The Alberta wetland policy aims to protect the most valuable wetlands and maintain wetland functions despite unavoidable wetland loss. The Alberta Wetland Rapid Evaluation Tool-Actual (ABWRET-A) was developed to quantify wetland functions in support of policy implementation. We evaluated > 200 wetlands used to calibrate ABWRET-A and > 2000 wetlands targeted for loss under the policy to understand potential biases in the system. We compared the functional value of wetlands targeted for loss to the pool of wetlands used to calibrate ABWRET-A and to the general population of wetlands in Alberta’s settled region. We evaluated ABWRET-A calibration and scoring and found that wetlands used in tool calibration were over 8 times larger (median size = 2.07 ha, n = 207 vs. 0.245 ha, n = 1,782,001), more permanently ponded and distributed approximately 2.5 times closer to roads (median distance = 162.1 m, n = 207 vs. 399.7 m, n = 1,782,001) than the general wetland population. Calibration wetlands also underrepresented bogs and overrepresented fens. This influenced scores, as larger wetlands and wetlands classified as fens receive higher ABWRET-A scores, whereas wetlands close to roads received lower scores. We conclude that scores may underestimate functional value. Wetlands targeted for permitted loss were larger (median size = 0.290 ha, n = 2087) and more road-proximate (median distance = 237.0 m, n = 2087) than the average wetland from the inventory. Crucially, permitted wetland loss is significantly clustered around major cities (using Getis-Ord Gi statistic; p < 0.01), implying permanent loss of wetland functions in peri-urban areas.
Information about the intensity, direction and degree of change of park users’ perceptions of protected areas (PAs) over time offers insights about their relevance to those visitors and can inform elements of good governance and management. The resident surveys data collected in 1992, 1998, 2005 and 2017 by Regional Parks of the Capital Regional District of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, show how imperfect longitudinal social science information helped park managers identify trends, patterns and key areas of public support, thus set robust and effective priorities, policies and strategies for the regional park system. Collecting data where all information relevant to a decision is known and available is often beyond the ability of practitioners. We offer insights on how to best use imperfect longitudinal social science data and help practitioners consider what is necessary to support sounds decision-making for PAs management and governance.
Plain Language Summary Understanding the spatial pattern of burn severity is crucial for fire‐related ecological research and effective fire management. The Canadian Rocky Mountain region is characterized by mixed‐severity fires, which makes fine‐scale burn severity investigation a challenge. This study used random forest models to establish the relationships between observed burn severity and various environmental predictors (fuel type, fire cause, management zone, topography, vegetation, and climate) and identify key drivers of burn severity in three Canada's mountain national parks (Banff, Kootenay, and Yoho). The prediction models were applied to predict the burn severity potentials by human‐ and lightning‐caused fires for all forest locations in the study area in 2002 and 2012, that is, the 2 years with available data. The results contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of regional fire behavior. The estimated important influences of fuel type, topography, vegetation, and climate on regional burn severity indicate the complex mechanism of environmental controls on fire behavior. The predictions of burn severity in the parks showed an overall consistent spatial pattern over time, which provide a baseline for relevant fire ecology research and useful information for park conservation.
Study region This study is carried out across a 142,000 km² area within the Alberta Oil Sands Region (AOSR), Alberta, Canada. Study focus Groundwater quality data for the AOSR are compiled and interpreted to provide information on regional water quality to inform groundwater monitoring and land use planning. A database of 546 water quality parameters measured between 1958 and 2015 from 5118 water wells is compiled, cleaned, and analyzed by hydrostratigraphic unit (HSU). New hydrologic insights for the region Baseline water quality conditions were found to vary in the 12 main HSU’s, with wide ranges in total dissolved solids and geochemical facies, reflecting variable lithology and geochemical processes. Median concentrations for multiple parameters exceeded “interim trigger values” under consideration by government regulators. Statistically significant temporal changes in water quality were detected in the 2000’s in isolated areas of surficial sands aquifers, the Cretaceous and Devonian formations in the North Athabasca Oil Sands, and in Quaternary aquifers in the South Athabasca Oil Sands and Cold Lake Beaver River. Temporal anomalies occur in areas with enhanced vertical connectivity due to the presence of buried channels, incised rivers, or where the Colorado Group is thin or completely absent. The compiled dataset highlights the role of geochemical data in identifying aquifer connectivity and monitoring priority. Lack of publicly available data for key aquifers near some mining areas are noted.
