|Year||Title (Author, Description)||File Download|
Science for a Changing Far North. The Report of the Far North Science Advisory Panel
The Far North Science Advisory Panel
This report describes the vast and largely intact ecological systems of the Far North, and recommends a conservation-matrix approach for land use planning. It recommends landscape-level planning, with benchmark areas and specific features of interest set aside from development, while other areas are designated for active management, and the landscape overall is planned for continuity and resilience of ecological function. Adaptive management provides a means of evaluating management strategies as climate change and economic development proceed. It will require sustained commitment to the collection and sharing of information about the Far North, including scientific and aboriginal traditional knowledge.
|Contact ALCES for The Far North Science Advisory Panel, 2010|
Integrated Place-Based Approaches for Sustainable Development
The Policy Research Institute
Place-based approaches address social, environmental or economic issues and thus offer the promise of operationalizing Sustainable Development (SD) principles. By focusing attention on policy issues as they play out in concrete geographic and community settings, place-based approaches provide a means to grasp complex and sometimes unexpected connections. This issue of Horizons provides a sense of the diversity of place-based approaches as they are applied in different policy areas, and identifies some of the lessons learned from an SD perspective.
|Contact ALCES for The Policy Research Institute, 2010|
Triage for conserving populations of threatened species: The case of woodland caribou in Alberta
Richard R. Schneider, Grant Hauer, W.L. (Vic) Adamowicz, Stan Boutin
Prioritization of conservation efforts for threatened and endangered species has tended to focus on factors measuring the risk of extirpation rather than the probability of success and cost. Approaches such as triage are advisable when three main conditions are present: insufficient capacity exists to adequately treat all patients, patients are in a critical state and cannot wait until additional capacity becomes available, and patients differ in their likely outcome and/or the amount of treatment they require. The objective of our study was to document the status of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus) herds in Alberta, Canada, with respect to these three conditions and to determine whether a triage approach might be warranted. To do this we modeled three types of recovery effort – protection, habitat restoration, and wolf control – and estimated the opportunity cost of recovery for each herd. We also assessed herds with respect to a suite of factors linked to long-term viability. We found that all but three herds will decline to critical levels (<10 animals) within approximately 30 years if current population trends continue. The opportunity cost of protecting all ranges by excluding new development, in terms of the net present value of petroleum and forestry resources, was estimated to be in excess of 100 billion dollars (assuming no substitution of activity outside of the ranges). A habitat restoration program applied to all ranges would cost several hundred million dollars, and a provincial-scale wolf control program would cost tens of millions of dollars. Recovery costs among herds varied by an order of magnitude. Herds also varied substantially in terms of their potential viability. These findings suggest that woodland caribou in Alberta meet the conditions whereby triage should be considered as an appropriate conservation strategy.
|Contact ALCES for Richard R. Schneider, Grant Hauer, W.L. (Vic) Adamowicz, Stan Boutin , 2010|
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|
Alberta Traffic Collision Statistics
Alberta Transportation Office of Traffic Safety
The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, and “how” of traffic collisions which occurred in Alberta during 2010. Although the report is general in nature, it pays particular attention to casualty collisions, that is, those collisions which result in death or injury. Legislation in Alberta requires that a traffic collision, which results in either death, injury or property damage to an apparent extent of $1000.00 or more, be reported immediately to an authorized peace officer. The officer completes a standardized collision report form which provides information on various aspects of the traffic collision. This report is based on the data collected from these report forms.
|Contact ALCES for Alberta Transportation Office of Traffic Safety, 2010|
COSEWIC's Assessment Process and Criteria
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) exists to provide Canadians and their governments with advice regarding the status of wildlife species that are nationally at risk of extinction or extirpation. The COSEWIC process is divided into three sequential steps, each of which has a tangible outcome. These are detailed below. • selection of wildlife species requiring assessment - the COSEWIC Candidate List; • compilation of available data, knowledge and information - the COSEWIC status report; and • assessment of a wildlife species' risk of extinction or extirpation and subsequent designation - the record of COSEWIC assessment results.
|Contact ALCES for The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, 2010|
Edmonton to Calgary Corridor Groundwater Assessment
A.A. Barker, H. Moktan and S. Wallace
|Contact ALCES for A.A. Barker, H. Moktan and S. Wallace, 2011|
Ecosystem Services Approach Pilot on Wetlands Project Overview 2011
The Ecosystem Services1 pilot is part of the longer term Ecosystem Services Roadmap intended as a tool under the Cumulative Effects Management Framework to help inform trade-off decisions and assure more robust decision-making. The Ecosystem Services pilot team was mandated to demonstrate the use and replicability of the ecosystem services to support department priorities. Using an ecosystem services (ES) approach2 is an opportunity for decision-makers to recognize previously unseen benefits as well as mitigate some unforeseen impacts stemming from development choices. By examining the environment through a framework of ecosystem services, decision-makers will have a more complete picture of the social, economic and environmental consequences, values and perspectives of development, and conservation activities on the landscape.
