ALCES Based Project Reports

Year Title (Author, Description) File Download

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

Contact ALCES for Daniel Farr and Brad Stelfox, 2005

Upper Bow River Basin Cumulative Effects Study - Brochure

Terry Antoniuk and Cornel Yarmoloy

The Upper Bow River Basin Cumulative Effects Study (UBBCES) was initiated by concerned citizens, groups, and organizations to investigate and better understand the potential cumulative effects that all land-uses could have on water availability, water quality, and other natural values in the Upper Bow River basin. The Steering Committee directing this study identified five primary concerns about social and environmental health and, in consultation with the authors, selected seven ecological and social indicators to represent these concerns. 
 Issue / Concern Indicator(s) Will there be enough water to meet the future needs of industry, acreages, Calgary residents, ranchers, farmers, and fish? - Surface water flow in Bow River at Carseland Weir reported as yearly total flow (in cubic metres). Will our children and grandchildren be able to rely on the Bow River and its tributaries for clean drinking water? - Relative Water Quality Index at Carseland Weir reported as value of combined nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment load relative to simulated non-industrial (natural) conditions. - Index of Native Foothills Fish Integrity reported as community health value relative to simulated non-industrial (natural) conditions. Will groundwater levels remain stable, decline, or increase? - Shallow groundwater supply reported as total volume at year end (in cubic metres). Will working farms and ranches remain? - Agricultural land area reported as ha in cropland, forage, and pasture. Will there be undisturbed natural areas that supply clean water and provide places in which our children and grandchildren can visit, hike, bike, and watch wildlife? - Unroaded 'natural' areas reported as areas greater than 200 m from linear corridors and man- made clearings. - Grizzly Bear Mortality Index reported as relative risk of bear death compared to simulated non-industrial (natural) conditions. The ALCES landscape cumulative effects (A Landscape Cumulative Effects Simulator) dynamic landscape model was used for this study to forecast the response of the seven indicators to different development approaches. Work was conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, relevant information was collected and the ALCES model was used to forecast potential outcomes of a ‘business as usual’ scenario. For Phase 2, the model was used to evaluate the potential benefits of applying ‘best practices’ identified by the Calgary Metropolitan Plan and Southern Foothills Study. Today, the Upper Bow River watershed is the most densely populated river basin in the province and the once wild, free flowing Upper Bow River has become the province's most controlled river with numerous dams and water diversions. These changes have allowed the region to prosper, but have created unplanned and unexpected effects on water quality, groundwater, wildlife, fish, and natural areas. The agriculture, residential, transportation, forestry, and energy sectors are the main human activities that have changed water and wildlife values in the basin over the last century. ALCES Phase 1 simulations suggested that continued population growth and demand for homes and resources will continue to convert agricultural lands and natural areas over the next two generations. Phase 2 best practices simulations identified some practical actions that municipalities, ranchers, resource companies, farmers, acreage owners, and city dwellers can initiate to minimize their direct and indirect effects on the region's waters, wildlife, and quality of life. 
 Surface Water Supply Water demand will increase in the Upper Bow River basin over the next two generations. With increasing water demand, withdrawals are projected to remove about 4% of total yearly flow under average conditions and up to 18% under low flow conditions. This suggests that in there will be enough surface water for all users upstream of the Carseland weir during average flow years. However, flows will become more variable and seasonal shortfalls are likely, particularly during dry years. The largest future demands for surface water come from Calgary and other communities. Phase 2 simulations confirm that domestic water conservation measures proposed by the City of Calgary will reduce average annual surface withdrawals by 1% over the next 70 years, a yearly reduction of about 151 million cubic metres. Continued emphasis on water conservation by other land-use sectors would also reduce risk of future supply shortfalls. The recently developed Bow River Operational Model (AWRI 2010) also suggests that flow manipulation can be used to accommodate future water demand while maintaining minimum flows and without negatively affecting water quality. 
 Water Quality UBBCES Phase 1 and 2 simulations indicate that the agriculture sector is currently the largest source of land-use nutrient and sediment loading in the Upper Bow basin. The residential sector and transportation sector are also relatively large sources of nutrients and sediment that reduce water quality. As land-use increases to support the growing regional population, nutrient and sediment loading will increase over the next 70 years, and further reduce water quality. Full implementation of best practices will be required to achieve the Bow River Basin Council's objective of maintaining or enhancing existing water quality (BRBC 2008). Best practices simulations demonstrate that measures being implemented by, or proposed by, the Calgary Metropolitan Plan and City of Calgary would have substantial benefits. Voluntary stewardship programs such as 'Cows and Fish' and 'Ranchers of the Jumpingpound' are beneficial. If all agricultural operators in the basin adopted best practices identified here, future nutrient and sediment loading would be reduced by as much as 50%, and this would help maintain downstream water quality. Adopting best practices such as maintaining a native vegetation buffer along streams and improving planning of future residential development would benefit water quality, fish, wildlife, and recreational users, and potentially decrease municipal water treatment costs. Other best practices would have local benefits that would also contribute to improved downstream water quality and integrity.
 Groundwater Supply Although data are very limited, computer simulations suggest that we are slowly depleting shallow groundwater in the Upper Bow River basin and that this decline will continue over the next 70 years. This drawdown is happening for two reasons: 1) we are pumping groundwater from wells faster than it is being naturally recharged; and 2) we are building more impervious 'hard' surfaces like roads and communities that reduce the groundwater recharge. The gap between withdrawal and recharge appears to be widening. At a local scale this will likely mean groundwater depletion in many of the more heavily populated rural residential areas and significant planning challenges for municipalities and developers. This could also reduce the amount of water available in the Bow River and its tributaries during winter and summer low flow periods when groundwater inflow into the river is important. While we currently have limited information about this unseen water source, given shallow groundwater's importance for future generations, recommendations to measure and manage it as carefully as we do our surface waters should be implemented. 
 Working Farms and Ranches Projections suggest that working farms and ranches will continue to be lost from the Upper Bow River basin as they are converted to acreage and residential development. The Calgary Metropolitan Plan lays out a new vision for urban and rural growth in the Upper Bow basin. This vision is designed to minimize future human footprint growth by almost 80,000 ha (to 123,100 ha instead of 202,600 ha) by increasing community and commercial density within communities and 'nodes', and protecting sensitive natural areas. UBBCES Phase 2 simulations suggest that just over one quarter of this reduced footprint (21,500 ha) could be retained as working farms and ranches. Natural Areas and Wildlife Relatively undisturbed 'natural' area has declined over the last century to three-quarters of the Upper Bow River basin. UBBCES Phase 1 and 2 projections show that the existing land-use transportation and infrastructure network in the Upper Bow River basin will need to expand substantially. This will reduce undisturbed natural area to just under 60% of the basin in 70 years with business as usual assumptions. The Calgary Metropolitan Plan's vision for reduced urban and rural residential growth would allow an additional 63,900 ha to remain unconverted in 70 years. This would also help maintain foothill and prairie grasslands which are poorly represented in the current protected areas network. Past increases in roads and disturbed area have resulted in documented declines in native fish and grizzly bear abundance, and modelling projections indicate that further declines are likely. Once access has been created, it has been very difficult to restrict public use, so managers lose the ability to fully reclaim corridors and reduce undesirable changes on bears, native fish, and sediment runoff. Phase 2 simulations show that access management to control human use of roads would benefit grizzly bears, native fish and other sensitive species by reducing legal and illegal mortality (an indirect effect of land-use).

