Forest Fire Management Adaptation to Climate Change in the Prairie Provinces

W.J. de Groot, P.M. Bothwell, D. Carlsson, K. Logan, Ross W. Wein, C. Li


The effects of future fire regimes altered by climate change, and fire management in adaptation to climate change were studied in the boreal forest region of the Prairie provinces. Four National Parks were used asstudy areas. Present (1975-90) and future (2080-2100) fire regimes were simulated in Wood Buffalo National Park, Elk Island National Park, Prince Albert National Park and Riding Mountain National Park using data from the Canadian (CGCM1) and Hadley (HadCM3) Global Climate Models (GCM) in separate simulation scenarios. The long-term effects of the different fire regimes on forests were simulated using astand-level, boreal fire effects model (BORFIRE) developed for this study. Changes in forest composition and biomass storage due to future altered fire regimes were determined by comparing current and future simulation results. This was used to assess the ecological impact of altered fire regimes on boreal forests,and the future role of these forests as carbon sinks or sources. Additional future simulations were run using adapted fire management strategies to meet the management goals for each National Park. This included increased fire suppression and the use of prescribed fire to meet fire cycle objectives. Future forest composition and biomass storage under current and adapted fire management strategies were also compared to determine the impact of various future fire management options.

Both of the GCM’s showed more severe burning conditions under future fire regimes. This includes fires with higher intensity, greater depth of burn, greater total fuel consumption and shorter fire cycles (or higher rates of annual area burned). The Canadian GCM indicated burning conditions more severe than the Hadley GCM. The Canadian GCM results also appeared more reliable when fire weather output was compared to current and historical data.

In the model simulations, the shorter fire cycles of future fire regimes generally favoured aspen and birch because of their post-fire resprouting ability, and jack pine because of its serotinous cones which release stored seed after fire. Shorter fire cycles provided more frequent regeneration opportunity for these species. Because black spruce is an annual seeder and has semi-serotinous cones, regeneration was only minimally influenced by future changes in the fire cycle. However, white spruce stands declined sharply due to shorter fire cycles, and the spring and summer fire regime of the study areas. This was because white spruce doesn’t store seed and seed ripening doesn’t occur until late summer or early fall, so there is no opportunityto regenerate when trees are killed by early season fire. For all of the study area Parks, maintaining representation of pure and mixed white spruce ecosystems will be a concern under future fire regimes. The model simulations also showed that a management goal of fire exclusion would effectively lead to the removal of jack pine from the study areas, and cause a sharp decline in aspen and birch stands.

There was a general increase in total biomass storage under the simulated future fire regimes. This was caused by two factors. Shorter fire cycles resulted in a younger age-class distribution so there were less slow-growing, low density old stands, and more fast-growing, high density young stands. The second factor was an increase in aspen, which is faster growing than the other species. Aspen regeneration was favoured by short fire cycles, and aspen seedlings out-competed jack pine and white birch. As well, when white spruce failed to regenerate, mixed stands converted to pure aspen stands. A secondary effect of greater aspen live tree biomass was an increase in forest floor biomass because of increased detrital input. Biomass storage was very low in the fire exclusion simulations.

In Wood Buffalo National Park, simulations of increased future fire suppression assisted in maintaining white spruce ecosystems and older age classes of all species, but it had a minimal impact on representation of other forested ecosystems. Increased fire suppression also increased the long-term total biomass storage in the Park by 83M tonnes.

The simulations showed prescribed burning to be an important component of future fire management in Elk Island National Park, Prince Albert National Park and Riding Mountain National Park. Without prescribed fire, the fire cycle in all three Parks would be too long to maintain current stands of aspen, jack pine and white birch. A range of fire regimes appears necessary to manage different areas in each National Park. Aspen in open or closed stands can be promoted by burning after vernal leaf flush, or its removal can be facilitated by burning prior to leaf flush with short to moderate fire cycles or 25-75 years. The use of short fire cycles may be required to maintain grasslands and shrublands and prevent the encroachment of aspen.

White spruce stands require fires of low intensity, or late season fires and longer fire cycles (100+ years). In Prince Albert National Park and Riding Mountain National Park , the use of prescribed fire on 75-year and 100-year fire cycles to maintain current forest ecosystems resulted in a total biomass storage increase of 10-17M tonnes and 8-12M tonnes, respectively.

