ALCES Based Project Reports

Year Title (Author, Description) File Download

A Strategic-Level Comparison of Urban Footprint Associated with Alternative Population Growth Strategies for the City of Edmonton (2001 - 2031)

Brad Stelfox, Richard Levy, and Heather Gariepy

The City of Edmonton has enjoyed impressive historical expansion in both population and area, growing from a small community of 2,626 people occupying 23 km2 at the turn of the century to a large city supporting approx. 716,515 people on approx. 363 km2 in 2004. Edmonton has maintained an average annual growth rate of 2.6% in population over the past 50 years, and 1.6% over the past 30 years. ALCES (A landscape simulation model) was used to explore the consequences of different potential growth rates and distributional patterns. The purpose of this project is to provide information to the City of Edmonton on the historical (past 100 years) and projected future growth (2001-2031) of the City of Edmonton. The two basic questions this report seeks to answer are: 1) How might the Edmonton Urban Footprint differ given four different (low, moderate, high, very high) population growth scenarios? And 2) How might the Edmonton Urban Footprint differ given three different distributional patterns (status quo, Downtown focus, Mature Neighborhood focus, Suburban Area focus) for a moderate population growth scenario?


An assessment of the cumulative effects of land use and management in SSN

B. Wilson, M. Carlson, M. Iverson, and J. Straker, S. Sharpe

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The St’kemlupsemc Te Secwepemc Nation (SSN) requested that ALCES Landscape and Land Use Ltd. (ALCES) conduct a cumulative-effects assessment for the SSN traditional territory, including any effects contributed by the proposed Ajax mining project. Simply put, cumulative effects are the changes caused by our actions today in combination with other past, and reasonably foreseeable human and natural disturbance. Critical components of this assessment include: • assessment over the entire SSN traditional territory, as well as the Ajax Regional Study Area (RSA) where appropriate; and • referencing current and forecast future conditions against ranges of natural variation approximating pre-contact conditions. This report provides a summary of the undertakings, findings and any recommendations emerging from this work for consideration by the SSN Review Panel in its deliberations regarding the proposed KGHM Ajax project within the SSN Traditional Territory. Simulation models are tools that provide insight into the potential outcomes of different land use management strategies. Models will not explicitly tell us what the “best” management objective or implementation approach is – this is the role of decision makers. ALCES is an acronym that stands for A Landscape Cumulative Effects Simulator. ALCES Online (AO) is a web-based GIS and landscape simulator for assessing the cumulative effects of multiple overlapping land uses and external stressors such as climate change. Indicators are measures of values of interest that help us understand the consequences of human land use and natural disturbance The ALCES simulation model was used to simulate ecosystems and forest fires during pre-contact conditions, and to additionally simulate the current and future effects of key human land uses, including mining (metal and aggregate), forest harvest, road construction, rural and urban residential growth, and recreation. These simulations were assessed for the cumulative effects on a range of land-use and ecosystem indicators, including five key indicators selected by SSN representatives: 1. land dispossession and tenure; 2. grasslands quantity and quality; 3. mule deer; 4. fish; and 5. an index of animal protein sources. Results of this work demonstrate substantial effects for all of these indicators from the precontact period to current conditions. All grassland and wildlife indicators show estimated declines within the SSN Traditional Territory ranging from 13% to 100%. In addition, development of the proposed Ajax mine project is shown to further contribute to decline in ALCES Landscape & Landuse Ltd. ii future indicator performance for the grasslands and protein indices. Performance for the key selected indicators is summarized below: • Land dispossession and tenure – roughly 316,000 ha, or 25%, of the SSN traditional territory has been dispossessed through granting/sale of private lands, designation of provincial parks or other protected areas, and through direct construction of human footprint. These dispossessed areas are generally concentrated around the city of Kamloops and the grasslands to the south, as well as along the Thompson River valleys. Addition of non-forestry tenure types (mineral leases, guide-outfitter areas, range