Water losses can occur from the earth surface to the atmosphere by two distinct mechanisms: evaporation and transpiration. As evaporation and transpiration can occur simultaneously, a collective term, evapotranspiration accounts for all processes through which water in liquid or solid form becomes atmospheric water vapour. In winter season, it is possible to obtain negative values for evapotranspiration in some locations in Alberta where the net longwave radiation from the surface is large compared to the net incoming shortwave radiation, and the vapour pressure deficit is small. Under these conditions, net condensation of water from the atmosphere is possible. We analysed 65 years (1955–2019) of climate data to estimate monthly evaporative losses in Alberta based on five models: Hamon Method, Penman Method, Penman-Monteith FAO-56 Method, Morton’s Complementary Relationship Areal Evapotranspiration Model, and Granger and Gray Method. Our analysis shows that during December-January the monthly potential evapotranspiration and actual evapotranspiration could be as low as −6 mm. The average net longwave radiation and shortwave radiation for December-January months, estimated for the same historical period, range from 54–65 W/m2, to 3–33 W/m2, respectively. Based on our analysis we conclude that negative evaporative losses are primarily due to the negative net radiation.
In many environment and resource management contexts (e.g., integrated coastal management, ecosystem-based fisheries management), indicator selection and development are perceived as a largely technical, bureaucratic, and scientific challenge. As such, choices about indicators and their application are often treated as external from everyday politics and dynamics of social power. Our aim here is to highlight the value of a relational perspective that weaves power and knowledge together in the context of indicator development and implementation. We highlight four critical dimensions of this relational perspective that may lead to better indicator process outcomes: 1) centering identity and positionality to reflect power differentials; 2) emphasizing the importance of indicator ‘fit’ and the politics of scale; 3) engaging rather than erasing social-ecological complexity; and 4) reflecting on social norms and relationships to foster adaptation and learning. These four dimensions are rarely considered in most indicator initiatives, including those that are more participatory in design and implementation. The dimensions we outline here emerge from the grounded experience of managers and practitioners, including indicator processes in which we are currently engaged, as well as a scoping review of the literature on indicators for coastal and marine governance and conservation specifically. However, the four dimensions and relational focus are relevant to a wide range of resource and environmental management contexts and provide a pathway to catalyze more effective indicator processes for decision-making and governance more generally.
Freshwater fisheries represent important natural resources, yet a vast majority are threatened by anthropogenic stressors. Accurate baseline information on stock diversity, population history and hatchery representation are required for implementing effective conservation and management strategies for mitigating declines. Genetic tools have played key roles for informing fisheries management, including for kokanee, the freshwater resident form of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), particularly in the southern portion of its North American range. Here, we investigated stock diversity, population history and hatchery representation of kokanee at the northern extent of its range in Canada in Kluane National Park and Reserve (KNPR) in the Yukon that underwent a 12-year population crash followed by a rapid increase in numbers. Using restriction-site associated DNA sequencing, we genotyped individuals at 11,442 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that were sampled from putative reproductive ecotypes spawning on the shore of Sockeye Lake (n = 26), within Sockeye Creek (n = 20) or near an outlet in between (n = 2), as well as broodstock from the Whitehorse Rapids Fish Hatchery (n = 29). We found no evidence of ecotype differentiation based on neutral SNPs nor outlier loci. Within-population genetic diversity and effective population size were substantially higher in the wild population relative to the hatchery and significant differentiation was detected, suggesting the hatchery population was not representative of wild stock diversity. Overall, our results indicate that separate management of kokanee in KNPR based on ecotype is not warranted at this time and that supplementation with the existing hatchery stock is not appropriate.
New radiocarbon dates on biological remains from cave deposits in the Canadian Rocky Mountains range in age from infinite to modern, but are largely restricted to the Holocene (9560±40 yr BP to modern). The consistency in radiocarbon ages is interpreted as resulting from geologic processes associated with deglaciation, and may reflect timeframes when cave conditions in some areas of the Canadian Rocky Mountains became suitable for deposition and preservation of biological remains. When considered at taxonomic levels permitted by morphological identification, recovered vertebrate remains from cave deposits are consistent with the modern biota of the region, suggesting early post-Late Glacial Maximum establishment of the modern biota, and relative stability of mammal assemblages through the Holocene. Preliminary evaluation of recovered plant remains highlight a potentially under-evaluated source of palaeoecological data for higher elevations.
Lead poisoning occurs worldwide in populations of predatory birds, but exposure rates and population impacts are known only from regional studies. We evaluated the lead exposure of 1210 bald and golden eagles from 38 US states across North America, including 620 live eagles. We detected unexpectedly high frequencies of lead poisoning of eagles, both chronic (46 to 47% of bald and golden eagles, as measured in bone) and acute (27 to 33% of bald eagles and 7 to 35% of golden eagles, as measured in liver, blood, and feathers). Frequency of lead poisoning was influenced by age and, for bald eagles, by region and season. Continent-wide demographic modeling suggests that poisoning at this level suppresses population growth rates for bald eagles by 3.8% (95% confidence interval: 2.5%, 5.4%) and for golden eagles by 0.8% (0.7%, 0.9%). Lead poisoning is an underappreciated but important constraint on continent-wide populations of these iconic protected species.
