Peer Reviewed Publications

Year Title (Author, Description) File Download

Managing the Cumulative Impacts of Land-uses in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin: A Modeling Approach

R. Schneider, B. Stelfox., S. Boutin, S. Wasel; Journal of Conservation Biology

In this paper we present a case study from northeastern Alberta, Canada. Our objective is to demonstrate a fundamentally different approach to forest management in which stakeholders weigh current management options in terms of their long-term effects on the forest in order to balance conservation and economic objectives. We use ALCES, a landscape-scale simulation model, to quantify the effects of the current regulatory framework and typical industrial practices on a suite of ecological and economic indicators over the next 100 years. We also use the model to explore an alternative management scenario involving the application of several "best practices" that are currently being advocated.


Managing Alberta's Energy Futures at the Landscape Scale

Kennett et al., ISEEE, University of Calgary

Alberta's booming energy industry is competing for space on a land base that is subject to increasing human demands from a multitude of industrial, agricultural, residential and recreational land uses. The ability of that land base to support these land uses and to sustain the province's diverse natural ecosystems is therefore a critically important issue when considering energy futures for Alberta. This paper is intended to show how the implications of energy development at the landscape scale can be understood. It also discusses key issues and options for the management of this landscape change. The data and analysis presented here illustrate the potential for integrated and interdisciplinary research to focus and inform the debate that has already begun in Alberta as decision-makers, stakeholders and individual Albertans confront inevitable and difficult choices regarding energy and landscape futures.


Informing Regional Planning in Alberta's Oilsands Region with a Land-use Simulation Model

Matt Carlson et al; International Environmental Modelling and Software Society

Planning for regional sustainability requires strategic understanding of ecological and socioeconomic trade-offs associated with alternative land use options. We discuss a scenario analysis being undertaken to assess trade-offs for a 93,000 km2 region in northeastern Alberta containing the world's second largest oil deposit. Due to its immense economic and ecological value, the region presents both an opportunity and challenge for the objectives of sustainable prosperity and healthy ecosystems put forth by the Alberta government's Land-Use Framework. ALCES simulation and mapping software are being applied to inform government planners and stakeholders about possible future outcomes associated with land-use options. ALCES is well suited due to its capacity to simulate the cumulative effects of the major types of land use (hydrocarbon extraction, forestry, agriculture, residential) and natural processes (fire and meteorology) on a wide range of ecological and economic indicators. The scenario analysis provides a case study to discuss the technical aspects of ALCES and the Alberta Land-Use Framework's approach of facilitating learning through iterative scenario analysis.


Influences of Human Stressors on Fish-Based Metrics for Assessing River Condition in Central Alberta

C Steves, T. Council, M. Sullivan

Economic developments in Alberta have resulted in widespread changes in land use that may deteriorate river conditions for fish. Fish assemblages were characterized with index of biological integrity metrics for the heavily-developed watershed of the Battle River, Alberta. Metric relationships with human stressors were quantified using regression and information theory methods. Although the fauna comprised 14 native species, 50% of the catch was white sucker (Catostomus commersoni Lacepede, 1803). Five statistically unrelated metrics were identified as being responsive to stressors: two trophic guilds, one habitat guild, one reproductive guild, and one measure of community structure. Regression showed that the cumulative effect of human developments, indexed as road density in the basin, was negatively linked to the relative abundance of lithophils and positively linked to the relative abundance of omnivores. Agriculture also threatened the integrity of fish assemblages. Stream sections with higher cattle densities in their basins had fewer lithophils and benthic invertivores; whereas stream sections with higher nutrient concentrations contained fewer species, as well as fewer top carnivores, but more true omnivores. Understanding effects of human footprints that are expanding in western Canada will be critical to the successful


Effects of a Severe Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic in Western Alberta, Canada under Two Forest Management Scenarios

R. Schneider, M.C. Latham, B. Stelfox, D. Farr, S. Boutin; International J. of Forestry Research

We used a simulation model to investigate possible effects of a severe mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) epidemic under two management scenarios in Alberta, Canada. Our simulated outbreak was based on the current epidemic in British Columbia, which may kill close to 80% of the province's pine volume. Our two management scenarios were conventional harvest and a pine-reduction strategy modeled on a component of Alberta's Mountain Pine Beetle Management Strategy. Our objective was to describe the potential outcomes of these alternative management approaches over the medium and longer term. Alternative management approaches and avenues for future research are discussed.


