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A Checklist for Evaluating Alberta's New Land-Use Initiatives
Public land management in Alberta is once again under scrutiny thanks to several policy initiatives and stakeholder consultations recently launched by the provincial government. Many stakeholder groups and individuals who pay attention to land-use issues must be wondering whether or not they should participate in this flurry of activity and how likely it is to achieve significant results.
Ecosystem Service Approach Pilot on Wetlands Assessment of Water Storage and Flood Control Ecosystem Services
O2 Planning + Design Inc.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies were used to model water storage and flood control functions as well as related beneficiaries and ecosystem services of wetlands in the Shepard Slough study area east of Calgary. The water storage model used a raster-based computer script using LiDAR inputs combined with a rating curve to estimate water storage capacity volumes for each wetland in the study area. The flood control model used eight separate predictor variables of wetland flood control functions. Notable results and conclusions of the study included: Study area wetlands provides a total water storage capacity of over 36 million m3-greater than the combined total volume of the Glenmore Reservoir and Lake Chestermere; Wetland water storage provides many supporting and regulating ecosystem services upon which all other ecosystem services depend; Much water storage is located in the large central Shepard Slough Wetlands; however, the large number of small wetlands add up to a considerable storage volume on a cumulative basis; In the study area, Class IV wetlands tend to store the most water volume, both on a per wetland basis and on a cumulative basis, although variability within the class was very high; Class V wetlands also store large volumes, but there are fewer of them and they are less important on a cumulative basis than Class III wetlands overall; Class I and II wetlands have very small average wetland volumes, but they can add up to a considerable volume when taken together as a whole; A large number of wetlands have been drained in the study area, particularly within urban areas but also in agricultural areas, and the trend calculated over 1965-2005 is a 20% drop in wetland water storage volume; Users/beneficiaries of wetland water storage provisioning services are low in the study area; Cattle are the largest ecosystem service beneficiary of water storage and supply in the study area, with up to 144,000 m3/year used by cattle; The flood control index indicates that many medium and small wetlands at high landscape positions provide considerable flood control benefits, particularly on a cumulative effects basis; “Hotspots” of high flood control services included a large cluster of wetlands near the north boundary of the study area, several wetlands east of Chestermere and in the north half of the Belvedere Area Structure Plan area in The City of Calgary; Smaller areas of wetlands with high flood control indicator values are dispersed throughout the study area; All wetlands have the potential to provide some measure of flood control ecosystem services, although this occurs to differing degrees and at different scales; According to a rough calculation, if all study area wetlands were drained effectively, peak flows in the Bow River immediately downstream would increase by up to 37%, indicating the level of importance of these wetlands at mitigating peak flows in the region; and Comparisons of the WESPUS site-scale results to the GIS model results showed: - WESPUS hydrologic function scores weakly positively correlated with water storage volume - WESPUS hydrologic scores moderately positively correlated with the flood control indicator - very high variability and in particular several outliers highlighted model mismatches - caution is required when interpreting indicator values from WESPUS or GIS models.
Warning Signs Mitigate Deer–Vehicle Collisions in an Urban Area
Rob Found, Mark S. Boyce
Increasing collisions with deer (Odocoileus spp.) and other large animals, and the rise in associated public safety risks and economic costs, have made mitigation strategies a priority for both transportation and wildlife managers. Deer-crossing warning signage is one of the oldest forms of mitigating deer–vehicle collisions (DVCs), but despite their low cost and logistical simplicity, the effectiveness of standard-sized permanent warning signage at reducing DVCs has not previously been adequately determined. We used historical DVC data, based on deer carcass retrieval, to identify and target areas and periods of high collision frequency. We installed warning signs at these high collision frequency locations and then compared DVCs to un-signed control locations. The total number of DVCs at signed hotspots was significantly different in the year after the signs were installed, compared to the 3 prior years (F13 ¼ 4.99, P ¼ 0.004). Although the single year of posttreatment data means the long-term efficacy of warning signage remains unknown, we showed that in the first year after installation, deer-crossing signs targeting high collision locations can be effective at reducing DVCs.
