ALCES Based Project Reports
|Year||Title (Author, Description)||File Download|
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 (www.alces.ca) 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 http://www.ghostwatershed.ca/GWAS/Home.html. 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|
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.
|Contact ALCES for Carlson, M., and C. Chetkiewicz. 2013, 2013|
Determining Appropriate Nutrient and Sediment Loading Coefficients for Modeling Effects of Changes in Landuse and Landcover in Alberta Watersheds
Dr. Bill Donahue
Alberta is engaged in creating watershed management plans throughout the province, that can be relied upon to provide direction for management of future development and landuse change, while attempting to protect the health of Albertaâ€™s rivers and lakes. Because of widespread and growing nutrient enrichment problems and their effect on ecosystem health, and increased downstream water treatment costs, the reduction or avoidance of excess loading of organic matter and nutrients into rivers is a common goal of water resource managers in Alberta and elsewhere. Sources of these deleterious substances include easily identified sources, such as a wastewater treatment plant (point sources), and diffuse non-point sources associated with human landuse and changes in landuse.1-4 Informed landuse and watershed management that does not harm water quality and freshwater ecosystem health demands an understanding of the effects of landuse change on aquatic systems. Models that link landscape change and changes to water quality or aquatic ecosystem health are therefore relied upon to inform decision-makers, rather than simply tracking changes in water quality, which provides no insight into the sources of various chemicals. Most commonly, catchment export coefficients and loading rates are modeled to estimate the effects of landuse change on pollutant delivery and water quality, because it is input loads tied to particular sources or landuse change that permit either the avoidance of effects or remediative action to mitigate them. These are generally derived from small-scale field studies, and can range from simple regression models5 to more complex mechanistic models.4, 6-12 However, loading rates or export coefficients derived from small-scale catchments are often of limited use in estimating the effects of large-scale land use changes on water quality, or when applied to other locations. Similarly, modeling of export coefficients and pollutant transport based on detailed, site-specific hydrogeological, climatic, and landcover information acquired from field studies is generally not possible because of the exceptional expense and time needed to acquire such data.13, 14 Because the utility of coefficients determined somewhere else is uncertain, it is recommended that regional or local pollutant export coefficients be developed for estimation of pollutant loading in water bodies if sufficient landuse, water chemistry, and flow data are available.11 Unfortunately, in most regions, including Alberta, there has been insufficient environmental monitoring or effort to quantify effects of landuse change on nutrient and sediment export and water quality, in ways that enable land and water managers to make informed decisions to reduce the negative impacts of broad and large- scale landuse change or planning on water quality. Consequently, watershed managers must model estimates of risks of landuse change to aquatic ecosystems from commonly available information, and incorporate the use of loading coefficients developed elsewhere.3 In the absence of site- or region-specific studies and export coefficients, modelers and managers must rely on literature-derived export coefficients to assess the costs and benefits of past, current, and future landuse decisions, in terms of the potential for reducing water quality. However, notwithstanding that this necessity is driven by insufficient monitoring and environmental assessment, there often remains resistance to the conclusions of negative impacts of human landuse from the modeling of effects of landuse change on water quality that has been based on export coefficients developed elsewhere. Many studies elsewhere have provided export coefficients for nutrients and organic matter for forested, agricultural, and urban landscapes.4, 13, 15-17 The goal of this review is to assess the suitability of literature-based nutrient and sediment loading coefficients for modeling the potential for landuse 1 change to affect water quality in Alberta streams and rivers. In assessing the effects of landuse - or landuse change - on chemical loading in freshwaters, it is important to keep in mind two important caveats that were highlighted by Beaulac and Reckhow (1982)13: â€¢ As watersheds shift from natural, undisturbed conditions to increasing levels of human disturbance, the ecological mechanisms controlling nutrient flux become more complex and less understood. Therefore, the ability to accurately quantify or predict interactions between land use and aquatic conditions or responses becomes less precise and more uncertain. â€¢ For management of water resources, the use of nutrient loading coefficients for predicting changes in water quality conditions that follow changing land use is highly subjective. To reduce uncertainty in this use, the user of these coefficients must be familiar with the biogeochemical processes that influence nutrient fluxes. This is especially the case when there are insufficient local landuse and water quality data to determine loading coefficients. However, because of the breadth of scientific literature on the topic, the absence of local data should not be considered an absolute barrier to estimation of impacts of landuse change on water quality, for the purposes of landuse or watershed planning. This becomes more clear when considering the fact that landuse decisions will proceed whether or not local data are available to inform them definitively about non-point source pollution dynamics. It is arguable that the goal of any environmental modeling exercise is to quantify the nature, scale, and probability of risk, and provide the foundation for reducing environmental risks associated with particular management decisions. Therefore, modeling of non-point source pollution dynamics associated with landuse is a valid and valuable exercise, even in the absence of local data. With that in mind, the approaches and loading coefficients presented here are intended to aid landscape modelers, by providing a starting point for assessing environmental risk and the potential mitigations strategies that may be pursued to reduce them.