There is currently a great deal of work being undertaken to collect, analyze, and synthesize available evidence about the effectiveness of conservation strategies. But substantial challenges still remain in enabling practitioners to assess and apply this evidence to their conservation work in an efficient manner. To solve these challenges, there is growing recognition of the need to use situation assessments and theory of change pathways to detail a set of analytical questions and specific assumptions that can be assessed against the evidence base to “make the case” for a proposed strategy and to identify gaps in knowledge. In this study, we first provide updated definitions of some key terms. We then present and provide examples of an approach to enable practitioners to evaluate the evidence base for the critical assumptions that underlie their specific conservation strategies and to wisely use evidence coming from different knowledge systems. This practical approach, which was developed through a series of pilot tests with Parks Canada projects, involves four iterative steps: (1) identify critical questions and assumptions requiring evidence; (2) assemble and assess the specific and generic evidence for each assumption; (3) determine confidence in evidence and its implications; and (4) validate the assessment and iteratively adapt as needed. Ideally, this approach can be integrated into existing decision‐making frameworks and can also facilitate better cooperation between researchers who synthesize evidence and practitioners who use evidence to make conservation both more effective and efficient.
National parks often serve as a cornerstone for a country’s species and ecosystem conservation efforts. However, despite the protection these sites afford, climate change is expected to drive a substantial change in their bird assemblages. We used species distribution models to predict the change in environmental suitability (i.e., how well environmental conditions explain the presence of a species) of 49 Canadian national parks during summer and winter for 434 bird species under a 2°C warming scenario, anticipated to occur in Canada around the mid-21st century. We compared these to existing species distributions in the 2010s, and classified suitability projections for each species at each park as potential extirpation, worsening, stable, improving, or potential colonisation. Across all parks, and both seasons, 70% of the projections indicate change, including a 25% turnover in summer assemblages and 30% turnover in winter assemblages. The majority of parks are projected to have increases in species richness and functional traits in winter, compared to a mix of increases and decreases in both in summer. However, some changes are expected to vary by region, such as Arctic region parks being likely to experience the most potential colonisation, while some of the Mixedwood Plains and Atlantic Maritime region parks may experience the greatest turnover and potential extirpation in summer if management actions are not taken to mitigate some of these losses. Although uncertainty exists around the precise rate and impacts of climate change, our results indicate that conservation practices that assume stationarity of environmental conditions will become untenable. We propose general guidance to help managers adapt their conservation actions to consider the potentially substantive changes in bird assemblages that are projected, including managing for persistence and change.
Transatlantic exploration took place centuries before the crossing of Columbus. Physical evidence for early European presence in the Americas can be found in Newfoundland, Canada1,2. However, it has thus far not been possible to determine when this activity took place3–5. Here we provide evidence that the Vikings were present in Newfoundland in ad 1021. We overcome the imprecision of previous age estimates by making use of the cosmic-ray-induced upsurge in atmospheric radiocarbon concentrations in ad 993 (ref. ⁶). Our new date lays down a marker for European cognisance of the Americas, and represents the first known point at which humans encircled the globe. It also provides a definitive tie point for future research into the initial consequences of transatlantic activity, such as the transference of knowledge, and the potential exchange of genetic information, biota and pathologies7,8.
Background. Global increases in human activity threaten connectivity of animal habitat and populations. Protection and restoration of wildlife habitat and movement corridors require robust models to forecast the effects of human activity on movement behaviour, resource selection, and connectivity. Recent research suggests that animal resource selection and responses to human activity depend on their behavioural movement state, with increased tolerance for human activity in fast states of movement. Yet, few studies have incorporated state-dependent movement behaviour into analyses of Merriam connectivity, that is individual-based metrics of connectivity that incorporate landscape structure and movement behaviour. Methods. We assessed the cumulative effects of anthropogenic development on multiple movement processes including movement behaviour, resource selection, and Merriam connectivity. We simulated movement paths using hidden Markov movement models and step selection functions to estimate habitat use and connectivity for three landscape scenarios: reference conditions with no anthropogenic development, current conditions, and future conditions with a simulated expansion of towns and recreational trails. Our analysis used 20 years of grizzly bear ( Ursus arctos ) and gray wolf ( Canis lupus ) movement data collected in and around Banff National Park, Canada. Results. Carnivores increased their speed of travel near towns and areas of high trail and road density, presumably to avoid encounters with people. They exhibited stronger avoidance of anthropogenic development when foraging and resting compared to travelling and during the day compared to night. Wolves exhibited stronger avoidance of anthropogenic development than grizzly bears. Current development reduced the amount of high-quality habitat between two mountain towns by more than 35%. Habitat degradation constrained movement routes around towns and was most pronounced for foraging and resting behaviour. Anthropogenic development reduced connectivity by more than 80%. Habitat quality and connectivity further declined under a future development scenario. Conclusions. Our results highlight the cumulative effects of anthropogenic development on carnivore movement behaviour, habitat use, and connectivity. Our strong behaviour-specific responses to human activity suggest that conservation initiatives should consider how proposed developments and restoration actions would affect where animals travel and how they use the landscape.