Future needs in fire and climate change research includes development of landscape models that simulate physical and ecological fire effects, and analysis of future fire management strategies in the commercial forest zone.

Heritage Forest Demonstration Project


PARC is working with SaskWater and other partners on an effluent irrigated woodlot demonstration project located a few kilometres south of Moose Jaw.

Currently most Saskatchewan effluent is discharged into watercourses, where it often causes problems because of its nutrient load. But land-based effluent disposal is a viable option for effluent management, and well tested around the world. Effluent can be used to grow agricultural crops or trees.

Prairie people value their town and city parks and street trees highly, and in rural Saskatchewan shelterbelts are also highly valued. It makes sense to look to create more tree and forest opportunities in southern Saskatchewan. Land-based effluent management may provide one way of generating more tree and forest experiences in the southern half of the province.

In a Heritage Forest system, once trees are well established (at around 10 years), it will be possible to cease irrigation. Established trees are reasonably drought tolerant. One can then move the irrigation to an adjoining piece of land and start the next age cohort of the Heritage Forest. By repeating this pattern, one can establish a diverse aged forest. Alternatively, one can choose to continue the irrigation process at a given site until the forest is fully mature.

On the Moose Jaw test site a wide variety of tree species (23) are being tested to see how they perform under a moderate level of effluent irrigation. Just as in a natural forest, some of the tested species (such as the pines and poplar) are relatively fast growing, while other species (such as spruce) are slower growing.

There are two objectives of the Heritage Forest experiment: 1) to provide a physical and visible demonstration of how an effluent-driven Heritage Forest could look and function ecologically, and 2) to discover which tree species can be recommended to interested communities for inclusion in their own effluent-driven Heritage Forest. Component trees could include pines, spruce, larch, oak, elm, ash, maple, basswood, poplars and willows. Depending on its size and location, once the irrigation phase is over, a Heritage Forest could be used for a number of recreational activities.

More Information:

Visit SaskWater’s Effluent Irrigated Woodlot Demonstration Project website.

Institutional Adaptations to Climate Change

Canada-Chile Case Study on Adaptation

In 2004, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Major Collaborative Research Initiatives (MCRI) program provided funding for a joint project between Chilean and Canadian research institutions to investigate the similarities in dryland areas and also to identify common adaptation options at the institutional and community levels. The project was designed to run from January of 2004 until December of 2008.

The critical issue that the IACC project addresses is the capacity of institutions in dryland regions to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Snow-melt dominated watersheds are highly sensitive and vulnerable to climate change. Glaciers are expected to continue to retreat, thus reducing water quality and quantity for population living in these areas. Glaciers are expected to continue to retreat, thus reducing water quality and quantity for population living in these areas. The two basins selected for this study, the Elqui River Basin (ERB) in north-central Chile and the South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB) in western Canada, are good examples of these watersheds

Both watersheds have a dry climate adjacent to a major mountain system and landscapes at risk of desertification, as well as an agricultural economy dependent on water derived from mountain snow and glaciers. As a result of drier conditions and increased climatic uncertainty, these areas are likely to be similarly affected by climate change.

The goal of the project is to develop a systematic and comprehensive understanding of the capacities of regional institutions to formulate and implement strategies of adaptation to climate change risks and the forecasted impacts of climate change on the supply and management of water resources in dryland environments. The specific objectives of the project are:

  • to identify the current social and physical vulnerabilities related to water resource scarcity in the two dryland regions;
  • to examine the effects of climate change risks on the identified vulnerabilities; and
  • to assess the technical and social adaptive capacities of the regional institutions to address the vulnerabilities to current water scarcity and climate change risks.

These objectives have been attained through the integration of several research activities: (a) an assessment of the current vulnerabilities of a group of communities in the two basins; (b) an analysis of the role of institutions in the resolution of a group of recent conflicts related to water scarcity; (c) a historical study of institutional adaptation in periods characterized by water scarcities; (d) an analysis of environmental vulnerabilities identified by stakeholders; (e) an assessment of the capacities of governance institutions to reduce the vulnerabilities of rural communities; and (f) an assessment of the future climate scenarios for the two basins – based on different climatic models – and their potential impacts.

