|Title (Author, Description)
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
RESPONSE OF A WINTERING MOOSE POPULATION TO ACCESS MANAGEMENT AND NO HUNTING – A MANITOBA EXPERIMENT
Vince Crichton, Trevor Barker, and Doug Schindler
We report on an experiment undertaken in eastern Manitoba beginning in 1996, in which a moose population wintering in 62 km2 (24.2 mi2)was protected from hunting until September 2003. At the time of closure, it is speculated that about 37 (0.6/km2 (1.5/mi2)) moose wintered in the area based on aerial surveys and considering visibility bias. The closure was supported by the Eastern Region Committee for Moose Management, which is comprised of Manitoba Conservation staff, First Nation representatives from local communities, local hunting organizations, and other interest groups such as Tembec Manitoba Incorporated and the Manitoba Model Forest. Road access to the area was curtailed by using locked gates, millstones, and V-plowing a portion of the road in 2002. The area was surveyed from a helicopter on March 4, 2003, and 107 moose were counted in the closed area and again, based on visibility bias, it is speculated that about 142 moose (2.3/km2 (5.8/mi2 )) were present. This experiment clearly demonstrates that moose will respond positively to access management and no hunting, and that V-plowing roadbeds is a useful technique for controlling access. The cost associated with such plowing varies from about $500-$1,500/km depending on material contained in the roadbed.
|Contact ALCES for Vince Crichton, Trevor Barker, and Doug Schindler, 2004
Relationships Between Stand Age, Stand Structure, and Biodiversity in Aspen Mixedwood Forests in Alberta
J.B. Stelfox (editor)
Resource managers and the environmental community are concerned that intensive clearcut logging of Alberta's aspen-dominated boreal mixedwood forests at 60–70 year rotations may alter the age class structure of the forest landscape and result in a change in forest structure and biota. In response to these concerns, we described forest structure and composition of plant and animal communities in young (20–30 years), mature (50–65 years) and old (120+ years) aspen mixedwood stands of fire origin in Alberta. The information collected in this study will serve as a reference against which structure and biota in harvested forests can be compared.
|Contact ALCES for J.B. Stelfox (editor), 1995
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
|Contact ALCES for Joanne Little, Sheilah Nolan, Janna Casson, and Barry Olson, 2006
Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment in Canada: Principles and Guidance
Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment
|Contact ALCES for Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, 2009
Quantifying land use of oil sands production: a life cycle perspective
Sarah M Jordaan, David W Keith and Brad Stelfox
Methods for the inclusion of land use in life cycle assessment are not well established. Here, we describe an approach that compares land disturbance between spatially compact and diffuse activities that contribute to the life cycle of a single product, in this case synthetic crude from Alberta’s oil sands. We compare production using surface mining and in situ extraction technologies. In situ technologies disturb less land per unit of production than surface mining, but the spatial footprint of in situ production is more dispersed—increasing landscape fragmentation—and in situ production requires more natural gas which increases land use due to gas production. We examine both direct and peripheral land use of oil sands development by quantifying land disturbance using a parameterized measure of fragmentation that relies on ‘edge effects’ with an adjustable buffer zone. Using a life cycle perspective, we show that the land area influenced by in situ technology is comparable to land disturbed by surface mining when fragmentation and upstream natural gas production are considered. The results suggest that land disturbance due to natural gas production can be relatively large per unit energy. This method could be applied to other energy developments, for example, a comparison between coal mining and natural gas production when both fuels are used to generate electricity.
|Contact ALCES for Sarah M Jordaan, David W Keith and Brad Stelfox, 2009
Quantifying barrier effects of roads and seismic lines on movements of female woodland caribou in northeastern Alberta
Simon J. Dyer, Jack P. O’Neill, Shawn M. Wasel, and Stan Boutin
Linear developments such as roads, seismic lines, and pipeline rights-of-way are common anthropogenic features in the boreal forest of Alberta. These features may act as barriers to the movement of threatened woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou). Thirty-six woodland caribou were captured and fitted with global positioning system collars. These collared caribou yielded 43 415 locations during the 12-month study period. We compared rates of crossing roads and seismic lines with rates at which caribou crossed simulated roads and seismic lines created using ArcInfo GIS. Seismic lines were not barriers to caribou movements, whereas roads with moderate vehicle traffic acted as semipermeable barriers to caribou movements. The greatest barrier effects were evident during late winter, when caribou crossed actual roads 6 times less frequently than simulated road networks. Semipermeable barrier effects may exacerbate functional habitat loss demonstrated through avoidance behaviour. This novel approach represents an important development in the burgeoning field of road ecology and has great potential for use in validating animal-movement models.
|Contact ALCES for Simon J. Dyer, Jack P. O’Neill, Shawn M. Wasel, and Stan Boutin, 2002
Quantification of Extinction Risk: IUCN’s System for Classifying Threatened Species
G. Mace, N. Collar, K. Gaston, C. Milner-Gulland, and S. Stuart
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species was increasingly used during the 1980s to assess the conservation status of species for policy and planning purposes. This use stimulated the development of a new set of quantitative criteria for listing species in the categories of threat: critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable. These criteria, which were intended to be applicable to all species except microorganisms, were part of a broader system for classifying threatened species and were fully implemented by IUCN in 2000. The system and the criteria have been widely used by conservation practitioners and scientists and now underpin one indicator being used to assess the Convention on Biological Diversity 2010 biodiversity target. We describe the process and the technical background to the IUCN Red List system. The criteria refer to fundamental biological processes underlying population decline and extinction. But given major differences between species, the threatening processes affecting them, and the paucity of knowledge relating to most species, the IUCN system had to be both broad and flexible to be applicable to the majority of described species. The system was designed to measure the symptoms of extinction risk, and uses 5 independent criteria relating to aspects of population loss and decline of range size. A species is assigned to a threat category if it meets the quantitative threshold for at least one criterion. The criteria and the accompanying rules and guidelines used by IUCN are intended to increase the consistency, transparency, and validity of its categorization system, but it necessitates some compromises that affect the applicability of the system and the species lists that result. In particular, choices were made over the assessment of uncertainty, poorly known species, depleted species, population decline, restricted ranges, and rarity; all of these affect the way red lists should be viewed and used. Processes related to priority setting and the development of national red lists need to take account of some assumptions in the formulation of the criteria.
|Contact ALCES for G. Mace, N. Collar, K. Gaston, C. Milner-Gulland, and S. Stuart, 2008
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
Predicting deerevehicle collisions in an urban area
Rob Found, Mark S. Boyce
Collisions with deer and other large animals are increasing, and the resulting economic costs and risks to public safety have made mitigation measures a priority for both city and wildlife managers. We created landscape models to describe and predict deer-vehicle collision (DVCs) within the City of Edmonton, Alberta. Models based on roadside characteristics revealed that DVCs occurred frequently where roadside vegetation was both denser and more diverse, and that DVCs were more likely to occur when the groomed width of roadside right-of-ways was smaller. No DVCs occurred where the width of the vegetation-free or manicured roadside buffer was greater than 40 m. Landscape-based models showed that DVCs were more likely in more heterogeneous landscapes where road densities were lower and speed limits were higher, and where non-forested vegetation such as farmland was in closer proximity to larger tracts of forest. These models can help wildlife and transportation managers to identify locations of high collision frequency for mitigation. Modifying certain landscape and roadside habitats can be an effective way to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.
|Contact ALCES for Rob Found, Mark S. Boyce, 2010