|Contact ALCES for Gillian Kerr, 2011|
Ecosystem Services Approach Pilot on Wetlands Integrated Assessment Report
Dr. Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne, Geneva Claesson and Gillian Kerr
Ecosystem services (‘ES’) are the benefits that nature provides to people. Some ES benefits, such as crops, are familiar and tangible; however, other ES, such as water filtration and carbon storage, are hard to observe and are underestimated or unaddressed in decision making. Ecosystems provide innumerable services that are underrepresented or absent in most economic development decisions; however, these services contribute to development objectives (e.g., scenic quality of the land) and to realizing quality of life goals. Identifying and understanding many of the services from wetlands can provide more information to decision makers, which may help to prevent unintended consequences from development decisions. Wetlands, and the regulatory approvals process for residential subdivision development in southern Alberta, were the focus for the ES pilot. Wetlands are an integral component of Alberta’s diverse landscapes and provide a wide variety of ES. For example, if managed properly, wetlands can provide water filtration and groundwater recharge, contribute to flood prevention, and provide habitat for numerous species of interest to naturalists and hunters alike. Many wetlands also have important socio-cultural value because they provide recreational, heritage and scientific/educational opportunities. As improvements are made in describing and valuing the benefits of ES, decision makers can better understand how their decisions might change (positively or negatively) the condition, quality and/or quantity of ES that could have an impact the well-being and quality of life of Albertans, and the businesses that operate in the province. The outcome for the pilot was established as the following: “the development and operationalization of an ES approach to provide a tool to enhance decision making”. The ES approach developed for the Alberta context provides a framework to help identify and quantify - qualitatively, quantitatively and monetarily - the benefits provided by wetland ecosystems. In addition to the outcome, two objectives were established by the project steering committee, with a third captured from the ES pilot project charter: • Test and demonstrate how an ES approach can be used to support decision making by explicitly demonstrating the trade-offs between development and ES benefits provided by wetlands; • Support wetland management in the province by providing additional information to support potential compensation decisions related to land-use development; and • Identify information and capacity gaps for ES assessment to support future ES work. Meeting these objectives involved conducting various assessments on wetland ES to address gaps identified by wetland approval managers at Alberta Environment, the City of Calgary and Rocky View County (a.k.a., the ‘decision makers’) in their application of the wetland approvals process and the wetland mitigation hierarchy (which includes compensation). The decision makers helped the ES pilot team to identify, frame and prioritize key gaps in the wetlands approval process to focus the pilot assessment work. The following represent the refined gaps that were used to design the project: 1. There is insufficient evidence to support avoidance, minimization and compensation decisions on wetlands. 2. There is insufficient consideration of cumulative effects and long-term consequences of decision making. 3. There is limited ability to communicate the ‘values’ of wetlands. The pilot focused on an area covering 274 square kilometres encompassing an eastern portion of the City of Calgary, an area of Rocky View County and the Town of Chestermere. The area was chosen because of the large number of wetlands and current land use pressures where residential development is having an impact on the ES that are supplied by the landscape. The case study area features (6,400+) wetlands ranging in size from less than 0.1 hectare to over 10 hectares. However, while the number of wetlands has increased 18 per cent since 1962, wetland area has decreased by 24 per cent. This translates into a total loss of 7.7 square kilometres of wetlands between 1962 and 2005. Nested in the South Saskatchewan Region, historic landscape change in the region and the case study area has been primarily driven by population growth and agricultural expansion. More recently, urban expansion has led to new changes on the landscape, including an increased percentage of impervious surfaces, stormwater pond creation and new microclimactic conditions. Through a series of working sessions, the ES pilot chose three ES as being the top priority for greater understanding: water storage/supply, flood control and water purification/quality. These ES were chosen for in-depth assessment along with carbon storage, which was included because carbon storage opportunities feature importantly as part of the provincial Climate Change Strategy and related regulations. Additional ES (e.g., pollination, cultural ES) were described and investigated in terms of their contributions to local society, but their condition (e.g., quality, quantity and distribution) was not assessed in detail across the entire study area. The ES pilot engaged a broad selection of stakeholders, including ES beneficiaries, in the pilot. They identified cultural ES as high priorities for management in survey responses and workshop discussions. In particular, aesthetic enjoyment and science and education opportunities were identified as ‘high value’ benefits provided by wetlands. Biodiversity was also identified by multiple stakeholders as being of high importance, however, biodiversity