The implementation of the project is characterized by an active and continuing integration of team members and research activities. Rather than developing a set of parallel studies, the project has emphasized a permanent integration of research activities that promote continuous collaboration among the members of the research team. A fundamental element in the process of integration has been the development of a common conceptual and methodological framework that defines the central activities of the project and their linkages.

More Information:

Visit the IACC project website

South Saskatchewan River Basin Project


This report summarizes the work and results of a study entitled “Assessment of the Vulnerability of Key Water Use Sectors in the South Saskatchewan River Basin (Alberta and Saskatchewan) to Changes in Water Supply Resulting from Climate Change”. That study constitutes the socioeconomic research team component of a unique, two-team project that examined the impact of predicted climate change on the surface water supply of the South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB). A major contribution of the overall project was to link the physical, hydrological and socioeconomic aspects of those changes in an innovative, “end-to-end” analytical framework.

This report lays a foundation for future analyses and recognizes that the net impacts of climate change on the physical and social dimensions of the basin will continue to be influenced by shifting social, economic and environmental priorities and activities. The results presented here can inform site-specific decisions (as demonstrated for three cities) as well as guide infrastructure and policy debates. The value of applying these results in an integrated, yet practical, water management approach to assist in sub-basin, sectoral decision-making was a strong consensus of the expert and stakeholder consultations held across the basin as part of this study.

Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Extremes in the Americas (VACEA)


The overall objective of this 5-year project was to improve understanding of the vulnerability of rural agricultural and indigenous communities to shifts in climate variability and to the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events, and to engage governance institutions in Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia in enhancing their adaptive capacity to reduce rural community vulnerability. The VACEA project was a collaborative, comparative and interdisciplinary investigation. It addressed gaps in our knowledge of the consequences of global climate change for regional climate variability and extremes and for the associated vulnerabilities and adaptive strategies of rural communities. The project focused on rural populations that are highly vulnerable, either because they live on the social and economic margins of society or because the nature of their livelihoods makes them highly exposed and sensitive to climate variability and extremes. At local and regional scales the major climate hazards are extreme conditions rather than trends in the means. The analysis of current vulnerabilities in the context of projected shifts in climate variability and the frequency and intensity of extreme events produced important insights into future risks and opportunities, informing the adoption of more appropriate local practices and adjustments to governance policies. The project encompassed natural and social science and engineering and a conceptual model that links the different perspectives and disciplinary approaches and combines qualitative and quantitative methods, integrating various types of knowledge. In collaboration with our project partners, we achieved heightened inter-jurisdictional awareness and exchange of practices and tools for adapting to climate, including vulnerability and risk assessment, interventions that respect traditional knowledge, and communication to enhance public understanding of climate change adaptation strategies and their benefits. The project linked initiatives across sectors and disciplines, involved partnership and collaboration with various non-academic partners, enhanced collaboration among researchers from Canada and four Latin American countries, and worked with multi-stakeholder groups to strengthen their commitment to achieving adaptation to climate change.

Climate Scenarios for Saskatchewan

E. Barrow


The most recent assessment undertaken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reached a number of conclusions concerning global climate change, two of which stated that “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level” and that “Most of the observed increases in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations”. These observed changes in climate are as a result of a global average surface air temperature increase over the 20th century of about 0.6°C. In contrast to these observed changes, global average surface air temperature is projected to increase between 1.4°C and 5.8°C by 2100, relative to 1990. This report explores how these projected global average climate changes maybe manifest in Saskatchewan.

Following recommendations outlined by the IPCC, scenarios of climate change were constructed using the most recent global climate model (GCM) results available. These three-dimensional mathematical models of the Earth-atmosphere system are driven by changes in atmospheric composition through the effect of these changes on the radiation balance of this system. It is not known how atmospheric composition will change inthe future, since it is dependent on a number of factors, including population and economic growth and energy use. Thus, GCM experiments are usually undertaken using a number of different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, spanning a range of possible socio-economic futures. For this study, results were available from GCM experiments undertaken at fourteen different climate modelling centres using three emissions scenarios (B1, A1B and A2). The output from GCMs is still not sufficiently reliable to be used directly as climate input into impacts studies so it is necessary to construct scenarios of climate change. These scenarios were constructed by determining the changes in average climate for the 30-year periods centred on the 2020s (2010-2039), 2050s (2040-2069) and 2080s (2070-2099), relative to the 1961-1990 baseline period.

