The RE3 Conference was held in Québec City from June 11-16, 2023, under the theme “From Reclaiming to Restoring and Rewilding”. The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association was the main sponsor of the conference, and the Québec Peat and Substrate Cluster was involved in the organisation of several activities.

The event was a joint conference between the Society for Ecological Restoration – Eastern Canada (SER-EC) and the Canadian Land Reclamation Association (CLRA), in collaboration with other organizations, including the Canadian chapter of the Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS Canada), the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), and the International Peatland Society (IPS). Most of the 700 participants were national and international scientists, consultants, academia, industry, and government representatives involved in all aspects of restoration. The conference president Line Rochefort (Université Laval), co-president Maria Strack (University of Waterloo), and co-host Fannie DesRosiers (CLRA) also highlighted the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) throughout the event.

The CSPMA and the Cluster made their presence known and visible with a speech at the Opening Ceremony, contributing to and chairing key events, various presentations, and discussions panels. With strong support from members, the associations also organized a collaborative booth showcasing the peat industry and field excursions focused on the sustainability of the Canadian horticultural peat industry, especially its restoration actions and the results of decades of support and investment in science. Here is a summary of the key CSPMA and Cluster achievements during the conference:

Speech at Opening Ceremony
CSPMA president, Asha Hingorani, spoke at the opening of the conference to highlight why the horticultural peat industry is sponsoring a conference focused on ecosystem restoration. Asha’s words spoke to the 30-year history the industry has with research and the actions and results it brings.

Canadian Peat Industry Booth
With support from other RE3 sponsors (Berger, Sun Gro Horticulture and Premier Tech), the CSPMA and Cluster were successful in delivering a collaborative peat industry booth, which focused on pillars of our sustainability journey: our support to academic research, best management practices, restoration efforts, and Veriflora certification. The booth also provided information about peatlands and responsible peat production, including a replica of the restoration process, videos showcasing our actions, and peat and peatland vegetation samples.

Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI)
From June 10-11, a workshop was held by GPI to foster collaborations for effective peatland management in Canada. The aim of this workshop was to mobilize multi-disciplinary research and collaboration to compile and consolidate Canadian knowledge, data, and experience on peatlands in Canada.

On the first day of the workshop, approximately 70 participants visited Premier Tech’s Saint-Henri post-extracted peatland. The site has been restored over several years, making it an excellent demonstration site to witness the results of restoration action over time, as well as to see a well-regenerated donor site. Frédéric Caron, APTHQ president and Resource Director at Premier Tech, also presented at a discussion panel on behalf of the CSPMA. Frédéric provided a clear snapshot of how the industry has and continues to work with governments on peatland policy across Canada.

Peatland Restoration Short Course
As part of the pre-conference program, the CSPMA and Cluster’s Peatlands Affairs and Communications Manager Marie-Claire LeBlanc co-hosted a one-day training course with François Quinty (WSP) about Peatland Restoration through the Moss Layer Transfer Technique. The 13 participants originated from various countries, fields, and backgrounds, including research groups, consultant firms, provincial government, watershed organizations, peat production, and management companies.

Women in Restoration Session
Chaired by CSPMA, the session began with an inspirational presentation by Berger’s Co-CEOs Valérie Berger and Mélissa Berger, who spoke about their core values and leading a business from a woman’s perspective. Later, CSPMA president Asha Hingorani, chaired a panel of women involved in ecological restoration who also shared their journey and stories to the present day. Berger also presented the first Berger Awards for Ecosystem Restoration, recognizing the role of women in this field.

Mid- and Post-Conference Excursions
The CSPMA and the Peat and Substrate Cluster hosted two excursions in the Rivière-du-Loup region under the theme “Responsible Peatland Management: From Peat Extraction to Peatland Restoration”. Presentations from the association team, peat producers, as well as researchers and students from Université Laval (Peatland Ecology Research Group), McGill University, and Queen’s University provided good insight of the Canadian peat industry, its sustainability approach, and the science behind it. On June 14, the mid-conference excursion brought 30 participants from 9 countries to a peat extraction site, a mixing plant, and the Bois-des-Bel restored peatland. The objective of the tour was to present the industry with a special focus on growing substrates science.

From June 16-18, the post-conference excursion had a more science-oriented focus. Despite the rain, 22 participants from Canada and 7 European countries toured a peat extraction site and several restored sites following a chronological gradient. Berger and Premier Tech hosted dinner receptions and presented their vision of the peat industry. The tour sparked conversations about the success of the restoration method and the extent to which it is applied by the industry, as well as greenhouse gas emissions associated with peat extraction and restoration.

International Peatland Society (IPS) and Growing Media Europe (GME)
RE3 provided an excellent opportunity to meet face-to-face with our international partners. Members, including many from the Executive Board of the International Peatland Society (IPS) and Growing Media Europe (GME), attended RE3.

During the week, CSPMA’s Science Director, Stéphanie Boudreau, also had the opportunity to meet directly with Örjan Berglund, IPS’s Science Officer, and Alexander Sentinella, Growing Media Europe’s Science Coordinator. Both Alexandre and Örjan attended excursions hosted by the CSPMA and Cluster to visit peatlands in the Rivière-du-Loup region.

Scientific Sessions and Side Events
Throughout the conference, the scientific sessions provided many opportunities for CSPMA and Cluster members to speak about their vision of the peat industry and its responsible management, to provide and discuss examples of the application of the peatland restoration method, and the importance of peat as a substrate for the growing world. Scientific collaborators and students also delivered numerous presentations to inform participants about their research results and projects. Many side events also took place during the conference, which also provided excellent networking opportunities.

The RE3 conference was truly a successful event and the lessons learned, new encounters, numerous discussions and ideas shared, will certainly influence the industry’s approach to restoration and responsible management of peatlands going forward. The CSPMA and the Québec Peat and Substrate Cluster acknowledges the collaboration of their members and the Québec Ministère de l’Économie, de l’Innovation et de l’Énergie for their support and collaboration, as well as the RE3 Conference organization team, for making the event such a success.

Photos: Marie-Claire LeBlanc, Stéphanie Boudreau, Aline Dupuis & Martine Lapointe