Land-Use References

Year Title (Author, Description) File Download

Potential of Rangelands to Sequester Carbon in Alberta

Eric Bremer

Contact ALCES for Eric Bremer, 2008

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

Nighttime lights as proxy for the spatial growth of dense urbanized areas

Nicola Pestalozzi

Nighttime lights constitute a very appealing database that can be used to measure various different aspects of the human footprint on the planet. The amount of research and the number of publications around this dataset confirm this, offering a broad spectrum of applications that involve economics, energy, society and environment. I chose to use them to study the spatial extension and the relative distribution of settlements around the Earth and their evolution over time. I analyzed the DMSP-OLS ‘stable lights’ database of the NGCD consisting in a catalog of world images of the last 19 years. I discovered that the mean center of lights is moving steadily to South-East. This reflects the extreme growth experienced by the urban centers in the developing countries, especially in Asia. I further developed a version of the Gini coefficient to compare the statistical spatial dispersion of nighttime lights, unexpectedly finding that all the countries show a very similar inequality value, quickly converging to the same coefficient by raising the lower threshold of light detection. Further, I analyzed the evolution of the lit area at a country level and in the largest urban agglomerations, finding that whereas most developing countries and cities are experiencing an incredible spatial growth in illumination, some ‘historical’ conurbations present rather constant or even decreasing emissions. This could be a signal of success of the light pollution abatement programs launched in the last years.

Contact ALCES for Nicola Pestalozzi, 2012

New Tools for New Times

Casey Vander Ploeg

The livability and economic prowess of our large cities is of fundamental importance to western Canada’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 Foundation’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

Moose Alces alces behaviour related to human activity


The spatiotemporal dynamics of human activity requires a better understanding of the ecological effects on wildlife. This thesis focuses on the behavioural response of a harvested species, moose (Alces alces), to dynamic human activities e.g. hunting and recreation, and to static influences like roads, using experimental and descriptive approaches. Potentially lethal (hunting) and non-lethal (hiking, snowmobiling) activities provoked short-lived increases in moose movement activity and caused spatial displacement. The data suggests a uniform response towards unexpected disturbance and that moose are sensitive to human proximity. Hunting clearly provoked the strongest response. Moose approached by a hunting dog commonly fled, suggesting adjustments in anti-predator behaviour towards a nonnative predator. This may lead to predator facilitation where wolves and human predation co-exist, because the moose’s behavioural response towards one predator possibly increases the predation risk by the other. Unexpectedly, hiking and motordriven (snowmobiling) recreational activity caused a comparable change in moose behaviour. The short-lived response towards dynamic human activities indicates a rather minor impact on moose total energy budget from a single disturbance. Moose seldom crossed roads, but did increasingly so during migration. Roadcrossing sites were aggregated, suggesting well established travel routes and corridors for migratory moose. Moose did not cross roads more often during hunting season. In general, moose little utilized habitats in proximity to roads. Moose-vehicle collisions did not occur where and when moose most commonly cross roads. My results suggest a higher risk to human safety during times of poor visibility and close to urban areas, but not necessarily in the vicinity of forests. For wildlife subject to intensive harvest and sensitive to human proximity, I emphasize the need to include animal behavioural, landscape ecological, political as well as socio-economical aspects for future research concerning human-wildlife interactions. I also recommend future research to combine wildlife movement data from active tracking sensors such as GPS-collars together with collision data to improve conclusions about wildlife movement corridors and traffic risk zones.

Contact ALCES for WIEBKE NEUMANN, 2009

Models and Data: What are they saying about cumulative effects on wildlife species important to the community of Fort McKay

Lorne Gould

Wildlife is an integral part of the Fort McKay’s culture. Since the start of development (late 1960s) there has been a transformation of traditional lands from boreal forest and wetlands into oil sands development (open pit mines, in situ operations, and associated infrastructure). The environmental impact assessments (EIAs) prepared by oil sands operators and proponents repeatedly claim that these developments will have little impact on wildlife populations and their habitats because reclamation will return the land to a productive state. Fort McKay Community members are skeptical of future reclamation success and believe that development already has negatively impacted certain wildlife populations. The Fort McKay also has concerns about the project by project review process and the assessment of cumulative effects. This report provides brief summaries of studies that show cumulative effects on wildlife important to the Fort McKay. This report also presents wildlife data from EIAs and the findings of a recent study on wildlife habitat models used in the oil sands region. Four wildlife species; moose, beaver, fisher/marten, and Canada lynx are emphasized because of their cultural importance. The moose and beaver are considered Cultural Keystone species for the Fort McKay Community (Garibaldi 2006). Canada lynx, fisher, and marten are furbearers vital to the Fort McKay’s traditional economy. Fisher and marten are lumped together because of the difficultly in differentiating their snow tracks in the field. Sources of information for this report are as follows: 􀁸 Results of the Fort McKay Specific Assessment (FMSA); 􀁸 Results of modeling completed for the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) and Terrestrial Ecosystem Management Framework (TEMF); 􀁸 Aerial surveys completed by the Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD); 􀁸 Wildlife data collected in the oil sands region in support of environmental impact assessments; 􀁸 Population viability analysis (PVA) modelling reports completed in the oil sands region; and 􀁸 Analysis of habitat models used in the oil sands region completed by CEMA. In 2011, 1.7 million barrels of bitumen were produced in the oil sands region of Alberta. This quantity is expected to reach 3.5 million barrels per day by 2020 (Alberta Government 2012). We summarize modeling results that predict impacts from oil sands development. We also provide information that shows how the present project by project EIA process is failing to assess cumulative effects on wildlife. We provide recommendations that will reduce impacts and allow for the future recovery of wildlife in the Fort McKay’s Traditional Territory.