For this analysis, Saskatchewan was divided into two regions – forest and grassland. Since thereare a large number of GCM experiments available, a sub-set of climate change scenarios was selected for use based on changes in annual moisture index for the 2050s. A total of five scenarios was selected to represent the smallest, largest and median changes in annual moisture index. For the forest region, these scenarios were from the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Norway (BCM2 B1), the UK Meteorological Office (HadCM3 A1B) and the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan (MIMR B1), respectively, and from the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (CGCM3_T47_2 A1B), the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, USA (GFCM20 B1) and, again, from the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan (MIMR B1), respectively, for the grassland region. For each GCM only mean temperature and precipitation information was available and so climate change scenarios were constructed for these variables.

Given the number of scenarios and variables being considered, this report has by necessity focused on annual results. Although the climate change scenarios were selected on the basis of changes in annual moisture index, i.e., on an index which combines the effect of temperature with that of precipitation, scatter plots of mean temperature change versus precipitation change were also presented. For the forest region, these scatter plots indicate that by the 2080s, annual changes in precipitation are positive in this region for all climate change scenarios considered in this analysis. For the 2020s and 2050s, a small number of scenarios indicate decreased precipitation, but these decreases are very slight – only around 5% in the 2020s and about 2% in the 2050s. Changes in mean annual temperature are positive – between 0 and 3°C in the 2020s, 1 to 5°C in the 2050s and between 2 and 7°C for the 2080s. The seasonal picture for the 2050s indicates that the largest spread in scenario results occurs in winter, with temperature changes between 0 and 7°C and mostly positive precipitation changes (up to30%). For spring, the picture is similar, although the temperature increases are not quite as large. The summer and fall scatter plots show some scenarios with larger precipitation decreases – as much as 10% in summer and around 5% in the fall.
For the 2050s, the forest region of Saskatchewan is projected to experience increases in annual mean temperature of between 0.5 – 1.0°C (for the scenario based on the smallest change in annual moisture index) and 3.0 – 3.5°C (for the scenario based on the median change in annual moisture index). Changes in annual precipitation are between 0 and +10% for all three scenarios for the 2050s, although the median scenario indicates slightly higher increases (+10 to +20%) along the western and northern boundaries of the forest region.
When compared with the forest region, the grassland region indicates larger decreases in precipitation, with decreases in annual mean precipitation still projected for the 2080s. For the2020s, temperature increases are between 0.5 and 3.0°C, between 1 and 5°C for the 2050s and between 2 and 6.5°C for the 2080s. Changes in the range of annual mean precipitation are similar for the 2020s and 2050s, between -10% and +25%, compared to between -5% and +35% for the 2080s. On a seasonal basis for the 2050s, scenarios projecting decreases in precipitation occur in all seasons. For summer and fall, about half the scenarios project precipitation decreases and by as much as 20 or 30%. The range of temperature increase is largest in winter and spring (between 1 and 6°C), compared to summer and fall (1 to 4°C).
For the 2050s, the grassland region of Saskatchewan is projected to experience increases in annual mean temperature of between 1.5 – 2.0°C (for the scenario based on the smallest change in annual moisture index) and 2.5 – 3.0°C (for the scenario based on the median change in annual moisture index). For precipitation, changes are similar across all time periods, generally between 0 and +10%. For the 2050s, the scenario based on the largest change in annual moisture index indicates that there are some areas of precipitation decrease (between 0 and -10%) in the south-east portion of the grassland region. The scenario based on the smallest change in annual moisture index indicates general increases in precipitation of between 10 and 20% by the 2050s, although these increases are slightly lower (between 0 and 10%) in the south-east portion of the region.
By combining these climate change scenarios with a high resolution 1961-1990 baseline climatology, it was possible to construct climate scenarios for Saskatchewan for minimum, mean and maximum temperatures and precipitation, as well as for the following derived variables: degree days > 5°C, degree days > 18°C (cooling degree days), degree days < 18°C (heating degree days) and annual moisture index for the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s. Results are presented as maps for the whole province and in more detail for Stony Rapids, Prince Albert, La Ronge, Regina, Saskatoon, North Battleford, Yorkton,Weyburn, Moose Jaw and Swift Current.