Contact ALCES for Terry Antoniuk and Cornel Yarmoloy, 2011

Powerpoint Presentation: An Assessment of the Cumulative Effects of Land Uses in the Ghost River Watershed, Alberta - Presentation

Cornel Yarmoloy and Brad Stelfox

Refer to report under same name.

Contact ALCES for Cornel Yarmoloy and Brad Stelfox, 2011

Grizzly Bear Habitat Selection and Mortality Coefficients of Southern Alberta: Estimates for the Southern Alberta Regional Strategy (SARS)-ALCES Project

Scott Nielsen and Mark Boyce

Southern Alberta has witnessed substantial recent growth in local human population concurrent with an increasing demand on natural resources. This growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. A Southern Alberta Region Strategy (SARS) was formed to address potential economic and ecological benefits and/or impacts of projected regional change. To examine these relationships in a quantitative and structured manner, SARS settled on the use of A Landscape Cumulative Effects Simulator (ALCES). One resource sector outlined in SARS and modeled in ALCES is wildlife, with grizzly bears (Ursus arctos L.) chosen as one focal conservation species for the process. Grizzly bears are a species of special concern in Alberta, currently considered 'may be at risk'. For the ALCES modeling process, information on habitat relationships or habitat suitability indices (HSI) are required. In this report we describe the results of empirical modeling exercises undertaken to provide coefficients of habitat selection and mortality. We further provide suggestions for incorporating the two indices into a single synthetic index we refer to as exposure.

