Community Assessment & Adaptation Options:
Stony Rapids is located in Saskatchewan’s far north along the Fond du Lac River between two Ecoregions: the Athabasca Plain and Tazin Lake Upland (Figure 1). It is a small northern hamlet of about 360 persons. The community is accessible by air and a recently completed 200 km gravel road from Points North. Two Denesuline First Nations have reserves in the area – Fond Du Lac to the west and Black Lake to the east. Reserve residents who total over 2,300 persons (2005) rely on trapping, fishing and hunting – particularly caribou.
Figure 1 Location of Stony Rapids Tazin Lake Upland and Athabasca Plain EcoRegions
Stony Rapids is the starting point for winter access to Fond du Lac and Uranium City (Figure 2). The ice road portion usually opens in mid February when ice depth reaches 76 cm. (Based on data from Manitoba, over the past ten years the network of ice roads in Manitoba has gone from 50 to 60 days of usage to as low as 20 days in some years due to warmer winter temperatures and insufficient ice thickness).
Figure 2 Winter Road Access from Stony Rapids
Both the Tazin Lake Upland and the Athabasca Plain Ecoregions are dominated by jack pine, lichen woodlands, black spruce, peatlands and boreal wetlands. The Athabasca Plain Ecoregion encompases the Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park – the largest active dune complex in Canada. The area also falls within the range of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou herds (Figure 3). The Beverly caribou herd is reduced in numbers as a result of climate change and associated loss of habitat from wildfire and land development.
Figure 3 Caribou Range in Prairie Provinces
Climate Normals for Cree Lake (SW of Stony Rapids) (1971-2000)
- The average daily temperature ranges from -22.7°C in January to 15.7°C in July with 6 months being below 0 (November to Apri). The lowest average daily minimum temperature is -28.5°C experienced in January and the highest average daily maximum temperature of 21.1°C is experienced in August.
- The annual precipitation is about 445.7.8 mm of which 57% is rainfall and the remainder is snow. 58% falls in the months of May, June, July and August.
- an indication of the demand for cooling and heating is provided by the number of degree days above 18°C – 39.1 days; and the number of degree days below 18°C - 7,434.3 days.
Over the next century to 2100 climate scenarios suggest:
- Generally a warmer climate – mean annual temperature may generally rise up to 4 degrees with a warmer, wetter winter and a drier summer.
- A drier summer is expected despite an increase in precipitation to about 420 to 450 mm. because of warmer temperatures and an increased evapotranspiration.
- Increase in variability – a less reliable climate and more extreme events.
Regional Adaptation Options:
- Access and shipping to communities may have to be adjusted due to increase in frost free period and reduction of ice cover.
- Development and reclamation associated with mining and logging will also have to adjust their operating seasons as off-road, snow and ice winter travel season may become shorter.
- Reduce the risk of fire to communities and manage fuel loads (i.e FireSmart program).
- Monitor climate change in order to know how to adapt resource use (hunting, fishing and trapping and other outdoor activities) in the future. There may be extensive impacts on fish, wildlife and forest health. Adaptation may be necessary.
- Acton, D.F., Padbury,G.A., Stushnoff,C.T., 1998. The Ecoregions of Saskatchewan. Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina and Saskatchewan, Environment and Resource Management.
- Barrow, E. 2009 Climate Scenarios for Saskatchewan PARC Summary Document 09-01 http://www.parc.ca/pdf/research_publications/renamed/SD2009_01.pdf
- Barrow, E. 2009 Climate Scenarios for Saskatchewan http://www.parc.ca/pdf/research_publications/renamed/SD2009_01.pdf
- Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board, n.d. Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Range. http://www.arctic-caribou.com/parttwo/pdf/bqtotca.pdf [accessed January 3, 2011]
- Canadian Plains Research Centre. 2005. Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, http://esask.uregina.ca/entry/ecozones_and_ecoregions.html
- Environment Canada, Climate Normals http://climate.weatheroffice.gc.ca/climate_normals/results_e.html?StnID=3157&autofwd=1
- Henderson, N., E. Hogg, E. Barrow, and B. Dolter. 2002. Climate Change Impacts on the Island Forests of the Great Plains and Implications for Nature Conservation Policy: The Outlook for Sweet Grass Hills (Montana), Cypress Hills (Alberta-Saskatchewan), Moose Mountain (Saskatchewan), Spruce Woods (Manitoba) and Turtle Mountain (Manitoba-North Dakota). Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative, Regina.
- Mease, Anne, nd. History of the Denesuline (Dene) in Northern Saskatchewan. University of Saskatchewan Northern Research Portal. http://scaa.usask.ca/gallery/northern/content?pg=ex04-2 [ accessed Nov. 17, 2010]
- Saskatchewan, 2010. Saskbiz, Community Profiles at http://www.saskbiz.ca/communityprofiles/communityprofile.asp?CommunityID=11
- Saskatchewan Highways and Infrastructure n.d. Travel on Winter Roads in Northern Saskatchewan. http://www.highways.gov.sk.ca/travel-winterroads/ [accessed December 2, 2010]
- Statistics Canada, 2010. Human Activity and the Environment, Annual Statistics 2007 and 2008, Section 1 Climate Change in Canada. Catalogue 16-201-X http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/16-201-x/2007000/10542-eng.htm [Access December 2, 2010 ]