For the forest region of Saskatchewan, annual mean temperature increases over time at all three sites (Prince Albert, La Ronge and Stony Rapids). By the 2020s, the projected future climate range for La Ronge (-0.01 to 0.98°C) is as warm as baseline conditions at Prince Albert (0.58°C).For Stony Rapids, it is only by the 2080s that the projected annual mean temperature range (-1.91 to 0.4°C) approaches that of baseline conditions at La Ronge (-0.45°C). Precipitation is projected to increase across all sites and all time periods. Prince Albert (406 mm) and Stony Rapids (391mm) currently receive less precipitation than La Ronge (494 mm). By the 2080s, Prince Albert is projected to receive between 423 and 456 mm, La Ronge between 514 and 547 mm and Stony Rapids between 419 and 446 mm. There is a general increase in the number of degree days >5°C over time at all sites. This implies a lengthening of the growing season and/or the availability of more heat units for plant growth during the growing season. Increases in the number of cooling degree days (i.e., degree days above a threshold temperature of 18°C) are also projected. Baseline conditions currently indicate no cooling degree days at all three forest sites, but as early as the 2020s the scenario range for Prince Albert is above zero (11-72 degree days) while for La Ronge and Stony Rapids this is not the case until the 2050s. Heating degree days, however, decrease over time at all three sites, indicating a reduction in the need for space heating in the future. The annual moisture index gives an indication of moisture availability for plant growth. This index increases across all time periods for all three forest sites. By the 2080s, the index values are projected to increase by at least 1 degree day/mm at each site. The scenario range for La Ronge (2.96-3.77) and Stony Rapids (2.67-3.86) for this time period encompasses baseline conditions at Prince Albert (3.41).
For the grassland region, annual mean temperature at the seven sites increases over time such that by the 2020s, the annual mean temperature is atleast 1°C warmer than baseline conditions at all sites, and for Yorkton 3°C warmer (1.3°C compared with 4.3°C). By the 2080s, the projected annual mean temperature is at least double that of baseline conditions. Increases in annual precipitation totals are projected over time at all seven grassland sites. For degree days > 5°C, increases occur at all sites and all time periods. By the 2080s, the projected scenario range indicates that for most sites, degree day totals will be greater than 2000. Yorkton (1902-2177 degree days) and North Battleford (1877-2293 degree days) are the exception to this with only thehigher end of the scenario range being greater than this value during this time period. For cooling degree days (degree days > 18°C) all seven grassland sites exhibit baseline values which are above zero, indicating that there may already be some requirement for air-conditioning in summer. This requirement may increase over time, since the degree day values increase. For example, by the 2080s, the cooling degree day range at Regina (257-376 degree days), Weyburn (276-407 degree days) and Yorkton (169-251 degree days) is projected to be between 3 and 5 times greater than baseline conditions for Regina (69 degree days) and Weyburn (75 degree days), but between 14 and 20 times greater than baseline conditions at Yorkton (12 degree days). In contrast, projections for heating degree days (degree days < 18°C) are for a reduction in degree day totals across all sites. For annual moisture index, increases occur across all sites and all time periods. Yorkton and North Battleford currently exhibit the lowest annual moisture index values (3.4 and 4.2 degree days/mm, respectively). By the 2080s, these values have increased to between 3.9 and 4.7 degree days/mm for Yorkton and to between 4.7 and 5.6 degree days/mm for North Battleford. Moose Jaw and Saskatoon currently exhibit the largest baseline values (both 4.7 degree days/mm). By the 2080s, annual moisture index values are projected to be between 5.3and 6.4 degree days/mm for Moose Jaw and between 5.2 and 6.2 degree days/mm for Saskatoon.

Nikan Oti: Future – Understanding Adaptation and Adaptive Capacity in two First Nations

W. Ermine, D. Sauchyn, J. Pittman


This report provides an overview of the findings from the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaboration project, Nikan Oti: Future – Understanding Adaptation and Adaptive Capacity in Two First Nations. Two community case studies were undertaken with the intent of understanding adaptation and adaptive capacity and specifically how communities make adjustments to their natural or human systems that will minimize their risks and position them to take advantage of new opportunities that climate change may present. Three basic objectives guided this community case study: Understanding and enhancing adaptation and adaptive capacity in support of climate change decision making; to examine and enhance community adaptation strategies; and to enhance adjustments in human systems in response to actual changes in climate and environment. Primary research with Elders from the two communities reveals significant socio cultural changes impacting the people resulting in some degree of maladaptation as adjustments were attempted. James Smith Elders identified a catastrophic cattle die-off in their community history and the resulting introduction of the welfare system as having a domino effect that led people into dependency. The particular concerns of the Shoal Lake Elders were the changed behaviours of their youth but they also identified other issues that werea result of changing lifestyles in the community. Community resources such as philosophies, culture and a deep seated spirituality provide elements of hope that the people from both communities can facilitate adaptive strategies as the future is negotiated.

