|Year||Title (Author, Description)||File Download|
Protecting Water, Producing Gas: Minimizing the Impact of Coalbed Methane and Other Natural Gas Production on Alberta’s Groundwater
|Contact ALCES for Mary Griffiths, 2007|
Road Sediment Production and Delivery: Processes and Management
Lee MacDonald and Drew B.R. Coe
Unpaved roads are often considered to be the predominant sediment source in forested catchments. In steep, wet climates roads can cause a 10- to 300-fold increase in the landslide erosion rate, and this increase is due to the effects of roads on hillslope flow paths and the structural integrity of hillslopes. The proportion of sediment that is delivered to the stream will generally be very high for road-induced failures in hollows and inner gorge landforms, and much lower for planar hillslope failures. The pulsed input of sediment from roadinduced landsliding can greatly alter stream channel habitat and morphology. Unpaved roads can increase sediment production rates by more than an order of magnitude as a result of road surface erosion. The high surface erosion rate stems from the generation of surface runoff from the highly compacted road travelway, the lack of surface cover, and the availability of fine sediment due to traffic and road maintenance procedures such as grading. Sediment delivery to streams occurs primarily at road-stream crossings and secondarily by road-induced gullies. The proportion of the road network that is connected to the stream network is primarily a function of mean annual precipitation (R2=0.9), and is increased by about 40% in the absence of any engineered drainage structures. The chronic input of the fine sediment from roads can have adverse effects on freshwater aquatic ecosystems as well as coral reefs. Our present understanding of road surface erosion processes is good, but our models to predict road surface erosion and landsliding are much better for relative than absolute predictions. Climate change can greatly increase road-induced landslides and road surface erosion by increasing the magnitude of large storm events and increasing the amount of rain relative to snow. Extensive field surveys also show that relatively few road segments typically generate most of the road-related increases in sediment yields. Road surface erosion, the risk of road-induced landslides, and road sediment delivery can be greatly decreased by improved road designs and maintenance practices. Hence the greatest needs are to develop and provide land managers with the tools for identifying high-risk segments, and then to make the necessary investments in road reconstruction and restoration.
|Contact ALCES for Lee MacDonald and Drew B.R. Coe, 2007|
A new method to estimate species and biodiversity intactness using empirically derived reference conditions
S.E. Nielsen, E.M. Bayne, J. Schieck, J. Herbers, and S. Boutin
Critical to the conservation of biodiversity is knowledge of status and trends of species. To that end, monitoring programmes have reported on the state of biodiversity using reference conditions as comparison. Little consensus exists on how reference conditions are defined and how such information is used to index intactness. Most use protected areas or an arbitrary year as reference. This is problematic since protected areas are often spatially biased, while arbitrarily defined reference years are often not sufficiently distant in time. Biological Conservation 137 (2007)
|Contact ALCES for S.E. Nielsen, E.M. Bayne, J. Schieck, J. Herbers, and S. Boutin, 2007|
Review of Alberta Environment’s Ecosystem Goods and Services Assessment - Southern Alberta Phase 2 Report
Management and Solutions in Environmental Science
Alberta Environment (AENV) requested that Management and Solutions in Environmental Science (MSES) review and assess their Ecosystem Goods and Services Assessment Report (EGS Assessment). The peer review provides comments on the main elements of the EGS Assessment. We base our review on the stated goal of the Ecosystem Services Project, namely that the “ultimate aim is … to deliver the right information to policy developers and decision makers…”. Specifically, MSES evaluates the overall framework of the EGS Assessment, addresses the questions posed by AENV, and provides recommendations for further discussion. The following overarching comments or points are made on the EGS Assessment. More detailed responses to specific questions can be found in the body of our report. A list of recommendations for consideration is also provided. 