Contact ALCES for Lorne Gould, 2012

Modelling potential effects of angling on recovery of westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi) in Alberta

Michael Sullivan

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

Modeling Rangeland Community Structure in ALCES Southern Alberta Sustainability Strategy (SASS)

Barry Adams and Brad Stelfox

Rangeland communities are not constant in structure (physiognomy), but change through time as they grow older, or when they are disturbed by various natural processes including fire, drought, and herbivory. Unlike forest communities, rangelands do not have to be reset to the youngest seral stage when they are affected by a natural disturbance. Instead, structural change varies depending on the intensity of the disturbance. The purpose of modeling rangeland in SASS is to simulate and compare rangeland structure under various future land use and development scenarios, and to use these results in modeling changes to wildlife habitat values. Modeling in SASS is at a regional scale and is over a 50-year time period. The study area is more or less comprised of the South Saskatchewan watershed, which is about 20% of the total area of Alberta.

Contact ALCES for Barry Adams and Brad Stelfox, 2011

Modeling Cumulative Effects in Barren-ground Caribou Range: Proceedings of a Workshop in Yellowknife

Jan Adamczewski, John Nishi, Anne Gunn, Terry Antoniuk, Chris Johnson, Don Russell, Ted Blondin, All

In the early 2000s, most herds of barren-ground caribou in the Northwest Territories (NWT) were declining. The declines aroused considerable concern in NWT communities because caribou have been a resource of great value to people in the north for many generations. Possible explanations for the declines include a natural cycle, variation in weather and forage conditions, predation, hunting, disease, and industrial development. Of these factors, some are beyond immediate control, but effects due to direct human influence, like hunting and development, can be managed. The impact of development on caribou is usually not due to single roads, mines, cut-blocks or seismic lines, rather it is the cumulative effects of many habitat alterations over time that affect caribou numbers and distribution. Concerns over effects of development on caribou have been raised in environmental assessments and particularly by aboriginal groups for many years, but progress on assessing them has been limited. To be objective, assessment of cumulative effects must account for other factors, including hunting and natural variation in weather. Due to the need for overall knowledge of a caribou herd‟s complex ecology in assessing cumulative effects, biologists have turned to computer models to help track multiple variables and relationships, and to look at “what if” simulations. While these models cannot predict the future, they can help users understand how various factors interact and what likely consequences of particular management decisions might be. In the 2006-2010 NWT Caribou Management Strategy, a commitment was made by the Government of the Northwest Territories to developing a modeling approach that could assess development in its proper context of natural variation. In this report we summarized the presentations and participant responses at a public workshop held in February 2008, Yellowknife, NWT, on modeling cumulative effects in the range of the Bathurst herd. In addition, we report on progress towards a demonstration project initiated at the February 2008 workshop.

Contact ALCES for Jan Adamczewski, John Nishi, Anne Gunn, Terry Antoniuk, Chris Johnson, Don Russell, Ted Blondin, All, 2008

Mayatan Lake State of the Watershed Report

Melissa Logan, P.Biol., Billie Milholland, B.A., and David Trew, P.Biol.

The purpose of this report is to summarize all available environmental information for Mayatan Lake and its surrounding watershed. This report also provides a benchmark against which future stewardship activities and best management practices aimed at maintaining and improving watershed health can be assessed. The information will provide landowners, stakeholders, Parkland County and the Mayatan Lake Management Association (MLMA) with the information needed to support sound management decisions and develop solutions to protect or enhance land and water resources in the watershed. It also serves as a localized component and example of NSWA’s larger basin planning initiative, the Integrated Watershed Management Plan for the North Saskatchewan River Basin.

Contact ALCES for Melissa Logan, P.Biol., Billie Milholland, B.A., and David Trew, P.Biol., 2012
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