Ecosystem Services Approach Pilot on Wetlands Operationalizing an Ecosystem Service Approach within the Government of Alberta: Steps and Lessons Learned November
Dr. Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne and Gillian Kerr
Ecosystem services is a concept designed to force us to acknowledge the different ways in which the environment supports human economies, the everyday lives of individuals, health and well-being, and sustainable communities. This concept can be used to communicate the importance of the environment in terms that people haven’t considered previously, and can be used to focus research and policy on how best to manage the environment to sustain human well-being. This report was one of the key deliverables required by the ES Pilot to provide a concise overview of how the ES Approach steps were undertaken and the experience and advice of the ES team about the ES Pilot outcome: the development and operationalization of an ES Approach to provide a tool to enhance decision making. It is therefore written for persons interested in understanding how the ES pilot team modified the generic ES Approach and a number of the challenges and successes with the Approach. It intended to be a useful document for others that want to consider building an ES Approach into their work. It also supports one of the objectives to try to operationalize the ES Approach for decision-making within ESRD. As such there are four primary components to the report. This Report will: 1. Describe the specific context of the ES Pilot Project on Wetlands (‘ES Pilot’), its goals and limitations; 2. Outline the methods used by the ES Approach Pilot on Wetlands to complete the 6 steps of the ‘Ecosystem Services (ES) Approach’; 3. Describe how the project was organized and discuss organizational challenges related to project structure, leadership, communication and working across disciplines; and 4. Discuss how an ES Approach could be operationalized in different contexts within ESRD to meet different objectives.
Ecosystem Services Approach Pilot on Wetlands Economic Valuation Technical Report
Yihong Wang, Anish Neupane, Angele Vickers, Tom Klavins, Rob Bewer
The Ecosystem Services Approach Pilot on Wetlands (the ES Pilot) is part of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s 10-year ES Roadmap; the Pilot’s completion and results are considered a progression in understanding and applying an ES Approach to support decision making. This economic valuation technical report is one of the technical reports developed for the Pilot and forms the basis for providing monetary estimates of benefits from wetlands in the Shepard Slough study area. This valuation is part of the Ecosystem Services Approach adapted from the Millennium Ecosystem Services Approach. Shepard Slough (‘the study area’) covers approximately 274 km2, encompassing part of the City of Calgary, Rocky View County and the Town of Chestermere. The study area is primarily agriculture (~57%), with increasing settled areas (~17%) and industrial areas (~10%). About 11%, or 24.5 km2 (or 2,450 hectares), of the landscape is covered by wetlands. This area has been facing land use changes often leading to loss or alteration of wetlands over the past several decades. These land use changes has meant that ecosystem services provided by wetlands have either been lost or altered. In the context of decision making this loss and alteration has not been well understood or accounted for. Wetland regulatory decision makers identified three major gaps with respect to current decision making process. Economic valuation, using the total economic value framework, was used to help address these three major gaps identified by the wetland approval decision makers. There is limited ability to communicate the ‘values’ of wetlands Economic valuation showed that wetlands contribute to human well being by providing services that would otherwise need human intervention and infrastructure expenditure. For example, the economic values of wetland regulating services (such as flood control, water purification and carbon storage) are large and can be more effective and less costly than engineering solutions. The aesthetic benefit, expressed through premium paid for houses located nearby a wetland and recreation opportunities provided by wetlands are significant. These results can be a powerful tool to communicate the values of wetlands with different stakeholders involved in wetland management process. There is insufficient consideration of cumulative effects and long-term consequences of decision making The distribution of economic value and annual value loss on a landscape map can provide useful information in high-level strategic planning with the consideration of cumulative effects. For example, flood control benefit wetlands between 0.1 and 1.0 ha account for over eight per cent of the total, which, although small, is almost as high as the total of those wetlands between 5 to 10 hectares. In addition to the spatial dimension, there is enough flexibility for different development scenarios to be applied and to show the corresponding consequences of different development