Global warming is driving intensification of the wildfire regime in the boreal forest, which is resulting in shifts from coniferous to deciduous-dominated forests in some parts of boreal North America. This shift can present consequences for forest structure, ecosystem dynamics, carbon cycling and wildlife habitat. In 2014, an unprecedented 3.4-million hectares of boreal forest burned in the Northwest Territories (NWT).
Consortium of knowledge producers, mobilizers and users from communities, government, industry, non-governmental organizations and universities, working collaboratively to understand, predict and address the impacts of climate change and industrial expansion on shared water resources across the NWT.
Understanding rates of forest recovery following wildfire, with applications for wildlife, forest, fire, and land use managers.
A network of sites has been established where growth and water and carbon use are quantified at the tree and stand level. This will inform our understanding of climate change impacts on forest productivity.
Quantifying effects of mining activities on wetland vegetation and mycorrhizal fungi; Assessing success and analyzing options for restoration efforts.
Applying customized ground freezing systems to reduce damage to infrastructure caused by permafrost thaw.
Building on existing citizen networks to design, test, and build data quality assessment and decision-support tools to better integrate citizen data with large-scale hydrological modelling.
Interpreting data for potential effects and examining strategies for adjusting water quality data for the bioavailability potential of metals.
Collaborating with GNWT, using historical data to determine how snow accumulation patterns are changing and effect this may have on basin runoff.
Development of improved models to predict ground ice content with a view to assessing permafrost vulnerability to thermokarst at regional scales.
Establish baseline forest and wetland carbon stocks and rates of carbon storage across the NWT, including proposed protected areas and use scenarios related to changing climate, disturbance and land use to explore the future of NWT forest/wetland carbon sequestration over time.
To engage Indigenous NWT youth in hands-on science learning activities to build interest and skills in the scientific study of the impacts of land use and climate change on water and ecosystems in the North.
In 2013 the Scotty Creek Forest Dynamics Plot, located in the Hay River Lowlands, became part of the ForestGEO Global Earth Observatory Network. The site is the sentinel for boreal forest and permafrost changes for the entire network. Rajit Patankar, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher supervised by Dr. Jennifer Baltzer, worked to ensure that the data collection at the site facilitates global comparisons of forest change. His work at this site also demonstrated that permafrost conditions can impact the nature of plant responses to the animals that eat them. He also demonstrated the dramatic reduction in sap flow that occurs in the face of permafrost thaw.
The 21 hectare site contributes to worldwide scientific knowledge about forests and forest changes in the North, as it is the first and only boreal tundra woodland site with discontinuous permafrost features across the global network of 67 sites, across 27 countries. The site has 11 of the 12,000 tree species that are represented globally in the study. This long-term monitoring of the world’s forests allows for global comparisons as the data collected is made available to scientists worldwide to monitor global climate change.
Forest fire is a direct concern for many Northwest Territories (NWT) communities. In Kakisa, fire has impacted the community several times in the past. Jennifer Baltzer, Canada Research Chair in Forests and Global Change, is conducting forest fire regeneration research in the area around Kakisa that was burned in the fires of 2014 as part of an ongoing CIMP project to determine “Impacts of wildfire on caribou habitat: from woodland to barren ground.”
As part of this project, Alison White, a Master of Biological Sciences student, helped plan an event with the community school to take youth into the recently burned areas as well as unburned areas around community to teach the students about the impacts of fire and understand the regeneration processes of the boreal forest.
Two community Elders participated in the event, identifying, sharing the Dene language names and traditional uses of plants with the students, and provided insights into what animals might come to the areas as the forest regenerates. Participating students built their own transects to count, identify and monitor what was growing in the forest.
The Fort Simpson Literacy Project was an initiative of Elzbieta Mastej, a master’s student with Laurier’s Cold Regions Research Centre, supervised by William Quinton. Encouraging literacy within the context of Indigenous culture was identified as a community priority within the school.
In 2018, a small grant was obtained through Laurier to delivery a short workshop with pre-school children at Bompas Elementary School. These experiences and connections will contribute to the richness of Laurier’s community engagement initiatives – perhaps one day these children will participate in Dehcho Guardians training offered through Laurier or participate in the Scotty Creek Field School.
The hope is that this educational program can be offered again in Fort Simpson and potentially incorporate a few Dene Zhatıé (South Slavey) words from the local Indigenous language.
Forest Ecology Research Group's fieldwork season begins
Global Water Futures to fund Laurier water research addressing climate change in Canada’s North
Laurier-led Northern Water Futures project to study water sustainability in the Northwest Territories
Laurier students conduct groundbreaking research in Canada's North
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