is considered to be a necessary underlying condition for the production of ES but not an ES itself. The information generated by the ES pilot provides a baseline of knowledge about wetland ES in the study area that decision makers can apply in wetland approvals decisions. Highlights from the assessment results include: • ES benefits are context specific, as they relate as much to how the environment is used and valued as to how services are produced by ecological processes. There are a number of beneficiaries of different ES at different scales. • The total water storage capacity of all wetlands in the study area was estimated to be 36.3 million cubic metres. This represents a volume of water greater than the combined total storage capacity of the Glenmore Reservoir and Lake Chestermere. • In the fall of 2007 and 2009, seasonal and dry annual conditions resulted in an estimated total wetland volume of 14.3 million cubic metres or 39.4 percent of total water storage capacity. • An analysis of water storage capacity by Stewart & Kantrud (S&K) wetland class showed that because there is a large number of wetlands that are Class I or II, their contribution to water storage on the landscape is substantial, even if individually they hold less water than Class III-V wetlands. • The estimated total storage capacity lost due to wetland drainage between 1965 and the present is 9.2 million cubic metres. This represents a 20 per cent decrease in available water storage capacity in the study area. • All wetlands in the case study area contribute to flood control. There were no clear trends found for flood control values across either S&K or size classes, suggesting that high or low flood control depends more on landscape context than on class or size of wetlands. • The cost of replacing natural wetlands with built infrastructure was estimated from the total area of engineered wetlands that would be required to provide the same flood control services that are currently supplied by natural wetlands. A replacement cost of all wetlands was estimated at about $338 million. This corresponds to an estimated $2 million per year in economic losses when the historic rate of wetland area loss is applied. • The estimated cost of restoring all wetlands on the landscape would be $43 million. This corresponds to an estimated $257,250 per year in restoration costs if the historic rate of wetland loss is applied (0.6 per cent between 1960’s and 2005). • The majority (87 per cent) of wetland complexes within Shepard Slough have a medium to high capacity to purify water, estimated using a water purification model. • The estimated loss of soil organic carbon between 1962 and 2005 is 44,144 Milligram (Mg) (89 Mg hectares-1). This is equivalent to an emission of 161,832 Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalent (CO2 e). • Applying the provincially relevant Alberta Tech Fund value of $15 /tonne of Carbon Dioxide equivalent, the economic value of carbon storage in the case study area would amount to $16.7 million. • Recreation survey results showed the potential value for recreation from wetlands in the study area to be approximately $4,390,000 per year. This result is based on an estimate of 114,685 wetland visitors each year, each spending $38.28 for a day trip. • Results of a hedonic pricing valuation identified a clear relationship between property value and distance/adjacency to wetlands. If the property is adjacent to a wetland, the value of the house increases by $4,390 - $5,136. Ecosystems Services Approach Pilot for Wetlands – Final Version October 2011 8 The results from the assessment allowed the ES pilot to address the gaps in the wetland approvals process. For example, the pilot identified that many of the ES provided by wetlands are currently excluded in current requirements for municipal Biophysical Impact Assessments and Wetland Impact Assessments and as such, multiple ES are absent from decision making. In addition, wetlands provide multiple ES simultaneously, which is important when considering avoidance or compensation options for wetlands. Importantly, the ES pilot demonstrated that although a wetland is degraded, it could be high functioning and provide a number of ES and benefits. This information could inform trade-offs and also help to highlight ‘hot spot’ areas to avoid in the planning process. A rapid assessment site-level tool tested in the pilot provided immediate benefits for the wetland approval process. It offers a tool for decision makers, complementary to the pilot’s ES approach, to develop information about the ES provided by individual wetlands. It can provide objective information on the values and functions of small and temporary wetlands that are often dismissed as unimportant when compared to large and visually appealing wetlands with permanent open water zones. The tool, Wetland Ecosystem Services Protocol for the United States (WESPUS), requires modification for the Alberta-context, however it provides an opportunity to shape the process of avoidance, mitigation and compensation in a manner that may better reflect public values associated with wetlands. If a wetland approval writer does not select avoidance or minimization, approval writers could use this tool to determine appropriate compensation and restoration requirements. The ES pilot allowed the decision makers to explore information on the cumulative effects of wetland loss and potential consequences of long term decision making. For example, the loss of wetlands in the case study area over the past 50 years has led to a substantial cumulative loss of multiple ES including flood control, water purification/ filtration and water storage. In particular, areas that have historically seen large losses in water storage are more likely to also