Remote sensing of landscape change in the Taiga Plains, NWT

Project keywords:

Name of project lead: W. Quinton

Project team/partners: For each collaborator please specify: Team member name, role, organization and contact information
W. Quinton (Laurier); J. Baltzer (Laurier); O. Sonnentag (U. Montreal); L. Chasmer (Laurier); C. Hopkinson (Laurier); J. Kanigan (INAC); S. Kokelj (INAC); P. Marsh (NWRI).

Status: In Progress

Location: Gwich’in, Decho and Inuvialuit Settlement regions.

Year and month project started: 2012

Anticipated completion year of project? 2015

Executive year of project (example, year 1 or 2 or 3…) 1

Brief project description: (objectives and rationale)

Permafrost thaw is one of the most important and dramatic manifestations of climate warming in Canada, and is strongly influenced by feedback processes. It also has the potential to alter other key aspects of ecosystems such as runoff and snowcover, forest composition, biodiversity and habitat for keystone species, surface-atmosphere interactions including greenhouse gas fluxes, forest fire regimes and the quantity and quality flows to downstream ecosystems and the Arctic Ocean. While permafrost and ecosystem responses to warming occur in varying degrees throughout the North, the discontinuous permafrost zone of the subarctic is where the most dramatic permafrost thaw and landscape transformations are currently observed. Forecasted dramatic changes in temperature and moisture are expected to affect the processes governing the release of carbon dioxide and methane from the vast stores of carbon in northern peatlands. There are strong indications that the eco-hydrology of the subarctic is changing as a result of permafrost thaw, yet little is known about the interactions and feedbacks among climate, water, biogeochemistry, and ecology of subarctic ecosystems. As a result, the ecosystem consequences of warming cannot be predicted with confidence. The implications of these feedbacks are not only prevalent in the sub-arctic but also to downstream aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and the Arctic Ocean, downwind as weather systems to the settled regions of southern Canada, and to global climate systems through changes to greenhouse gas fluxes, forest fire regimes and ground surface albedo.

Significance of the results (rationale): / project linkages

This project will provide an integrated understanding of land-cover and ecosystem change on a regional scale throughout the Taiga Plains. Such change has implications to resource availability and quality, and as a result the rates, patterns and thresholds of change are critical to understand for effective management of resources. New indices and high quality data sets will be produced within 24 months of the project start date.

Key deliverables and reporting: Link to needs of NWT

– New remote-sensing based indices of landcover change
- New methods of relating ground-based observations of land-cover/vegetation change with remote sensing data.
- New high quality data sets that integrate hydrological and ecological observations with high resolution remote sensing imagery for key nodes throughout the Taiga Plains. Maximum use will be made of existing data archives at the Trail Valley, Havikpak and Scotty study sites, and at the large number of Permanent Sample Plots (PSPs).
- integration of remote sensing and ground-based data with NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) so that observations of land-cover change in the Taiga Plains can be compared with change detected in other high-latitude areas of the world.

Engagement, training and capacity building

This project compliments on-going ground based studies described in the other project descriptions (e.g. see Quinton Projects 1 – 3.). As such it is part of the overall community engagement plan described in those documents with regard to the field-based studies, and co-development of predictive models with communities (e.g. Dehcho First Nations) for the purpose of reducing the uncertainty of the impact of unprecedented climate warming and human disturbance on water resources. This engagement with communities is facilitated by the Laurier-GNWT Partnership Liaison (C. Wenman) and existing community linkages established within the ENR department, with the help of E. Kelly (Lands & Water), T. Lakusta (Forest Resources Branch), and B. Sieban (Environment).

Links to WSIPlan and NWT Science Agenda

– 1.1; 2.1 – informally; 2.1B, C, D, F, G, H, I.

Key project tasks for next year (work plan pieces – research) See deliverables section.

Key project tasks for next year (work plan pieces – engagement, training and capacity building)

Published Papers 2 papers