ALCES Based Project Reports

Year Title (Author, Description) File Download

Be Ready, or Be Left Behind. Report of the Advisory Panel on Metro Edmonton’s Future


To inform recommendations to Edmonton region mayors on how to make the region globally competitive, ALCES Online was applies to explore the long-term (50 year) consequences of alternative urban development strategies to landscape composition and greenfield development. The scenario analysis, presented as an appendix to the report, identified significant environmental and fiscal benefits from pursuing urban densification in the Edmonton region. Executive Summary The Metro Mayors Alliance asked our Panel to consider whether a globally competitive Edmonton region is achievable and, if so, to provide advice about how to make it happen. Over the course of several months we talked to experts, reviewed literature and listened to those with experience in municipal governance. We spoke with a wide crosssection of people in the private, public and non-profit sectors of our Metro Region communities. All of their views informed our analysis. Our advice to the Mayors is this: a globally competitive Edmonton Metro Region is achievable, but it will require municipalities planning, delivering and acting as one Metro Region in certain key areas. Our emphasis on those words is deliberate. Municipalities have become skilled at discussing issues and undertaking planning as a region. These have been the productive fruits of their participation in the Capital Region Board (CRB). But it has been challenging to translate those discussions and plans into collaborative actions with on-the-ground results. Despite years of interaction around the CRB table, municipalities still deliver services and infrastructure individually and compete with each other for land, resources and investment. When making choices, the costs and benefits to their individual municipality take precedence over the benefits to the overall region. Provincial policies and legislation have played a significant role in cultivating current practices. Municipalities are playing within the confines of a system that has evolved over decades – a system that drives competition among municipalities and doesn’t provide adequate mechanisms for their collaboration. This is understandable, but it’s not sustainable. Modelling commissioned by our Panel indicates that if municipalities continue to develop the Metro Region under a “business as usual” approach our region won’t just fail to be globally competitive, it will fall backwards, with serious implications for taxpayers and for the quality of life we all take for granted.1 If municipalities don’t change their current trajectory, the model shows as much as 87,700 additional hectares of agricultural land and 50,200 hectares of natural areas could be lost to uncoordinated development over the next 50 years. What’s more, the settlement footprint across the region could double in size from 135,900 hectares to as much as 273,900 hectares. Taxpayers could be on the hook for an additional $8.2 billion to service that larger footprint with roads and other public infrastructure. The good news is that there is a far better way forward – without amalgamation or the creation of a new layer of government. The modelling commissioned by our Panel indicates that if municipalities plan, decide and act as one Metro Region through an integrated approach, the expansion of the overall settlement footprint could be cut by approximately half. This would save precious agricultural land and natural areas. Municipal servicing costs would be cut in half, reducing upward pressure on municipal tax rates and saving money for taxpayers. All of this would help make the Metro Region globally competitive and improve its quality of life. So how should things change? From a functional standpoint, there are many options for municipal collaboration. One of the most promising ways is for municipalities to take a regional systems approach. A regional systems approach doesn’t mean delivering all aspects of a municipal service through a regional body. It means strategically bringing together elements of services that are regionally significant to create highly functioning systems across the region. Any aspect of a service that isn’t regionally significant would continue to be locally planned and locally delivered by each municipality. What are those regionally significant services that are important to our competitiveness? Our Panel identified many recognized drivers of competitiveness in city-regions, but three stood out as “cornerstones” for the Edmonton Metro Region: 1. Economic development 2. Public transit 3. Land use and infrastructure development. These three cornerstones are the primary factors considered by investors when deciding where to locate new industries and major facilities. Therefore, they are the areas of highest priority and greatest risk for the Metro Region. As inter-related areas, they should “snap together” to build a strong backbone that will enable the Metro Region to achieve its social, economic and environmental goals. And all three are areas where action is achievable, essential and urgent.

Contact ALCES for Multiple, 2016

Knowledge Integration and Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) Modelling

Fabio Boschetti, Hector Lozano-Montes, Brad Stelfox, Catherine Bulman, Joanna Strzelecki, Michael Hu

Knowledge Integration and Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) Modelling report. Prepared for the WAMSI Kimberley Marine Research Program Final Report. The Kimberley Marine Research Program (KMRP) Project 2.2.8 represents the first attempt to integrate a large amount of data, knowledge and state-of-the-art understanding of the bio-physical, ecological and social processes affecting the Kimberley marine environment drawing in new information generated by several of the KMRP projects within the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) program. This information was used to parameterise two computer models (ALCES and Ecopath with Ecosim [EwE]) to simulate land, coastal and marine processes. A careful examination of a large volume of publications from the academic, private and public sectors allowed a number of climate and social economic development scenarios that the Kimberley region may experience in the decades to come to be developed. Computer simulations were used to test the Kimberley system’s responses to these alternative scenarios under a number of management strategies including current and proposed marine parks under different options of zoning and multiple uses. Both the scenarios and management strategies were selected and agreed upon in consultation with a number of stakeholder groups, including the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (formerly Department of Parks and Wildlife), The Kimberley Development Commission, WA Department of State Development, Department of Primary Industries and Resources (formerly Department of Fisheries), Department of Mine, Industry Regulation and Safety (formerly WA Department of Mines and Petroleum), among others. The analysis of the impacts of these scenarios and management strategies sheds light on a range of future states the Kimberley marine environment may experience during the 2015 to 2050 period. Before the core results are summarised, it is important to remind the reader that a model simulation is not an absolute prediction (a ‘prophecy’) of how the Kimberley region will look in 2050. Rather, it is an attempt to say something of decision-making significance about how the system may respond to the specific conditions summarised in the scenarios and management strategies, which is consistent with our current scientific knowledge and our current understanding of how the Kimberley system functions. It follows that while insight on system behaviour gained from consideration of these scenarios can provide guidance on potential patterns of responses, care must be taken when considering circumstances outside the specifics of the scenarios and management strategies modelled and particular account must be made of the uncertainty in our current knowledge. The outcome of this project is a very large set of simulation outputs representing the dynamical evolution of the land, coastal and marine environments over 35 years. This includes hundreds of regional maps and thousands of time series of environmental, social and economic indicators. All these results are now publically available and can be viewed at

