Hydrology, Ecology and Disturbance in the Western Boreal Forest

DSC_0079Examining the hydroclimatological linkages between wetland ponds and their surround upland areas and the resulting impacts on the regional carbon balance. Special emphasis is placed on quantifying the impacts of disturbance and succession on carbon storage and atmospheric mass fluxes in forest-wetland-pond complexes. Disturbances currently being studied include drought, forest harvest, road and oil pad construction/removal, oil sands development and wild fire.

My research uses a combination of a) paired catchment forest harvest experiments at fine (10ha) and coarser (>10km2) scales, and b) hydrologic modelling to develop a management framework. This framework will be used to predict the influence of forest harvest practices and initiate studies on vegetation succession on water cycling as influenced by the geology and sub-humid climate of the WBF. We will develop landscape indices that provide information on an area’s response to particular disturbances and allow non-hydrologists to assess the hydrologic impacts of forest management practices (FMP’s) on harvested sites and forest succession on reclaimed landscapes. 
Specific deliverables of benefit to the Canadian forestry and oil sands industries arising from the project include: 1) new or refined landscape hydrologic models to describe the hydrologic behaviour of existing and reclaimed landscapes representative of the Western Boreal Forest; 2) effective planning tools that can be used to develop rigorous and objective scientific criteria and recommendations for cumulative risk assessment of the hydrologic consequences of FMP at a given scale, and appropriate reclamation procedures and landscape configuration of oil sands leases; and 3) appropriate and defensible soil and hydrologic indicators for monitoring and assessing success of FMP and oil sands reclamation.
We anticipate that the management framework will allow results of our research to be applied to provincial water strategies and to serve as guidelines for integrated land managers at the provincial level. The framework can also be applied at the national scale, facilitating the transfer of research knowledge among different regions.

Collaboration with Dr. K. Devito (University of Alberta), Dr. U. Silins (University of Alberta), Dr. S. Landhausser (University of Alberta), Dr. C. Mendoza (University of Alberta), Dr. T. Gan (University of Alberta), Dr. J.M. Waddington (McMaster University) and Dr. N. Kettridge (University of Birmingham).

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