Friday, October 16, 2009

"Sprucing" up Laurentian Campus

Dr. Beckett talking to our class about planting white spruce.
How would you offset your carbon footprint? What exactly IS your carbon footprint? The term refers to the "total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused directly or indirectly by an individual, group, organization, product, etc." The folks at Laurentian University (LU) have calculated that 4000 trees need to be planted annually to offset their carbon footprint. This past week, our SciComm class planted about 10% of those trees (400 trees) under the direction of LU biologist, Peter Beckett.

The small white spurice saplings we were planting were actually grown in one of Sudbury's mines as part of INCO's own regreening efforts. The idea of using old mines to grow saplings, sprouted out of a previous project by Dr. Beckett and a colleague to grow cucumbers and other vegetables in mines.

The site of the future SciComm forest.

Merissa and Sarah lovingly planting a sapling.

White spruce is a shade tolerant, native species, perfect for growing among the birch trees. They are also a climax species of the region. Alright, quick biology lesson... say for example you completely bulldoze an area leaving only soil. The area goes through a process called "succession" where a series of plant types will colonize the area. The first to take over the area would be quick growing and spreading grasses and weeds from the surrounding environment. As they grow, die and decompose, the plants are continually adding nutrients to the soil, making way for other plant species. You may get blueberry bushes and other shrubs in next, followed by deciduous trees like birch. Eventually conifers like white spruce would take over the region. With each succession of plants, they push out the other plant types till you reach the climax species.

You just can't keep James from looking for snakes... even at 5'C. He's holding a garter snake.

Though there were a few young and mature coniferous trees around, we helped the succession process along by planting our white spruce. We are expecting to get a survival rate of around 70% (fingers crossed). So expect to see our beautiful SciComm white spruce forest on the Laurentian campus in about 10 years...

To learn more about how you can minimize your carbon footprint visit

- Justin

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