Contact ALCES for Fabio Boschetti, Hector Lozano-Montes, Brad Stelfox, Catherine Bulman, Joanna Strzelecki, Michael Hu, 2017

Assessing the Potential Cumulative Impacts of Land Use and Climate Change on Freshwater Fish in Northern Ontario

Chetkiewicz, C-L B., M. Carlson, C.M. O’Connor, B. Edwards, F.M. Southee, and M. Sullivan

Chetkiewicz, C-L B., M. Carlson, C.M. O’Connor, B. Edwards, F.M. Southee, and M. Sullivan. 2017. Assessing the Potential Cumulative Impacts of Land Use and Climate Change on Freshwater Fish in Northern Ontario. Wildlife Conservation Society Canada Conservation Report No. 11. The study is the first to project the potential impacts of development on freshwater systems in a 440,000 km2 region of northern Ontario over the next 50 years. The study examined the impact of high- and low-growth development scenarios that incorporated forestry, mining, and hydroelectric development, as well as climate change and forest fire. The response of fish populations was assessed by applying expert-derived models that describe relationships between simulated stressors (e.g., roads, dams, forestry activities, temperature) and species-specific fish sustainability indices (FSI) for walleye, lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, and brook trout. All four species exhibited increased risk over the simulation period, although lake whitefish were more tolerant of simulated changes in land use and climate change. Overall, climate change was the most influential driver of risk to freshwater fish, followed by hydroelectric dams. Climate change consistently exacerbated the effects of land use and natural disturbance changes under both scenarios – FSI declined faster or further when land use was combined with climate change.

Contact ALCES for Chetkiewicz, C-L B., M. Carlson, C.M. O’Connor, B. Edwards, F.M. Southee, and M. Sullivan, 2017

Watershed Simulation Tool – Methods and Outcomes for the Bow River Basin

Carlson, M., R.J. MacDonald, and M. Chernos

Carlson, M., R.J. MacDonald, and M. Chernos. 2018. Watershed Simulation Tool – Methods and Outcomes for the Bow River Basin. Submitted to the Bow River Basin Council. Established in the wake of devastating floods in southern Alberta in 2013, the WRRP applies an integrated watershed approach to improve natural watershed function with the goal of building greater long-term resiliency. To inform this decision-making process in the Bow River Basin, the ALCES Online land use simulation model was applied to assess current and future risks to watershed function and the mitigation potential of conservation and restoration options. The scenarios incorporated the major land uses in the basin —- forestry, oil and gas extraction, agriculture, aggregate extraction, and urban and rural residential development — as well as forest fire. During the 50-year land use simulation, the expansion of land use was associated with elevated risk to watershed function, particularly in the central portion of the basin. The assessment of relative effectiveness of conservation and restoration strategies identified the strategies with the greatest potential benefit, and where to apply them for maximum effect. The hierarchical assessment of trade-offs among mitigation options is delivered to managers and stakeholders through a set of web-based dashboards, composed of dynamic maps and figures that convey future risks to watershed integrity and the effectiveness of mitigation options.

Contact ALCES for Carlson, M., R.J. MacDonald, and M. Chernos, 2018

Modelling regional futures at decadal scale: application to the Kimberley region

Fabio Boschetti, Hector Lozano-Montes, J. Brad Stelfox

We address the question of how to provide meaningful scientific information to support environmental decision making at the regional scale and at the temporal scale of several decades. Our application is the management of a network of marine parks in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, where the key challenges to environmental sustainability are slow-dynamics climate change processes and one-off investments in large infrastructure, which can affect the future of a region for decades to come. In this situation, strategic, rather than reactive planning is necessary and thus standard adaptive management approaches may not be effective. Prediction becomes more urgent than adaptation, in terms of assessing the long term consequence of specific economic and conservation decisions. Working at the interface between future studies, socio-economic modelling and environmental modelling, we define 18 scenarios of economic development and climate change impacts and 5 management strategies aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the marine environment. We explore these potential future trajectories using coupled models of terrestrial land use and marine ecosystem dynamics. The Alces model simulates the dynamics of bio-physical and socio-economic processes on land and the pressures these impose on the coastal and marine environment. This forces an Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) model used to simulate marine processes, foodweb dynamics and human activities in the marine environment. We obtain a projection of the Kimberley marine system to the year 2050, conditional on the chosen scenarios and management strategies, which is compatible with the best available knowledge of the current system state (as codified in the models’ input) and system functioning (as represented in the models’ dynamics). Our results suggest that climate change, not economic development, is the largest factor affecting the future of marine ecosystems in the Kimberley region, with sedentary species such as reef fish at greatest risk. These same species also benefit most from more stringent management strategies, especially expansion of sanctuary zones and Marine Protected Areas.

Contact ALCES for Fabio Boschetti, Hector Lozano-Montes, J. Brad Stelfox, 2019
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