paces. We used historic wetland loss rate and also projected future potential loss. This projection could be modified using more sophisticated scenario planning. This exercise would be helpful for decision makers when undertaking planning exercise to try and understand the cumulative impact of wetland loss. iii There is insufficient evidence to support avoidance, minimization and compensation decisions on wetlands Economic valuation of wetlands across the landscape can help identify heterogeneous value areas and thus identify priorities for wetland management decisions. From a management perspective wetlands of higher values could be linked to avoidance decisions compared to lower value which might support minimization or compensation decisions. Thus economic valuation of wetland within the ES framework can provide evidence to support the management hierarchy of wetland approval process and also wetland management planning at larger landscape scales. Results of the valuation are summarized in Table EX1. It should be noted that although monetary values of benefits have been calculated, it is not appropriate to aggregate these values across the services. It is partially because of the different scales being used for valuation and value measures (e.g. total, average, marginal value) also differed amongst the ES. Some other limitations and caveats remain. There is still incomplete understanding of changes in ES and how that relates to human wellbeing. Economic valuation provides a ‘snapshot’ of complex and dynamic system and potentially ignores the complex interdependencies among ES. Valuation also assumes that there are no thresholds, discontinuities, or irreversibility in ecosystem functions. In reality, ecosystems have thresholds and services that are likely interdependent. Data and resource constraints influenced the application of valuation methods and in some cases a ‘second best’ valuation method was used. Although reasonable care was taken when using benefit transfer, further work to refine and calibrate those values to local context is recommended. A project of this size and scope involves multiple teams and disciplines, with the interdependencies among their work. Better coordination and integration among work tasks as well as awareness of the dependencies on biophysical assessment outputs to conduct economic valuation is needed. In spite of these limitations and caveats, we believe that valuation provides useful information and can assist in making more informed wetland management decisions. Important to note that this valuation study does not capture all potential benefits associated with wetlands. While we have attempted to be comprehensive in our analysis, only a suite of most relevant ES in the study area was assessed. With the analysis to continue focusing on locally relevant ES to assist in the decision making, a broader suite of ES categories could be assessed to gain a holistic picture of all wetland ES and benefits in future studies. It is also acknowledged that ecosystems are considered to have intrinsic value, independent of the services they provide to humans. However, it is beyond the scope of this study to assess this type of value.
Relationships between Soil and Runoff Phosphorus in Small Alberta Watersheds
Joanne Little, Sheilah Nolan, Janna Casson, and Barry Olson
Field-scale relationships between soil test phosphorus (STP) and flow-weighted mean concentrations (FWMCs) of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) and total phosphorus (TP) in runoff are essential for modeling phosphorus losses, but are lacking. The objectives of this study were (i) to determine the relationships between soil phosphorus (STP and degree of phosphorus saturation (DPS)) and runoff phosphorus (TP and DRP) from field-sized catchments under spring snowmelt and
Ecosystem Service Assessment of Wetland Water Purification for the Shepard Slough Study Area
Irena F. Creed Consulting
There is a critical need for regional scale assessments of wetlands for ecosystem services. This study reports on a regional scale assessment using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing (RS) technologies for water purification services provided by wetlands in Shepard Slough, the study area for the Ecosystem Services Pilot Project (ESPP). Prototypes were developed for both a basic (readily available GIS and RS data, most of it freely downloadable from the Internet) and advanced (higher quality datasets with higher spatial resolution) approach. Due to the severe time constraints of the contract (during which we were unable to gain access to the required data for the advanced approach), only the “Regional-Basic” approach was implemented. Based on this Regional-Basic approach, we found monetary benefits to increase from 1990 to 2010 for water purification, with the monetary increase due mainly to an increase in wetland area defined by inundated water. We expect the “Regional-Advanced” approach to provide a more precise analysis, as the basic approach is based largely on the area of wetlands for water purification and ignores many of the other wetland features important for water purification.