|Contact ALCES for Dr. Bill Donahue, 2013|
Final UBBCES Natural Capital Report
Brad Stelfox, Matt Carlson, ALCES
Temporal and Spatial Changes in the Natural Capital of the Upper Bow River Basin, Alberta, Canada. This report summarizes key findings of the Upper Bow River Basin Natural Capital Study – a project tasked with quantifying the current condition, historical changes, and future projections in natural capital for the Upper Bow River Basin, Alberta. These findings are intended to inform and assist land use decisionemakers required to devise regional plans that consider natural capital tradeeoffs.
|Contact ALCES for Brad Stelfox, Matt Carlson, ALCES, 2014|
Landscape Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing Development and Operations on Surface Water and Watersheds
Quinn, M.S., M.E. Tyler, E. Ajaero, J. Arvai, M. Carlson, I. Dunmade, S. Hill, J. McCallum, D. McMartin, D. Megson, G. O’Sullivan, R. Parks, D. Poulton, B. Stelfox, J. Stewart, C. Serralde Monreal, S. Tomblin, C. Van der Byl. 2015. Landscape Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing Development and Operations on Surface Water and Watersheds. Prepared for the Canadian Water Network. Institute for Environmental Sustainability, Mount Royal University, Calgary, AB. The study explores landscape and watershed impacts of hydraulic fracturing using a multi‐disciplinary social and natural science framework. The primary learning from our multidisciplinary approach is the need for greater institutional opportunities to integrate and coordinate a spectrum of approaches to address knowledge gaps in multiple system interactions across scales and involving system threshold effects that may be social in nature as well as biogeochemical. There is a lack of operational precedents in Canada for applying a cumulative effects approach to assessment of regional gas extraction from low permeability unconventional formations using horizontal wells with multistage hydraulic fracturing. A demonstration case study was developed for this report and fully presented in Appendix A. The purpose of the case study was to demonstrate how a simulation model (ALCES Online), in conjunction with an RSEA approach, could inform regional management of hydraulic fracturing by identifying risk and mitigation opportunities. The simulation outcomes were sensitive to uncertainties, emphasizing the importance of improved understanding of hydraulic fracturing’s impacts.
|Contact ALCES for Multiple, 2015|
The Future of Wildlife Conservation and Resource Development in the Western Boreal Forest
Carlson, M., and D. Browne
Carlson, M., and D. Browne. 2015. The Future of Wildlife Conservation and Resource Development in the Western Boreal Forest. Canadian Wildlife Federation, Kanata, ON. Canada’s western boreal forest is a region of national and international interest due to its immense economic and ecological values. The region’s hydrocarbons, timber, arable land, and minerals are a source of great economic potential, but also carry risks to wildlife and their habitat due to the cumulative effects of dispersed and often overlapping impacts of resource development. The aim of the project was to start a national dialogue about options for wildlife conservation in this rapidly developing region, with the ultimate goal of creating a comprehensive land-use plan for wildlife conservation and resource extraction in the western boreal forest. The analysis of the potential cumulative effects of the next 50 years of development in the region is a first step in this process.
|Contact ALCES for Carlson, M., and D. Browne, 2015|
A Biophysical and Land Use Atlas for Maui, Hawaii
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.
|Contact ALCES for Stelfox, J.B., 2016|
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).
|Contact ALCES for Rider, N., M. Carlson, and B. Stelfox, 2016|
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. www.alces.ca 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.
|Contact ALCES for B. Wilson, M. Carlson, M. Iverson, and J. Straker, S. Sharpe, 2016|
Alces Online Hawaii Workshop, April 2016
|Contact ALCES for Stelfox, J.B., 2016|