Peer Reviewed Publications

Year Title (Author, Description) File Download

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.


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.


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.


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.


Modelling regional futures at decadal scale: application to the Kimberley region

Fabio Boschetti, Hector Lozano-Montes, J. Brad Stelfox

We address the question of how to provide meaningful scientific information to support environmental decision making at the regional scale and at the temporal scale of several decades. Our application is the management of a network of marine parks in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, where the key challenges to environmental sustainability are slow-dynamics climate change processes and one-off investments in large infrastructure, which can affect the future of a region for decades to come. In this situation, strategic, rather than reactive planning is necessary and thus standard adaptive management approaches may not be effective. Prediction becomes more urgent than adaptation, in terms of assessing the long term consequence of specific economic and conservation decisions. Working at the interface between future studies, socio-economic modelling and environmental modelling, we define 18 scenarios of economic development and climate change impacts and 5 management strategies aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the marine environment. We explore these potential future trajectories using coupled models of terrestrial land use and marine ecosystem dynamics. The Alces model simulates the dynamics of bio-physical and socio-economic processes on land and the pressures these impose on the coastal and marine environment. This forces an Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) model used to simulate marine processes, foodweb dynamics and human activities in the marine environment. We obtain a projection of the Kimberley marine system to the year 2050, conditional on the chosen scenarios and management strategies, which is compatible with the best available knowledge of the current system state (as codified in the models’ input) and system functioning (as represented in the models’ dynamics). Our results suggest that climate change, not economic development, is the largest factor affecting the future of marine ecosystems in the Kimberley region, with sedentary species such as reef fish at greatest risk. These same species also benefit most from more stringent management strategies, especially expansion of sanctuary zones and Marine Protected Areas.

Modelling regional futures at decadal scale.pdf

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:


Supplementary Methods for The Future of Wildlife Conservation and Resource Development in the Western Boreal Forest: A technical report on cumulative effects modeling of future land use scenarios

Matt Carlson and David Browne

Supplementary methods for the scenario analysis presented in the report "The Future of Wildlife Conservation and Resource Development in the Western Boreal Forest: A technical report on cumulative effects modeling of future land use scenarios"

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