tenures, and the Agricultural Land Reserve) brings the total dispossessed land to 110% of the traditional territory. This analysis demonstrates that even without inclusion of forestry tenures that have granted forest-harvest rights and the ability to impose associated land management activities on the landscape, almost the entirety of the SSN traditional territory is occupied by at least one tenure type that is restrictive of SSN use of this land base. • Grasslands quantity and quality – grasslands comprised approximately 15% of the SSN traditional territory in pre-contact times. An analysis of current conditions indicates the absolute loss due to human land uses of almost 26,000 ha within the traditional territory, or approximately 14% of the original grasslands. These metrics are further pronounced in an examination of the Ajax RSA. In pre-contact times there were approximately 63,000 ha of grasslands in the RSA, or about 1/3 of the grasslands in the SSN traditional territory. Roughly 8200 ha, or 13%, of these grasslands have been lost due to human development at present, and future development over the next 50 years is projected to remove another 3400 ha, or 6% of the remaining grasslands. One of the larger intact grasslands in the RSA is the 2200-ha area north of the proposed mine development, and south of the Aberdeen neighborhood in the city of Kamloops. Declines in grassland quality are also estimated to have occurred and to continue occurring, both at the scale of the SSN traditional territory and within the RSA for the proposed Ajax mine. These declines are due to the combined effects of fire suppression, cattle grazing, introduction of non-native and invasive species, and physical removal of grasslands due to construction of human footprints. Integration of quantity and quality as an aggregate metric suggests that there has been an approximate 67% decrease in the integrity of native grasslands in the SSN traditional territory from pre-contact times to the present, and a 72% decrease within the Ajax RSA. • Mule deer – the habitat-effectiveness index for mule deer is currently 21% below the estimated lowest pre-contact level. This index is predicted to recover over the 50-year forecast driven by changes in forest demographics, but will still remain well below the minimum pre-contact level for this species. Fish – fish habitat is estimated for species that occur within the mainstems of the Thompson Rivers, including interior Fraser coho, an at-risk population. Average fish habitat values across the study area have declined by 27.5% from reference values, but some areas are higher, with declines in excess of 50%. These estimates of decline are conservative, in that they are based solely on a narrow assessment of mainstem habitat values, and do not account for temperature and flow effects within the river, nor population effects due to other factors. In addition, due to its limitation to the mainstem Thompson rivers, our analysis was not able to assess effects on fish inhabiting the Pípsell (Jacko Lake) area and associated watercourses. • Index of animal protein sources - The index of primary pre-contact terrestrial animal protein sources has declined by approximately 49% in current conditions from the precontact period, due both to degradation of grouse and mule-deer habitat and due to extirpation of elk and caribou from the traditional territory. Combining the effects of habitat degradation, extirpation, and land dispossession indicates an even greater effect: a 62% decline in availability of these protein sources under current conditions in comparison to the pre-contact period, as the majority of the highest quality habitat for the traditional protein species is largely inaccessible due to the granting of private title and construction of human footprint. As with the grasslands analysis, these effects are further pronounced in the RSA for the proposed Ajax mine – in this area, the decline in accessible terrestrial animal protein sources is 74% in current conditions compared to the pre-contact period. Addition of the fish indicator to the terrestrial protein indicators shows a total precontact protein indicator decline of 36% from pre-contact to current conditions. When the effects of tenure and direct displacement are added, the estimated decline is 42%. These and supporting analyses conducted for this report show the already substantial cumulative effects of land-management decisions and use in the SSN traditional territory, with generally large changes estimated from the pre-contact period to the present. Although the proposed Ajax project is relatively small, it is an additional stressor on the territory’s ecosystems and the organisms that depend on them, and its development would cause further loss to key SSN indicators, particularly grasslands and related species.