Integrated Resource Management and Planning entry in the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (

Matt Carlson and Brad Stelfox

Land use conflicts are increasing in intensity and frequency as a result of expanding development, a finite land base, and a growing environmental ethic. Reactionary strategies, fragmented bureaucracies, and the legacy of utilitarian management approaches have created disjointed environmental management that is poorly suited to resolve land use conflicts. Integrated approaches to resource and environmental management have emerged as an alternative. Integrate resource management (IRM) applies a number of concepts to balance development and conservation objectives: stakeholder collaboration, explicit goals and indicators, tradeoff analysis, adaptive management, monitoring, development thresholds, and zoning.


Assessing the Future Wildlife Impacts of Conservation and Development in the Mackenzie Watershed

Matt Carlson, Erin Bayne, and Brad Stelfox

Located in northwestern Canada, the Mackenzie watershed's intact boreal ecosystems support a diversity of wildlife including hundreds of migratory bird species and sensitive mammals such as the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou). The watershed also contains abundant timber and hydrocarbon resources such as the oil sands region in northern Alberta and undeveloped gas fields in the Northwest Territories. We conducted a scenario analysis to explore the long-term impacts of natural resource development to the watershed's landscapes and wildlife. Land use simulations using A Landscape Cumulative Effects Simulator (ALCES) computer model compared a business-as-usual development scenario and a conservation scenario that increased protection and implemented practices to reduce the impact of forestry and energy development. The business-as-usual scenario was predicted to reduce older forest and increase anthropogenic footprint. These simulated landscape transformations caused declines in songbird species such as the Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis), Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens) and Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus), and led to the extirpation of Woodland Caribou. By reducing landscape disturbance, the conservation scenario lessened the predicted impacts to wildlife. The scenario analysis demonstrates the importance of implementing effective conservation strategies prior to wide-scale development in boreal ecosystems.


Scenario Analysis to Identify Viable Conservation Strategies in Paraguay's Imperiled Atlantic Forest

Matt Carlson, Ross Mitchell, and Laura Rodriguez

A common challenge facing land use planning is assessment of the future performance of land use options. The challenge can be acute in developing regions where land use is expanding rapidly and funding and data needed for planning are scarce. To inform land use planning for a biosphere reserve located in Paraguay's Atlantic forest region, a scenario analysis explored the relative merits of conventional and conservation agricultural practices, sustained yield forestry, and protection. Simulations compared the long-term impacts on land cover, biotic carbon, and income of the area's residents. Ecological and economic decline were projected under conventional practices. Protection and forestry scenarios achieved only small relative improvements to ecological indicators at the cost of reduced economic performance. By addressing the underlying issue of land degradation, conservation agriculture including no-tillage was the most successful land use strategy both ecologically and economically. Identification of conservation agriculture as the most promising land use strategy prioritizes issues that must be addressed to achieve sustainability, most importantly the provision of education and funding to smallholder farmers. We conclude that scenario analysis offers a flexible strategy to integrate available data for the purpose of informing land use planning in data-limited regions such as Paraguay's Atlantic forest. Link to article:


Cumulative Effects Assessment, Linking Social, Economic and Governance Dimensions

Weber, M., Krogman, N., and Antoniuk, T.

Setting social, economic, and ecological objectives is ultimately a process of social choice informed by science.


Does Expected Future Landscape Condition Support Proposed Population Objectives for Boreal Birds?

L. Mahon, E. Bayne, P. Solymos, S. Matsuoka, M. Carlson, E. Dzus, F. Schmiegelow, S. Song

L. Mahon et al. 2014. Does expected future landscape condition support proposed population objectives for boreal birds? Forest Ecology and Management 312:28-39. Abstract: Assessing the feasibility of proposed Bird Conservation Region (BCR) population objectives requires comparing expected future population size estimates to proposed population objectives. Linking statistical bird habitat models with landscape simulation models can provide a direct method for assessing the ecological and economic implications of alternative land and resource scenarios within a BCR or BCR subregion. We demonstrate our approach for analyses of future habitat supply and population size for a suite of priority landbird species using the ALCES landscape simulation model and empirical bird habitat models within a multi-use landscape located in northeast Alberta, Canada and BCR 6-Boreal Taiga Plains. We used ALCES to simulate future landscape condition over a 100 year time period under three scenarios: business as usual, protected areas, and climate change. Shortfalls between simulated population size estimates at year 30 and proposed population objectives existed for each of the four priority bird species examined suggesting that expected future landscape condition will not support proposed population objectives for these species. Boreal species strongly associated with mature and old forest habitats exhibited population declines over the 100 year simulation period. One habitat generalist, a species associated with both early and late seral stages, appeared to benefit from the range of land use scenarios examined. Our approach improves upon current static approaches used to step down BCR scale population objectives to sub-regional scale habitat objectives by utilizing statistical bird population response models to estimate density and a dynamic landscape simulation model to estimate expected future habitat condition.

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