experience changes in soil moisture, microclimate, flood control and other ES because water storage is fundamental to the delivery of other ES benefits. An important contribution of the ES pilot was the ability to demonstrate multiple ‘values’ of wetlands in the case study area. For example, the results demonstrated that all classes of wetlands in the case study area contribute benefits, regardless of size and magnitude of current degradation. Even small wetlands provide essential services such as water purification and flood control, sometimes in conjunction with adjacent and connected wetlands. To complement typical aquatic environment and hydrology information used by decision makers, the pilot incorporated socio-cultural information on how people value different ES in the study area. Information about local people’s perceptions of why wetlands are important can directly inform wetland approval decisions, as this is new information about the value of wetlands to society. Studies conducted for the pilot demonstrate that even the most abstract cultural benefits (e.g., heritage benefits) are consistently rated as of ‘high’ or ‘medium’ importance to people. The pilot demonstrated that an ES approach can provide a systematic way to assess ES benefits and impacts, and explore the trade-offs associated with development decisions that incorporate more than typical environmental and/or economic information. Given the novelty of the assessments activities, a number of recommendations have emerged to further advance the ES road map: • There is a strong need to examine how the local and regional assessment tools applied can be streamlined to improve efficiency and cost effectiveness. Many assessment activities occurred in isolation, and while the pilot team made efforts to integrate activities and align results, it is recognized that the pilot fell short of the intention to conduct a holistic and integrated ES assessment. Improved integration during the design phase can improve project delivery, communications and the final products, which can reduce costs. • The data, information and resources needed to complete ES assessments, particularly the biophysical assessment, was significant. It will be important to assess what scale and level of importance a policy or plan is to warrant the monetary and staff costs of doing an ES assessment. • The uptake of WESPUS is a ‘low hanging fruit’ to integrate ES into the wetland approvals process and other Government of Alberta activities as other ES assessment methodologies mature. With thirty-years of testing and refinement already, the WESPUS approach requires minor modifications for the Alberta context. Given the popularity of WESPUS, it will be essential to build on the momentum generated in this pilot. The concept of ES is still in its infancy, but has been recognized globally as a useful tool for communicating the value of sustainable landscape management to support development and the long-term well-being of people. Ecosystem Services are becoming increasingly important for governments and business leaders to address in decision making. The Government of Alberta took a leadership role in advancing the ES road map and completing a pilot project to explore the incorporation of ES into an actual policy gap identified by municipal and government wetland approvals writers. This report represents the Integrated Results from the ES assessments and provides key findings and uses for the information generated. The ES pilot reports make up the platform from which to move forward on a number of opportunities to further improve understanding of ES, build capacity to assess ES, and provide more complete information to decision makers to improve the outcomes of their decisions.
|Contact ALCES for Dr. Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne, Geneva Claesson and Gillian Kerr, 2011|
Ecosystem Services Approach Pilot on Wetlands An Exploration of Approaches to Understand Cultural Services and Benefits to Ecosystem Service Assessments
Courtney Hughes, Glenn Brown, Cory Habulin, Gillian Kerr, Krista Tremblett
This report summarizes the socio-cultural studies completed during the ES Pilot. There are a number of complementary deliverables prepared for the ES Pilot including: an Integrated Assessment Report that summarizes the results for a technical audience, an ES Approach Report that focuses on methods and process, a Project Evaluation Report, a Summary Report for Decision makers and a Summary Report for a general audience. In addition there are a number of technical reports including: reports for various components of the biophysical assessment, and a socio-economic report. As such, a detailed overview of the methods used is not included in this report. The combined deliverables for the ES Pilot together provide all the key elements for understanding the results, the methods, project evaluation and the learning’s from the Ecosystem Services Approach Pilot on Wetlands that can support future work on ES in Alberta and internationally. The socio-cultural work completed does not necessarily capture all potential cultural services and/or benefits that may be associated with the wetland under investigation or wetlands across Alberta. While attempts were made to be comprehensive in the selection of cultural services and benefits to investigate, as well as methods selected and analysis undertaken, there may be other cultural services or benefits, or other conceptualizations of these services and benefits, relevant to the study site. As such, further inquiries are likely necessary and would likely prove beneficial to an increasing understanding about cultural services and benefits related to wetlands in Alberta.
|Contact ALCES for Courtney Hughes, Glenn Brown, Cory Habulin, Gillian Kerr, Krista Tremblett, 2011|