The Vulnerability of Land Management in the Grassland – Forest Transition to Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystems and Soil Landscape

Principle Investigator: Dr. Dave Sauchyn

Co-investigators: Dr. Mark Johnston, Dr. Mary Vetter, Dr. Joseph Piwowar


The ecological gradient from grassland to forest in Canada’s western interior is a large region of national significance. It is a climatically sensitive ecotone that supports forestry and agriculture, includes various parks and protected areas, and is the location of a number of First Nations reserves. By mid-century the climate of this region is expected to have shifted from subhumid to dry subhumid with a longer and warmer growing season, possibly causing dieback of the forest, and soil moisture limitations on plant growth and productivity. These impacts have major implications for the use and management of soil, water, forest and pasture, including the capacity of current management structures and practices to sustain soil and ecosystem health. The goal of this project was to contribute to science-based decision making about adaptation to climate change in this region by providing new scientific information on the ecological response to climate variability and change at monthly to decadal time scales. This new information improves the capacity to anticipate impacts of global warming and address vulnerabilities to climate identified by stakeholders who manage the natural resources of this region.</div>

The project objectives were to

1. determine the climate sensitivity of ecosystems and soil landscapes in a major part of the Prairie Province grassland – forest transition zone

2. assess the vulnerability of soil and vegetation use and management to climate-induced ecosystem and landscape change,</div>

3. contribute to science-based decision making concerning adaptation to climate change with a focus on the forest industry and the management of parks and protected areas</div>

4. assign a quantitative degree of certainty (confidence) to our climate change and impact scenarios

The principal objective of determining the climate sensitivity of a major part of the Prairie Province grassland – forest transition zone was met and possibly exceeded in terms of the amount of new information on the historical response of vegetation to climate variables. The time series of correlated indicators of vegetation and climate inform the assessment of climate change impacts on the ecosystems of the grassland-forest transition zone. These data also can be used to calibrate models that project change in plant productivity and species distribution under climate change.

We examined the ecological response to past climate variability at various temporal scales from correlations among indicators of monthly climate and plant productivity to the variation in relative abundance of plant taxa at 5-25 year intervals for the past millennium. At the shorter time scales, temporal and spatial variations in plant productivity can be related to specific climate variables. Plant productivity depends on temperature in May but, in the rest of growing season, responds mostly to precipitation with about a one month lag. An increasing trend in July to October productivity over most of the grassland to forest transition zone suggests a lengthening of the growing season. At longer time scales, time series of pollen records from four lakes show significant fluctuations in the relative abundances of plant taxa. Much of this variability can be related to departures from mean climate conditions as inferred from tree-ring records and from the geographic distribution of modern pollen relative to climate gradients. The impact of dry years is especially apparent with substantial reductions in pollen concentrations for coniferous tree taxa, reflecting suppressed productivity. Decreased pollen outputs from these tree species is correlated with decreased lake productivity as indicated by algal pigment concentrations in the lake sediment record.

With regards to the vulnerability of vegetation use and management to climate-induced ecosystem and landscape change, we were able to satisfactorily address this objective by consulting with resource managers in the sectors of agriculture, forestry and parks and protected areas. This consultation was achieved with two workshops staged by the project and during other meetings attended by project researchers where local resource managers were in attendance. At the project workshops, stakeholders identified barriers to adaptation and adaptive management related to the uncertainty associated with conventional climate change and impact scenarios. Current projections of the ecological impacts of climate change are based on associations between current climate and the boundaries between natural regions, and on the present ranges of individual species. Shifts in the distribution of ecosystems will be driven by encroachment of species into previously unsuitable areas, for example, at the interface of grassland with parkland and forest. Resource managers need information on the trajectory that ecosystems follow in response to fluctuating and directionally-changing climate.