1. The EGS Assessment presents a useful framework for assessing goods and services that are provided by landscape parameters, which are composed of a mosaic of habitats and a diversity of wildlife that uses them. However, for discussion we would like to highlight the anchoring question of this work: “How do ecosystem services support the maintenance of natural and anthropogenic assets?” . A service supporting an asset is only meaningful from an anthropogenic economic perspective, wherein a service is maintained strictly for its value to humans. From a natural ecosystem perspective, is it not the asset that supports the service rather than the other way around? The wording of the question has a major impact on how one views the direction of dependencies. The way that all spreadsheet tables are set up in the document suggests that a service maintains an asset. Using a cow and produced milk as an example, the milk is the result of the condition of the cow: no cow – no milk; poor cow – little milk; good cow – plenty of milk. The authors of the report ask questions from an economic perspective (translated): how does the milk support the maintenance of the cow? Therefore, all spreadsheet tables must be read from assets to services. However, ecological systems include parameters that may or may not fit neatly into human economic systems. For example, “How do Prairie Wetlands maintain the service of water regulation?” While sometimes there are feedbacks from the services to the assets, this important point of critique has a large impact on the overall assessment. In addition to summing-up and reporting the services, the values of the assets (which, in part, should consider asset condition) should be summed-up also. 2. The world’s ecosystem services have been under-valued by several orders of magnitude. Many current economists’ approaches to put dollar values to natural assets are highly inadequate. Civilizations died out (e.g. Sumerians in Mesopotamia) because one single element of the ecosystem (soil) was degraded (salinization) to such an extent that food production was severely decimated. In the given example, what was the value of the soil? Is the value of the soil in this example not close to infinite? This idea is corroborated by Costanza et al. (1997), who state that in one sense the total value of ecosystem services to the economy is infinite. 3. In addition to the problem of evaluating an economic service provided by natural assets, there is an emotional or spiritual service that is extremely difficult to express in monetary terms; the human perception of well-being provided by the surroundings. For example, what would the quality of our lives be without rivers and lakes? Or with only polluted rivers and lakes? Natural assets provide services that we need for our spiritual survival as a whole. 4. While the authors have undertaken a literature review (200 titles), it is not necessarily exhaustive. It is likely that there are many more publications that could be reviewed with potential findings that could be incorporated into the southern Alberta EGS Assessment framework. The EGS Assessment is very important and complex, and additional work is required to fill in many of the existing gaps. 5. One of the objectives of the assessment is to “Provide an understanding of the value of high quality ecosystems in relation to economic production in southern Alberta,…”(pg 5). Figure 3-1 of the report (pg 12) presents a conceptual framework of the function of ecosystem services. However, the figure does not carry a clear message, as it does not provide specific details or an explanation of the different types of arrows. No other framework of value assessment of ecosystems is provided. De Groot et al. (2002) in Barg and Swanson (2004) provide one such figure (see Figure 1, this report) that could be used as a starting point for the framework (written for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada). A clear division of ecological, socio-cultural and economic values could facilitate the value assessment of ecosystem services in southern Alberta.
|Contact ALCES for Management and Solutions in Environmental Science, 2007|
Modelling potential effects of angling on recovery of westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi) in Alberta
Alberta’s native form of cutthroat trout, westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi), was listed in 2006 as a threatened species under the federal Species at Risk Act. Amongst other legal requirements, this action requires that an assessment of threats be conducted to determine what activities are acceptable and unacceptable with respect to the maintenance and recovery of populations of these fish. Sport angling for cutthroat trout and other species is a popular activity throughout this fish’s habitat in Alberta and has the potential to harm this species’ recovery. To investigate this potential harm, the possible effects of a variety of angling scenarios (e.g., different levels of angler effort and regulations) on stream populations of cutthroat trout were simulated using a population dynamics computer model. The results of these simulations suggested that recovery of depressed cutthroat trout populations could occur under scenarios of limited and low angler effort, and no directed harvest (i.e., catch-and-release angling). Once recovered, however, healthy populations of westslope cutthroat trout may be maintained with catch-and-release angling with moderate fishing effort. Angling regulations that allow harvest of cutthroat trout are unlikely to either maintain or recover most populations unless angler effort is controlled. Incidental mortality (either through accidental hooking mortality or illegal harvest through misidentification of trout species) in these simulations was an important factor in population maintenance and recovery. This suggests that minimizing these sources of mortality may be an important management concern for this species.
|Contact ALCES for Michael Sullivan, 2007|
DELIVERING UNPOPULAR MESSAGES: Don’t just survive. Succeed!
Lorne Fitch, P. Biol.
