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Transmission Line With Native Prairie

Manitoba Hydro can save money and help the environment, says U of M study

August 25, 2017 — 

Researchers at the University of Manitoba have found that the grassy habitat below power lines, usually ignored by conservationists and the public, can be managed to attract butterflies and grassland birds. And their recommendations would actually save Manitoba Hydro money.

Professor Nicola Koper and her former PhD student Dr. Lionel Leston published studies in two journals this year – Landscape and Urban Planning, and Avian Conservation and Ecology –that show if we curb mowing and herbicide use under some sections of power lines, the resulting tall diverse grass heights will attract more species of butterfly, including threatened monarch butterflies, and bird species.

The authors suggest that the money Manitoba Hydro would save by mowing less frequently could be used to plant native grass and wildflower species, which would make power lines beneficial to prairie wildlife, which is under threat: Less than one per cent of Manitoba’s original 6,000 square kilometres of tall-grass prairies remains.

“This can be a win-win for wildlife and industry,” says Koper. “We should keep looking for opportunities, like this one, to work with industry in a way that can conserve our environment and the bottom line.”


This study was funded by the Manitoba Hydro Research and Development Grant (#G237), National Science and Engineering Research Canada Industrial Postgraduate Scholarship (IPS1-350445-2007), Manitoba Conservation Sustainable Development Innovations Fund (#27095/26082), Environment Canada’s Science Horizons Fund (SH215), Manitoba Career Focus Program, and the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Graduate Studies. Academic advice for this study came from Dr. Micheline Manseau, Dr. Terry Galloway, and Dr. Douglas Johnson. Field work was conducted by Praepun Khattiyakornjaroon, Jennifer Tran, and Yan Wang. In-kind support was provided by Dr. Robert Roughley and Technician Dave Holder (University of Manitoba, Department of Entomology); Tamara Keedwell and Dalia Naguib (University of Manitoba, Natural Resources Institute); and Wade Munro, Trent Hreno, Wayne Ortiz, and Spencer Heaman (Manitoba Hydro liaisons and vegetation managers). Vegetation at the experimental sites was mowed by Manitoba Hydro personnel (Wayne Ortiz, Spencer Heaman) and Neil van Ryssel (agricultural producer, Oakbank, Manitoba).

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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