Park managers in Canada's Rocky Mountain National Parks are continually challenged to balance visitor needs with those of grizzly bears. While research pertaining to grizzly bear habitat requirements is abundant, human dimensions' research examining the perspectives and expectations of the trail user is not. Guided by principles of behavior intention and its influence on management support, we assessed trail user support for management options regarding grizzly bears in Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks in Canada using an intercept survey. The main findings were in line with predictions, trail users were more supportive of restrictive management options e.g., closing the trail when a female grizzly bear with cubs was in the area rather than a solitary bear; and management options pertaining to modifying bear behavior were largely opposed. Local users who live within these protected areas or who use them daily were less supportive of restrictive management options compared with other trail users. The research supports the proposal that specificity may be an important factor in determining stakeholder beliefs for intervention design. Identification of key influencing factors in the selection of management options for diverse groups of trail users is important if the needs of trail users and grizzly bears are to be managed in a sustainable and risk-sensitive manner.
Lake-rich northern permafrost landscapes are sensitive to changing climate conditions, but ability to track real-time and potentially multiple hydrological responses (e.g. lake expansion, drawdown, drainage) is challenging due to absence of long-term, sustainable monitoring programs in these remote locations. Old Crow Flats (OCF), Yukon, is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance where concerns about low water levels and their consequences for wildlife habitat and traditional ways of life prompted multidisciplinary studies during the International Polar Year (2007–2008) and led to the establishment of an aquatic ecosystem monitoring program. Here, we report water isotope data from 14 representative thermokarst lakes in OCF, the foundation of the monitoring program, and time-series of derived metrics including the isotope composition of input waters and evaporation-to-inflow ratios for a 13 year period (2007–2019). Although the lakes spanned multiple hydrological categories (i.e. rainfall-, snowmelt- and evaporation-dominated) based on initial surveys, well-defined trends from application of generalized additive models and meteorological records reveal that lakes have become increasingly influenced by rainfall, and potentially waters from thawing permafrost. These sources of input have led to more positive lake water balances. Given the documented role of rainfall in causing thermokarst lake drainage events in OCF and elsewhere, we anticipate increased vulnerability of lateral water export from OCF. This study demonstrates the value of long-term isotope-based monitoring programs for identifying hydrological consequences of climate change in lake-rich permafrost landscapes.
Trout-perch are sampled from the Athabasca River in Alberta, Canada, as a sentinel species for environmental health. The performance of trout-perch populations is known to be influenced by the quality of the water in which they reside. Using climate, environmental, and water quality variables measured in the Athabasca River near trout-perch sampling locations is found to improve model fitting and the predictability of models for the adjusted body weight, adjusted gonad weight, and adjusted liver weight of trout-perch. Given a large number of covariables, three variable selection techniques: stepwise regression, the lasso, and the elastic net (EN) are considered for selecting a subset of relevant variables. The models selected by the lasso and EN are found to outperform the models selected by stepwise regression in general, and little difference is observed between the models selected by the lasso and EN. Uranium, tungsten, tellurium, pH, molybdenum, and antimony are selected for at least one fish response.
Historical DNA analysis of archival samples has added new dimensions to population genetic studies, enabling spatiotemporal approaches for reconstructing population history and informing conservation management. Here we tested the efficacy of Genotyping-in-Thousands by sequencing (GT-seq) for collecting targeted single nucleotide polymorphism genotypic data from archival scale samples, and applied this approach to a study of kokanee salmon ( Oncorhynchus nerka ) in Kluane National Park and Reserve (KNPR; Yukon, Canada) that underwent a severe 12-year population decline followed by a rapid rebound. We genotyped archival scales sampled pre-crash and contemporary fin clips collected post-crash, revealing high coverage (> 90% average genotyping across all individuals) and low genotyping error (< 0.01% within-libraries, 0.60% among-libraries) despite the relatively poor quality of recovered DNA. We observed slight decreases in expected heterozygosity, allelic diversity, and effective population size post-crash, but none were significant, suggesting genetic diversity was retained despite the severe demographic contraction. Genotypic data also revealed the genetic distinctiveness of a now extirpated population just outside of KNPR, revealing biodiversity loss at the northern edge of the species distribution. More broadly, we demonstrated GT-seq as a valuable tool for collecting genome-wide data from archival samples to address basic questions in ecology and evolution, and inform applied research in wildlife conservation and fisheries management.
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