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Ecological collapse of Toronto’s ravine system has begun, researcher says

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A researcher says ecological collapse of Toronto’s vast ravine system has started because of invasive species but one way to save the narrow forested areas would be to form a large public-private partnership.

Eric Davies, a University of Toronto forest ecology PhD student, said native species — plants, mammals, birds, insects — are disappearing from Toronto’s ravines at an alarming rate. The ravines, which make up about 17 per cent of Toronto’s land or more than 11,000 hectares, are becoming silent.

“The collapse has already begun,” Davies told CBC Toronto on Sunday. “It’s in the full throes of a massive decline.”

But Toronto residents could still make a difference in an effort to preserve and nurture the ravines, he said.

In an interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Friday, Davies said the decline is evident by the detail that is missing, he said.

“You go for a quick walk and it looks green. But you take a closer look and you’ll start to notice that some of the key quintessential forest organisms would be missing, trees and plants and wildlife,” he said. “The clear thing is that there’s lot of Norway maple. It’s taking over the diversity of native trees.”

Toronto’s ravines are sick, according to a study that looks at what’s happened to native plants and trees over a 40-year period. It shows that native species are disappearing at an alarming rate. Why is that happening, and what can we do about it? 8:17

Davies said a “base layer of vegetation” is also missing. For example, it would be hard pressed to find a carpet of Trillium, Ontario’s provincial flower, in ravines in most areas in the spring.

‘The collapse has already begun,’ Eric Davies told CBC Toronto on Sunday about Toronto’s ravine system. ‘It’s in the full throes of a massive decline.’ (CBC)

According to the final report of the Toronto Ravines Study: 1977-2017, released on Friday, Norway maple, an invasive tree species, has increased its tree canopy cover from about 10 per cent in 1970s to about 40 per cent in 2017.

Invasive herbaceous plants, such as Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard and dog-strangling vine, are now found in more than 95 per cent of the forest floor surveyed by researchers.

Invasive species not only take up space, they “toxify” the soil, “out-shade” native species and “out-compete for growth.” creating an environment hostile to native species, Davies said.

‘Important on all fronts’

Davies said Toronto residents should be concerned about the decline of the city’s ravines because they benefit Toronto recreationally, economically and ecologically. 

“In terms of the biodiversity, this is the Mothership, this is where everything is,” he said. “It’s important on all fronts, but the integrity of the system is declining so rapidly it’s kind of threatening those benefits.”

Davies said the city is “trying” to save the ravines, but a large amount of money is needed and Toronto could follow the example of New York City, which has budgeted $385 million over 25 years fin what it calls its Natural Areas Conservancy. The money is being used to fund a science-based program to take an inventory of natural areas, restore and steward them.

According to the final report of the Toronto Ravines Study: 1977-2017, released on Friday, Norway maple, an invasive tree species, has increased its tree canopy cover from about 10 per cent in 1970s to about 40 per cent in 2017. Invasive herbaceous plants, such as Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard and dog-strangling vine, are now found in more than 95 per cent of the forest floor surveyed by researchers. (CBC)

New York City has created a team of scientists who are working closely with the city to promote biodiversity across the city’s five boroughs, he said.

“In a nutshell, it comes down to money. The level of funding that is required is massive,” he said.

For its part, however, the city of Toronto said in a statement this week that it has established a ravine strategy to guide its efforts to protect ravines in the city and it is determined to take steps to nurture the city’s green spaces.

“We want you to know that the city is committed to protecting, maintaining and improving the ecological health and resilience of these natural spaces. The city continues to make investments to manage the multiple pressures facing ravines,” the statement reads.
 
“A healthy natural environment that is stable, resilient and ecologically diverse is the foundation of every action and intention outlined in the ravine strategy.” 

‘Someone has to speak for the trees and the animals,’ says Paul Scrivener, a co-author of the Toronto Ravines Study: 1977-2017. (CBC)

The Toronto Botanical Garden hosted a one-day Urban Ravine Symposium on Friday, attracting about 100 participants, many of whom went on a rainy tour of Wilket Creek Ravine, near Leslie Street, south of Lawrence Avenue East.

Paul Scrivener, a co-author of the report, told people on the tour that the report has begun to track the decline of the ravine system.

“The key finding was there’s been a huge change in Toronto’s ravines that we studied since 1977,” he said.

The report recommends that the city restore the “ecological integrity” of the ravines and develop a plan to get rid of invasive species and replace them with native plants. Seeds of native plants can be grown to propagate the ravines, he said.

“Someone has to speak for the trees and the animals,” Scrivener said. 

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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