Soil is a major element of Saskatchewan’s natural capital and the basis for the agricultural economy. Among the most active landscapes on earth are semiarid valleys and dune fields, such as those in the driest parts of Saskatchewan. Prolonged dry and wet spells can reduce the resistance of soil and vegetation to major weather events (strong winds, intense rain, rapid snow melt). Management practices have the potential to significantly mitigate or exacerbate the influence of climate.
Climate scenarios demonstrating longer, drier summers and increased likelihood of drought, and less frequent but more intense rainfall, could cause Saskatchewan's soil landscapes to respond with local instability and erosion.
- Prolonged drought could result in widespread reactivation of sand dunes.
- Erosion, shallow slope failure (Figure 1) and related dust storms can impact on health, tourism, transportation and agriculture.
- An increase in growing degree days could support a northward expansion of agriculture if the soils are suitable.
- Soil and water management needs should be assessed and possibly adjusted to limit the risk of desertification. Soil landscapes need to be protected from degradation arising from extreme weather events, that is, storms and drought.
- Continue applying dry-land farming practices to conserve soil and water by using appropriate cropping systems and conservation practices, specifically zero-till and permanent cover.
- Government programs such as: research, extension, and rewards and incentives for soil and crop management practices that reduce vulnerability to climate change would be beneficial.
- Sauchyn, D.J. (1998): Mass wasting processes; in Geomorphic Systems of the Palliser Triangle: Description and Response to Changing Climate, (ed.) D.S. Lemmen, R.E. Vance, I.A. Campbell, P.P. David, D.J. Pennock, D.J. Sauchyn and S.A. Wolfe; Geological Survey of Canada, Bulletin 521, 72 p.
- Sauchyn, D. et al (2009): Saskatchewan's Natural Capital in a Changing Climate: An Assessment of Impacts and Adaptation. PARC, 162 pp.