Contact ALCES for Scott Nielsen and Mark Boyce, 2003

Alberta Southern East Slopes Integrated Land Management Pilot Project (draft)

Brad Stelfox, Mark Anielski, Matt Carlson and Terry Antoniuk

The Southern East Slopes Integrated Land Management Pilot Project (SES Pilot) used a real landscape and real data from southwest Alberta to evaluate how selected ecological and economic ‘performance’ outcomes could be achieved through different land management scenarios and how such integrated evaluations might be of use for policy analysis, economic trade-off analysis, and land use decision making. Economic and ecological indicators were developed using an integrated Genuine Wealth Accounting system (i.e. integration of natural, financial, and social capital accounts) to account for the physical and qualitative conditions and the monetary value, where possible, of key ecological assets, including water, carbon, and land. These indicators were then used to simulate potential trade-offs among market and non-market resource values using the ALCES© model, including the influence of pre-defined land management objectives on these indicators.

Contact ALCES for Brad Stelfox, Mark Anielski, Matt Carlson and Terry Antoniuk, 2008

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.

Contact ALCES for Barry Adams and Brad Stelfox, 2011

Ghost River Watershed Cumulative Effects Study

Dr. Brad Stelfox, Cornel Yarmoloy

The watershed of the Ghost River lies in the upstream shadow of the burgeoning metropolis of Calgary and its surrounding bedroom communities. The Ghost River watershed possesses an exceptional abundance of natural resources, including forests, grasslands, rivers, diverse flora and fauna, and majestic scenery. It also hosts an abundance of consumptive natural resources including wood fiber, livestock forage, hydrocarbons, and wildlife and fish. During recent decades, a rapid increase in intensity of several landuses has occurred, as forestry, livestock grazing, oil and gas extraction, rural residential, hunting, and non-motorized and motorized recreation have all grown to satisfy increasing regional demand. The historical management paradigm of the Government of Alberta for the East Slopes is best described as “multiple use”. This strategy reflects the belief that multiple overlapping land uses can co-occur without meaningfully compromising the performance of key ecological, social, and economic indicators. Increasingly, quantitative and subjective assessments by the scientific community and the public have shown that the laissez-faire nature of the government’s “multiple use” formula is no longer serving society well. In 2011, a Phase 1 report examining the cumulative effects of “business-as-usual” land uses within the Ghost River watershed identified a number of challenges to maintaining acceptable performance levels of ecological, industrial, and recreation indicators. Projections using the ALCES landscape simulator ( quantified past and potential future declines in water quality, recreation potential, fish and wildlife indicators, and problems with sustainable forestry. The Phase I report can be downloaded from The Ghost River Watershed Alliance Society received funding from the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation and the Calgary Foundation to explore and assess beneficial management practices (BMP) that have the potential to improve performance of indicators relative to the business-as-usual (BAU) practices explored in Phase 1. Through a series of four independently facilitated workshops, the GWAS sought to engage local and regional communities, recreationalists, and government representatives in exploring potential solutions to enhance sustainable land stewardship for the watershed. Information obtained from these workshops was augmented with data obtained from other relevant projects examining the interface between BMP and ecological goods and services in Alberta’s east slopes. Based on guidance obtained from BMP workshops and other studies (Southern Foothills Study, Upper Bow Basin Cumulative Effects Study, South Saskatchewan Regional Plan), the following issues and BMP were explored for the Ghost River Study: Issue: High level of landscape fragmentation BMP: -Accelerated rates of reclamation of linear features such as seismic lines, minor roads, inblock forestry roads, and non-designated off-highway vehicle trails Issue: High levels of vehicle accessibility BMP: -Restriction of off-highway vehicle (OHV) activity to an engineered and designated OHV trail system that minimizes adverse effects on erosion and wildlife and provides safe and enjoyable OHV activity. -Enforcement increased to minimize off-highway vehicle use on non-designated trails and contain use to a designated vehicle trail network Issue: High Level of Watershed Discontinuity BMP: Increased replacement of “washed out” or “hung” stream culverts Issue: Loss of Riparian Habitat, Forest Structure, Wood Security BMP: -Reduction of current annual allowable forestry harvest commensurate with increased in-block retention of trees, and increased buffers along watercourses and ephemeral streams Issue: Reduced Water Quality from Elevated Nutrient Runoff BMP: -Increased protective buffers along streams found within cutblocks and in croplands -Restrictions of livestock from streams through off-stream watering and salting -Accelerated reclamation of unvegetated trails that are not part of the designated trail network Issue: Reduced Water Quality caused by human waste BMP: -Provision of sanitation facilities at trail heads and designated campsites Installment of advanced septic field technologies at rural residential sites Relative to the “business-as-usual” simulations, the simulated adoption of beneficial management practices in the Ghost River Watershed improved all ecological indicators. Landscape level improvements in ecological indicators included a decrease in Grizzly Bear Mortality index, an increase in the Index of Native Fish Integrity, an improvement in water quality, an increase in recreation potential of the watershed, and a level of forest harvest that is more likely to be sustainable. The results of this study highlight the significant opportunities to government agencies, land use sectors, and various recreational groups, to minimize loss of ecological goods and services and improve the sustainability of the Ghost River Watershed. Justification for adopting these practices are equally defensible from social, economic, and ecological perspectives. This work by the Ghost River Watershed Alliance Society is intended to catalyze a new conversation about sustainable management of the Ghost River watershed based on full cost accounting of a comprehensive list of performance indicators. The take-home message of this project is decidedly pro-landuse, but one in which land-use decisions functionally “optimize” (not maximize) a full suite of socio-economic and ecological indicators. Although this Phase II report is written with the intent that it is a stand-alone document, stakeholders are encouraged to read the Phase I report as it contains additional information relating to the business-as-usual scenario.

