Researcher: Nicola Day, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow (2016)
Supervisor: Jennifer Baltzer, Forest Ecology Research Group (Laurier)
As part of Northern Water Futures (NWF), we are undertaking a data synthesis of the long-term data that has been collected at the Daring Lake Research Station to understand the impacts of climate change on plants, soil and tundra for wildlife habitat. The focus has been leading field and data analysis components to understand the rates of forest recovery after the 2014 fires in the NWT. Understanding the role that global change processes and disturbance have on plants and soil microbes, with a focus on changes over time, is important for understanding the impacts of climate change on boreal forests and tundra on the Taiga Plains and Taiga Shield.
Researcher: Alison White, MSc (2015-18)
Supervisor: Jennifer Baltzer (Laurier)
Understanding the patterns of early recovery of plant communities is of interest both for humans and wildlife that depend on self-recovery of vegetation. We found that plant community recovery in the southern boreal forest of the NWT is rapid and dominated primarily by rhizomatic species present pre-fire. Responses were variable but we found that poorly drained areas with greater surficial moisture and associated soil characteristics strongly supported self-replacement of plant communities.
Researcher: Nia Perron, PhD Candidate (2018-present)
This study aims to determine the role of boreal tree species (i.e. black spruce and larch) in the movement of water from the soil to the atmosphere through the process of transpiration. I am also interested in the impact that individual tree height, shape and dominance has on the seasonal transpiration of these trees. This research will repeat at multiple sites across northwestern Canada, from the southernmost edge of the boreal forest to the northern treeline. With this information, I will be able to determine the contribution that boreal tree species make to the total movement of water from the northern boreal forest ecosystem into the atmosphere. This research will help local areas understand how their boreal forests will respond to changing climate conditions.
Researcher: Kirsten Reid, MSc (2015-17)
Supervisor: Jennifer Baltzer (Laurier)
Both pre-fire black spruce-dominated and pre-fire mixed stands showed a significant decrease in black spruce relative abundance and an increase in the proportion of jack pine after fire. Differences in post-fire establishment patterns were seen across the Taiga Plains and Taiga Shield, suggesting that the two areas are responding differently to altered disturbances because of climate change. Stands that experienced a less severe burn had more viable seeds. This has implications for regeneration processes such as reduced recruitment rates. These results can inform ongoing modelling efforts to determine how future changes to this landscape will modify forest composition, wildlife habitat and forest processes.
Researcher: Kaitlin Kok, MES (2016–18)
Supervisors: Alison Blay-Palmer and Andrew Spring (Laurier)
Working closely with the community of Kakisa, NWT, I have developed an online map that acts a monitoring tool to identify and observe areas of change through community input. To understand some of the impacts climate change has on secure access to traditional food, focus groups and interviews were conducted with community members. Traditional knowledge was shared and community photographs were collected to identify changes and gather an understanding for how this tool can be effectively implemented. The map can be continuously added to by members of the community to document changes in landscape characteristics as a result of climate change. This work comes out of the desire to record environmental change and will serve as the community’s database of observed changes. This has broader applications for the community when trying to identify patterns of change and address safety concerns when community members travel on the land.
Researcher: Caren Ackley MSc (2015–18)
Supervisors: William Quinton (Laurier) and Suzanne Tank (University of Alberta)
In 2014, a low-severity wildfire burned approximately half of a 0.05 km2 peat plateau within the Scotty Creek drainage basin. The study is comparing the unburned and burned portions of the affected plateau to quantify differences in runoff water chemistry, observe changes to the water and energy balances that affect the integrity of a permafrost plateau, and examine post-fire changes in runoff flowpath dictated by altered peat physical properties and seasonal thaw depth. Understanding the impacts of small, localized wildfires on landscape evolution and water resources will aid in decision making for emergency response and firefighting resources to minimize environmental impacts.