85_2016.04.26_Cumulative effects of land use & management in SSN_ALCES.pdf

Alberta Caribou Committee Recommendations to the Deputy Minister of Sustainable Resource Development for the Athabasca Caribou Landscape

Athabasca Landscape Team

Alberta Caribou Committee Recommendations to the Deputy Minister of Sustainable Resource Development for the Athabasca Caribou Landscape


Modelling Ecosystem Carbon Dynamics in Alberta: An Integrative Approach

Rider, N., M. Carlson, and B. Stelfox

Rider, N., M. Carlson, and B. Stelfox. 2016. Modelling Ecosystem Carbon Dynamics in Alberta: An Integrative Approach. ALCES Group Report. The report describes the application the ALCES Online landscape simulator to examine the effect of past, present, and potential future land use and natural disturbance on ecosystem carbon storage in Alberta, Canada. Introduction Fluxes of carbon (and other greenhouse gases) between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere are important drivers and mitigators of global warming (Heimann & Reichstein, 2008). Consequently, understanding ecosystem carbon dynamics and how land use and land use change affect them is becoming considered increasingly important. Since 2003, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has accepted greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory reports from many major nations (IPCC, 2015). Internationally binding agreements including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ensure that countries monitor their greenhouse gas emissions. Land use and land use change (LULUC) are increasingly recognized as integral to global carbon budgets (Guo & Gifford, 2002; Kaplan, Krumhardt, & Zimmermann, 2012; Macedo & Davidson, 2014). Every year, Canada submits a National Inventory Report documenting emissions from land use and land use change as well as from commercial and industrial activities to the IPCC (Environment Canada, 2015b). Each National Inventory Report includes emission trends from the energy sector, industries and product use, agriculture, waste, and LULUC. Since the IPCC is primarily interested in emissions and emissions factors, the report does not specifically document existing carbon stocks in biomass or other pools. The current report expands research on carbon emissions by providing information on existing biomass and organic carbon stocks in Alberta. Additionally, it provides forecasts and backcasts for biomass and organic carbon based on a landuse dataset which documents historical LULUC as well as future LULUC. ALBERTA The province of Alberta is located in Western Canada. In 2014, the population of Alberta totalled 4.1 million (Alberta Finance, 2015). This number is expected to increase by around 50 % by 2041. This increase will create substantial demand for goods, services, and infrastructure which will undoubtedly lead to changes in land use and alter emissions patterns. Alberta is also home to a large energy sector which has nearly half a million kilometres of pipelines and nine oil sands developments (Alberta Energy Regulator, 2015). It is important for the Alberta Government to have decision-making tools which can inform land use decisions while taking into account multiple factors. The Alberta Government is currently developing regional plans to help manage multiple uses on the landscape (Alberta Environment and Parks, 2015). Information about how LULUC and ecosystem carbon storage are related should be considered by governments during local, regional, and national planning. GENERAL APPROACH The current project integrates existing ALCES data (which was originally obtained from a variety of sources), values from the primary literature, and other available information to determine best estimates of ecosystem carbon stocks. In general, with the exception of forests, peatlands, and wetlands, carbon stocks were divided into three categories - aboveground biomass, belowground biomass, and soil organic carbon (SOC). All carbon stocks were dependent on land uses and land use changes. For Alberta’s forest area, dead wood and litter biomass were also considered to be important stock categories. For peatlands and wetlands, it is difficult to distinguish between belowground biomass and soil organic carbon, so these were lumped together into a single category, belowground carbon. The approach used differed slightly depending on specific cover types. An online tool, ALCES Online, was used to present the data and generate all maps in this report. ALCES Online uses a raster data format with a resolution of 2.5 km. Existing biomass values for natural areas were determined either from relationships to other variables from the primary literature, measured values summarized in primary literature, measured values provided by government agencies, or values predicted by a model. To determine biomass and carbon stocks for anthropogenic features, the general approach was to determine a base carbon density in a given cell based on the carbon in natural features, croplands, and pastures (Equation 1). This base carbon value included area-weighted carbon values for all natural features, croplands, and pastures. To determine what the carbon value of an anthropogenic feature in a cell was, the base carbon value was divided by the area which it represented (the total natural, crop, and pasture area), and then multiplied by a loss coefficient associated with the anthropogenic feature in question, followed by the area of the anthropogenic feature (Equation 2; α = coefficient). The sum of base carbon of a given type and all carbon associated with anthropogenic features of a given type yielded the total carbon of a given type in a given cell (Equation 3). The sum of all types of carbon in a cell yields a total ecosystem carbon value for that cell (Equation 4). As was previously mentioned, litter and deadwood carbon values only existed for forest. Since croplands and pastures are more similar to natural features in terms of how anthropogenic features impact their carbon storage, croplands and pastures were included in the base carbon stocks in the aforementioned approach. The next section (Approach by Footprint) documents how values were determined for existing biomass or soil organic carbon and how the different anthropogenic feature carbon was accounted for. The approach described above was the most common one; however, in a few specific cases, as described in the following sections, the coefficient approach was not used to determine the carbon associated with an anthropogenic feature. Integral to the approach used was the Unity Dataset, which exists in ALCES Online (see The Unity Dataset).

Alberta Ecosystem Carbon Dynamics - draft report.pdf

Alces Online Hawaii Workshop, April 2016

Stelfox, J.B.