Potential of Rangelands to Sequester Carbon in Alberta
Export Coefficients for Total Phosphorus, Total Nitrogen and Total Suspended Solids in the Southern Alberta Region - A Review of Literature
The objectives of the literature review were to: A) Identify and summarize literature that provide quantitative information on Total Nitrogen (TN), Total phosphorus (TP) and Total Suspended Solids (TSS) export coefficients in the Southern Alberta region, B) Identify and summarize literature that provide quantitative information on TN, TP and TSS export coefficients in the following landscape cover categories provided by Alberta Environment, Calgary: Native Prairie (9) classes, Agriculture (6) classes, Forest Area (7) classes and Miscellaneous (4) classes for input in the ALCES computer simulation model currently under development. C) Prepare a report that presents a descriptive inventory and analysis of literature including a list of all relevant literature reviewed and abstracts of selected literature appropriately categorized, and provide a discussion of data generated. D) Identify and summarize literature that provides quantitative information on TN, TP and TSS export coefficients for Non-native Land Use categories in the Southern Alberta region.
Ecosystem Services Approach Pilot on Wetlands Wetland Ecosystem Services Protocol for the United States (WESPUS) Site Assessments
02 Planning + Design Inc.
The Wetland Ecosystem Services Protocol for the United States (WESPUS) was highlighted by Alberta Environment as a method with the potential to help address identified gaps in the current regulatory context surrounding wetlands. This assessment was conducted for Alberta Environment by the Biophysical Team for the Wetland Ecosystem Services Pilot project in the Shepard Slough area east of Calgary, with the work being led and coordinated by O2 Planning + Design Inc. (O2). The intention of the WESPUS component of the pilot study was to identify the potential applicability of WESPUS in the context of Alberta’s biophysical and regulatory landscapes. The purpose of the WESPUS component was to learn more about the WESPUS method, apply it using field assessments across a range of sites within the pilot study area, and to provide recommendations and strategies for moving forward in terms of potentially informing provincial policy and regulatory processes. After a series of trial site assessments and data analysis, the following recommendations and strategies were among those provided:  use caution when making inferences and correlations with Steward and Kantrud wetlands classes, as all classes appear to serve many ecosystem services  compare relative values of ecosystem function with a socio-economic evaluation of wetlands function  identify the differences in effectiveness and values of constructed wetlands based on their designated purpose  potentially use this tool to evaluate whether the pre-disturbance function of the compensated wetland has been effectively replaced post construction  consider how to address wetland numbers vs. wetland area. For example, if eight 1 ha wetlands are disturbed and replaced with one 8 ha wetland, it may not address the replacement of the original wetlands’ function  request that Dr. Paul Adamus make some adjustments to amend the WESPUS tool for the Alberta context and that some references are added to assist the field surveyor  initiate further research projects to strengthen the empirical data for Wetlands Ecosystem Services and to assist regulators in making approval decisions (e.g., conduct trials for boreal peatland applications) The ability of WESPUS to address the gaps and weaknesses in the approval process based on the findings of the site assessments are discussed as well. For example:  WESPUS has the ability to inform what types of functions and related ecosystem services a wetland provides. It can also provide objective information on the values and functions of small and temporary wetlands which are often written off as unimportant when compared to large and visually appealing wetlands with permanent open water zones. This tool can provide some evidence to support avoidance, mitigation and compensation decisions on wetlands.  Applying WESPUS in the context of individual applications for wetland disturbance may improve cumulative effects management over time by moving towards greater maintenance of wetland functions and services as opposed to simply wetland acreage under a no net loss policy. Further investigation is required to determine how to make WESPUS compatible with a cumulative effects management system.  A standardized protocol such as WESPUS does allow for a quantifiable and objective approach in communicating the value of wetlands. An evaluation tool such as WESPUS could be used province-wide to evaluate the function and value of all types of wetlands and help inform reclamation planning or compensation efforts.