Current Research and Reports
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation has a number of ongoing research projects. If you have any questions or feedback we'd love to hear from you.
Call for Expressions of Interest
Applying the EcoHealth Economic Valuation Framework
Greenspaces provide a number of environmental and health benefits. One of the ways to increase the quality and diversity (including biodiversity) of urban and rural spaces is to increase availability and access to greenspaces. Demonstrating the economic value of making these changes can be used to influence decision makers responsible for the design and management of public spaces. EcoHealth Ontario commissioned Green Analytics to develop a valuation framework to show how greenspace interventions (defined broadly as changes to provision, access, use, quality and availability) can lead to direct and indirect financial savings due to improved health for people benefiting from that greenspace. This framework was completed in December 2019.
The Greenbelt Foundation, on behalf of EcoHealth Ontario, is seeking partners to apply the framework to real world projects. These pilots will validate the evaluation framework, provide important information for the project proponents, and start collecting data that is context-specific to the Greater Golden Horseshoe region.
Download the full RFP here and the addendum with recently answered questions here. The deadline for proposals is January 31st, 2020.
Agriculture Trends and Updates: Understanding the Greenbelt’s Unique Advantages
Home to 750,000 acres of some of the most productive agricultural land in Canada, the Greenbelt supports a thriving agricultural and agri-food sector. Because of high quality soils and a favourable climate, the Greenbelt produces a significant amount of produce in close proximity to Canada’s largest markets in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
This report profiles the changes in agriculture in the Greenbelt from 2011 to 2016 compared to the rest of Ontario. A key finding is that nearly 11% of Ontario’s vegetable acreage and 53% of Ontario’s fruit acreage is in the Greenbelt, including more than 80% of Ontario’s acreage in peaches, plums, prunes, apricots, and grapes.
Agricultural Advisory Committees: Recognizing the Value of Agriculture in the Golden Horseshoe
The decisions of local and regional Councils have direct and immediate impacts on the short and long-term viability of agriculture. Agricultural Advisory Committees (AAC) have been established by Councils across the Golden Horseshoe throughout the years to help give the agricultural sector a stronger voice in the decisions that would affect them. AACs have a mandate to identify agricultural issues and opportunities to enhance the sector by providing an agricultural lens to municipal policies, plans, and processes.
Produced in collaboration with the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance, this report examines the structure, challenges, and successes of AACs in the Golden Horseshoe. It highlights a number of lessons learned from AACs in the Golden Horseshoe that will be useful for existing AACs, as well as municipalities interested in establishing an AAC.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture hosted a webinar on this research, which you can view here.
Greenbelt Farmers: Sustaining Soil Health
Healthy soil is the heart of Ontario farms and our food system. Healthy soil contributes to multiple economic and environmental benefits including improved crop growth, water and nutrient retention, resilience, biodiversity, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. Yet Ontario’s agricultural soils face challenges to their health and conservation because soil organic matter is decreasing in many areas, there is too much bare soil in winter, and soil is increasingly at risk of erosion. It is also concerning that tillage is increasing, crop rotations are becoming less diverse, and there is an ongoing shift away from perennial forages to annual crops.
This report tells the stories of 14 farmers in the Greenbelt who are using a variety of practices to improve their soil health and the economic and environmental reasons behind their choices.
Research in Progress
Costs and Benefits of Water Adaptation Measures in the Greenbelt
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation is working in partnership with the University of Waterloo and Green Analytics to develop an innovative, agent-based model approach to examine regional water use dynamics in the Greenbelt. This will help the region to understand water use trade-offs during periods of water shortages in the region, looking decades into the future as drought conditions are more likely due to climate change.
As farmland makes up half of the Greenbelt, the project focuses on the role agricultural adaptation practices, like soil management, irrigation, and water storage, can play in mitigating the impacts of water shortages. We will be inviting stakeholders to a Fall workshop to learn about the model and help test it.
Examining the Role of Green Infrastructure and the Greenbelt’s Urban River Valleys in Building Resilience to Climate Change and the Impacts of Extreme Heat
The Greenbelt is 2 million acres of protected farmland and natural systems in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area, including multiple river valleys in cities along Lake Ontario. These natural connectors link the Lake to the Greenbelt. Four million people live within 2 km of 21 urban river valleys (URVs) URVs and benefit from the many ecological goods and services they provide.
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation is working with Ryerson University to examine how the URVs help build resiliency to the impacts of climate change by examining their role during extreme heat events. The results of this work will be useful for municipal and community climate adaptation / resiliency planning across the region, and provide specific recommendations for two case study communities.
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation is a member and proud supporter of EcoHealth Ontario. EcoHealth Ontario (EHO) is a collaboration among public health practitioners, planners, conservation authorities, academics, and many more, committed to sharing information, developing the science and facilitating the discussion on the important connections between the environment and our own well being. You can find out more about EHO by visiting their website.
The Foundation is currently working with EHO on a project to increase our understanding of the relationships between environment and health. The results will help decision makers understand the health-related increased costs associated with losing greenspace, as well as reduced costs associated with greenspace enhancements.
Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance
The Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance (GHFFA) is a partnership between the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and the regional municipalities and Federations of Agriculture in Niagara, Peel, Halton, York, and Durham, and the cities of Hamilton and Toronto. The GHFFA has a mandate to support growth in the food and farming cluster in the Golden Horseshoe, one of the largest food and farming clusters in North America. You can find out more about the GHFFA by visiting their website.
The Foundation is supporting the GHFFA to undertake a value chain analysis for Ontario carrots in order to better understand the sector and identify gaps and opportunities for growth. The project will also produce a template that can then be used for other value chain analyses.