Alces Hawaii Workshop April 2016.docx

A Fork in the Road: Future Development in Ontario’s Far North

Carlson, M., and C. Chetkiewicz. 2013

Ontario's Far North contains some of the world's most intact subarctic terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. It is a stronghold for a number of fish and wildlife species such as woodland caribou, wolverine, and lake sturgeon. The region is also the homeland of Ojibwe, Oji-Cree and Cree First Nations who have established longstanding traditional cultural values and a unique relationship with this land that they have used and occupied for thousands of years. The environment in the Far North provides important "services" to people such as climate regulation, food, cultural values, and clean and abundant water supplies. The Far North also includes a wealth of natural resources such as minerals, hydropower development potential, timber resources, and other resource development opportunities. In 2010, the Government of Ontario committed to working with First Nation communities to develop land-use plans that support conservation and development of the Far North. An important step in the planning process is assessing whether the cumulative effects of the full suite of potential future developments are compatible with the aspirations of First Nations and Ontario. To support decision-making in this unique region, we applied a simulation model (ALCES®) to explore changes in the composition of regional landscapes associated with potential future mining, hydroelectric development, and forestry activity as well as forest fires, and the implications for woodland caribou, wolverine, moose, and the intactness of watersheds. Our study focused on the James Bay Lowlands, which includes the large mineral reserves in the Ring of Fire, numerous kimberlite deposits, including the Victor Diamond mine, and major rivers with hydropower potential such as the Attawapiskat, Moose, and Albany. To encompass the full extent of the Pagwachuan Caribou Range, the study area extended south of the James Bay Lowland thereby also incorporating portions of five Sustainable Forest Licenses that are managed primarily for timber production. The simulated development scenario resulted in a three-fold increase in anthropogenic footprint over 50 years, primarily due to road and transmission corridor expansion to support industrial developments. The spatial pattern of the simulated footprint differentiated between the dispersed road network associated with forestry in the south and the more isolated, but intensive, mining and hydroelectric Executive Summary To support decisionmaking in this unique region, we applied a simulation model (ALCES) to explore changes in the composition of regional landscapes associated with potential future mining, hydroelectric development, and forestry activity as well as forest fires, and the implications for woodland caribou, wolverine, moose, and the intactness of watersheds. vi Canadian Boreal Initiative | Wildlife Conservation Society Canada developments in the north. The simulated forestry activity in the south had consequences for the Pagwachuan Caribou Range where the risk to herd survival approached the high category and range disturbance exceeded a threshold of 35% – a guideline in the national caribou recovery strategy. Simulated impacts to wolverine were also greatest in the south, where expansion of the road network caused habitat suitability to decline. Land use impacts to wildlife such as caribou and wolverine may be exacerbated by climate change. As an example, the moose population was simulated to increase twofold when climate change was incorporated, which would likely cause the region’s wolf population to grow with negative implications for caribou herd viability. Simulated mining and hydroelectric developments were sufficiently isolated at a regional scale to avoid large impacts to caribou and wolverine. A greater concern, however, may be the consequences of these developments to the integrity of aquatic ecosystems. The watershed impact score increased for a number of northern watersheds, demonstrating that risk to aquatic ecosystems is likely to increase in watersheds that contain important natural resource regions such as the Ring of Fire due to the presence of multiple mining and hydroelectric developments. The outcomes of this pilot project offers important considerations when addressing cumulative effects in northern Ontario, including: the benefit to wildlife of limiting land use to isolated regions within an otherwise intact landscape; the need to improve understanding of the cumulative effects to aquatic ecosystems of multiple large-scale developments (e.g., mines, dams) within northern watersheds; and the potential for climate change to increase the sensitivity of wildlife to industrial land use. We hope these findings will inform land-use planning at both the community and regional scale and motivate additional analyses that are needed to comprehensively assess cumulative effects in Ontario’s Far North.


A Biophysical and Land Use Atlas for Maui, Hawaii

Stelfox, J.B.

A biophysical atlas of physical features (soils, climate, topography), plant communities and land use sectors (croplands, residential, transportation, mining, industrial and tourism) was assembled in Alces Online and then used to prepare an online Atlas. This atlas is now available for the educational sector (primary, secondary, post-secondary) for the State of Hawaii. These materials were presented to local governments, land trusts, and the University of Hawaii.

Alces Online Atlas for Maui, Hawaii for Univeristy of Hawaii; reduced resolution.pptx

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.


Looking Ahead: An Assessment of Potential Land Use Trends in Strathcona County

Daniel Farr and Brad Stelfox

Strathcona County is a unique municipality located northeast of Edmonton in Alberta's Capital Region. The juxtaposition of urban and rural areas governed by a single municipality has created an economically and culturally diverse community. It includes the hamlet of Sherwood Park, plus eight smaller hamlets, 900 farms and numerous country residential developments. Historically an agricultural-dominated area, the economic base of the region has evolved to include oil refineries, manufacturing and other heavy industry, and diverse retail and commercial operations. The County is strongly influenced by its proximity to the City of Edmonton, which is the commercial and transportation hub of northern Alberta. Edmonton provides numerous economic opportunities for Strathcona County businesses, and County residents frequently travel to and from Edmonton for work, recreation, health care, and a wide range of other metropolitan services. In turn, the County is also a destination for many Edmonton residents seeking a range of recreational and other activities. Steady growth in the urban and rural population, and a desire to grow and diversify the economy while maintaining traditional land uses such as agriculture, make it challenging to plan future land use development. The purpose of this study is to assess competing land uses and the cumulative effects of land use planning decisions in and around Strathcona County. A modeling approach is used to forecast


ALCES III Scenario Modeling Report - Athabasca Landscape Area, Appendix III

Terry Antoniuk, John Nishi, Karen Manuel, Mika Sutherland, Cornel Yarmoloy

ALCES III Scenario Modeling Report - Athabasca Landscape Area, Appendix III

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