Contact ALCES for Dr. Brad Stelfox, Cornel Yarmoloy, 2012

Southern Alberta Landscapes: Meeting the Challenges Ahead - Export Coefficients for Total Phosphorus, Total Nitrogen and Total Suspended Solids in the Southern Alberta Region - A literature review

Yetunde Jeje

The objectives of the literature review were to: 1) Identify and summarize literature that provide quantitative information on Total Nitrogen (TN), Total Phosphorus (TP) and Total Suspended Solids (TSS) export coefficients in the Southern Alberta region, 2) Identify and summarize literature that provide quantitative information on TN, TP and TSS export coefficients in the following landscape cover categories provided by Alberta Environment: 9 Native Prairie classes, 6 Agriculture classes, 7 Forest Area classes and 4 Miscellaneous (4) classes for input in the ALCES computer simulation model currently under development, 3) Prepare a report that presents a descriptive inventory and analysis of literature including a list of all relevant literature reviewed and abstracts of selected literature appropriately categorized, and provide a discussion of data generated, and 4) Identify and summarize literature that provides quantitative information on TN, TP and TSS export coefficients for Non-native Land Use categories in the Southern Alberta region.

Contact ALCES for Yetunde Jeje, 2006

A Comparison of Land Use Options for the Mbaracayu Biosphere Reserve - Final Report

Matt Carlson

Unplanned and unsustainable land use has transformed the Atlantic Forests of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. In 1991, responding to the rapid loss of Atlantic Forest, the Government of Paraguay created the Mbaracayu Forest Natural Reserve (MFNR) and established the Cuenca watershed as a mixed-used protected area. Given the land use pressures facing the region, the future existence of healthy ecosystems within the Cuenca relies on balancing land use with conservation. The Mbaracayu program, run by the Fundacion Moises Bertoni (FMB), seeks to integrate a vision of sustainable and social development in harmony with the conservation of the MFNR. In response to the recognized need for a management plan, the FMB collaborated with the Alberta Research Council on the project "Capacity Enhancement for Community- and Ecologically-based Management in the Bosque Mbaracayu Biosphere Reserve, Paraguay". As part of the project, the land use simulation tool ALCES was applied to evaluate land use scenarios in the Cuenca. Applying ALCES contributed to the development of a management plan by informing the identification of sustainable land use options. The report is intended to communicate the ALCES tool and analysis, solicit feedback, and inform training of FMB staff to apply ALCES in the Cuenca.

Contact ALCES for Matt Carlson, 2007

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

Contact ALCES for Athabasca Landscape Team, 2009
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