We’d all like to deliver popular messages, the ones people want to hear, the positive and uncontroversial ones and those that evoke emotional responses like gratitude, pleasure and warmth. In a perfect world what other messages would there be to deliver? In that other sphere those that listen to messages would be well informed, rational, interested, motivated, knowledgeable and broad-minded. The fact that people, in this world, often don’t display these characteristics is not an indictment against them. It isn’t right, it isn’t wrong; it is just that way. As someone who is going to deliver an unpopular message it is the recognition that some responses are predictable, unsurprising and not totally unjustified. As the deliverer of that message, you are challenging the beliefs, perceptions and opinions of someone. Most people are driven by a combination of beliefs that are largely ill formed, lack crucial information and can be irrational because of other circumstances. There is a lack of time, application of critical thinking and interest to sort through a complex situation, until the message deliverer holds up a mirror forcing people to face the issues. Who wouldn’t be wracked with anxiety, anger or fear with that prospect?
|Contact ALCES for Lorne Fitch, P. Biol., 2006|
Phosphorus Sources and Sinks in Watersheds: A Review
Sandi Riemersma, Joanne Little, Gerald Ontkean, and Tanya Moskal-Hébert
Many regions around the world are concerned with phosphorus (P) and the risk it poses to water quality. Phosphorus is the limiting nutrient in most freshwater systems and, when in excess, it can accelerate eutrophication. Many countries have adopted some form of phosphorus management strategy to reduce the risk of phosphorus entering surface water from agricultural land. In Alberta, the Soil Phosphorus Limits Project was initiated in 1999 to develop soil phosphorus limits that will maintain or improve surface water quality by minimizing phosphorus loading from agricultural soils. With laboratory work complete, micro-watershed studies have recently been initiated to identify the relationship between dissolved phosphorus (DP) and soil test phosphorus (STP). However, on a larger scale there are a variety of phosphorus sources and sinks within watersheds that influence the phosphorus content of surface water. A key question is what proportion of phosphorus in surface water can be attributed to agricultural land, and what factors govern inconsistencies in the various sources and sinks. To better understand this complex issue, a review of literature pertaining to phosphorus sinks and sources was conducted. Research carried out in Alberta and elsewhere that attempted to integrate phosphorus fluxes on a watershed scale was assessed, and its implications on the Soil Phosphorus Limits Project discussed.
|Contact ALCES for Sandi Riemersma, Joanne Little, Gerald Ontkean, and Tanya Moskal-Hébert, 2006|
From Science-Based Thresholds to Regulatory Limits: Implementation Issues for Cumulative Effects Management
Steve Kennett, Canadian Institute of Resources Law
|Contact ALCES for Steve Kennett, Canadian Institute of Resources Law , 2006|
New Tools for New Times
Casey Vander Ploeg
The livability and economic prowess of our large cities is of fundamental importance to western Canadaâ€™s quality of life and long-term prosperity. The fate of our large cities is a key determinant of the future of our democracy, economy, and way of life. Understanding the constellation of issues that must be addressed for our cities to reach their potential and compete with the great cities of the world is the goal of the Canada West Foundationâ€™s Western Cities Project. The project has been providing decision-makers and the public with timely and accessible information about urban issues and putting forward practical recommendations for addressing urban public policy challenges since 2000. With the generous support of the Cities of Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Vancouver, and Winnipeg, we have embarked on a new phase of the project that runs until the end of 2008. This new phase will include groundbreaking work on street level social problems, innovative options for funding urban infrastructure, the economies of western Canada's big cities, public transit, the connections between inner city areas and suburban areas, and the intergovernmental relationships that cut across these and other issues.
|Contact ALCES for Casey Vander Ploeg, 2006|
Water Quality Study of Waiparous Creek, Fallentimber Creek and Ghost River
Increased usage of the Ghost -Waiparous basin for random camping and off-highway vehicles (OHVs) has raised concerns among stakeholders that these activities are affecting water quality in the Ghost, Waiparous and Fallentimber Rivers. This report to Alberta Environment attempts to determine whether there is a linkage between these activities and water quality in these three rivers and documents baseline water quality prior to the implementation of an access management plan by the Alberta Government.
|Contact ALCES for Daniel Andrews, 2006|