Planting trees along waterways to provide habitat, catch agricultural runoff, and protect aquatic ecosystems.

● Avoiding conversion of shelterbelts: Shelterbelts and treed fencerows play a crucial role in wildlife habitat, biodiversity, erosion control, carbon storage, and improved water quality.

● Eliminating fall nitrogen application: Fall nitrogen application, a common practice among Prairie canola growers, leads to nitrogen losses and emissions over the winter. Shifting away from this practice is crucial for healthy soil stewardship.

● Dedicating land to biodiversity conservation: Re-establishing native ecosystems on farmland or incorporating pockets of natural habitat into cultivated areas has proven to be the most effective way to benefit landscape biodiversity.

On the KPU Farm, beetle banks were built on the perimeter of the fields to provide habitat for beneficial insects such as predatory ground beetles and pollinators.

● Including native plants: Embracing the cultivation of native plants in gardens helps recreate natural habitats. Native plants are well-adapted to local conditions, supporting local pollinators and wildlife. In prairie grassland restoration specifically, native grassland species must be used. 

At KPU, native plants were planted along the site’s perimeter, bordering a walking trail.

● Planting hedgerows: Hedgerows consisting of mixed native flowering shrubs and groundcovers span portions of the farm, serving as beneficial insect habitats and wildlife corridors while acting as windbreaks protecting crops. The flowering plants also attract pollinators during crop bloom periods.


For support in adopting some of these practices, farmers can access programs like Farmers for Climate Solutions’ FaRM Program, ALUS Canada, or their home province’s Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) (BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, NB, NS, PEI, NFLD) or PAA in Quebec. Young Agrarians also offer learning and mentorship opportunities.

In the face of widespread habitat loss, regenerative agriculture emerges as a beacon of hope, illuminating a path toward healing degraded ecosystems. As demonstrated by KPU’s Teaching and Research Farm, regenerative land management can protect and restore threatened habitats while growing food sustainably. Whether on a vast farm or in a backyard garden, each regenerative action – from setting aside land for conservation to replanting native species to integrating pollinator hedgerows – multiplies and contributes to the revival of ecosystems, ensuring a sustainable future for generations.


To know more about regenerative practices at KPU’s Teaching and Research Farm, watch the short film featuring the farm, listen to the podcast episode with Rebecca Harbut and Michael Bomford, and watch the “Regenerating Relationships” webinar recording with Michael.

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