We were able to contribute to science-based decision making concerning adaptation to climate change to the extent that project researchers presented the results of our researchat the two stakeholder workshops and at other conference and workshops on the topic of climate change impacts and adaptation in western Canada. The degree to which this knowledge transfer influenced decision making is difficult to assess. We expect that more knowledge translation and interaction with stakeholders will be required to have a meaningful influence on the planning of adaptation to climate change. But a general indication of the perceived value of this research is shown in the development of new funding applications in collaboration with stakeholders and First Nations groups.

The final objective of assigning a degree of certainty (confidence) to our climate change and impact scenarios was achieved in terms of having a better understanding of the climate sensitivity of the ecosystems of the forest – grassland transition zone. We have yet to meet this objective, however, in terms of producing a more robust assessment of climate impacts, because the components of the project have not yet been fully integrated. We intend to pursue this full integration of the project components and deliver improved assessments of the ecological impacts of climate change to project partners and stakeholders.

Isi Wipan – Climate: Identifying the Impacts of Climate Change and Capacity for Adaptation in two Saskatchewan First Nations Communities

W. Ermine, D. Sauchyn, M. Vetter, C. Hart


The purpose of the research is to assess the future impacts of climate change and the capacity for two First Nation communities in Saskatchewan to respond and adapt to those impacts.

This report provides an overview of the findings from the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaboration project, Isi Wipan – Climate: Identifying the impacts of climate change and capacity for adaptation in two Saskatchewan First Nation communities. Two community case studies were undertaken with attention given to the integrated and interconnected impacts of climate change across various sectors. A holistic framework was used that emphasizes the interconnections between the social, cultural and natural systems. Scientific data on paleoclimate and paleovegetation for the eco region encompassing these two communities is provided. Additionally, Elders from the James Smith and Shoal Lake Cree Nations came together in their respective communities to discuss impacts from climate and environmental changes on the health of their populations. The two Elder forums, or focus groups held in each community, were based on respectful learning and traditional protocols in which Elders share information about climate change with one another and with members of the scientific community. Four basic objectives guided this community case study: To identify what the Elders have experienced in terms of climate and environmental change as suggested by traditions and oral histories; How the changes in the climate and environment impact the health of community members, recognizing that the natural environment is one of the key determinants of health (with health defined as encompassing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components); For Elders to communicate what features or resources of the traditional territory are highly valued, and to what degree these features or resources at risk to climate and environmental change in their territories; and to identify what enables or constraints communities to adapt to changes. The Elder discussions in response to these questions are identified and discussed in this paper.

A number of broad themes emerged from the discussions that indicate how the social, economic and cultural systems were impacted by changes and how the people from both communities demonstrate qualities of resilience, stability and flexibility in the face of changes that were taking place around them.

Isi Askiwan – The State of the Land: Prince Albert Grand Council Elder’s Forum on Climate Change

Willie Ermine, Ralph Nilson, Dave Sauchyn, Ernest Sauve, Robin Yvonne Smith


This report provides an overview of the findings from the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative project, Isi Askiwan – The State of the Land: Prince Albert Grand Council Elders Forum on Climate Change. First Nations perspectives about the natural world can enhance western scientific research and understanding of the impacts of climate change on quality of life and community health. Elders and other First Nations knowledge holders from the Prince Albert Grand Council area in Saskatchewan came together to discuss the impacts of climate change on population health within their traditional territories. The Elders’ forum was based on respectful learning and traditional protocols in which Elders could share information about climate change with one another and with members of the scientific community. Three basic objectives guided the Elders’ discussion: To identify what has been experienced or observed by the Elders in regards to climate change; to identify the impacts of these changes on the health and quality of life of Aboriginal communities; and for the Elders to communicate the capacity of communities in adapting to these changes, both in the past and in the future. Elder responses to this issue are identified and discussed in this report, along with a number of broad themes such as the connection between the natural and social environment, and the conciliation of Elder knowledge and western scientific perspectives on climate change. This information is placed within the broader context of the growing literature on traditional environmental knowledge. To date, discussions of this kind have been dominated by western science. By engaging in these issues, Aboriginal communities, under the leadership of Elders, have the opportunity to contribute knowledge to the broader Canadian society concerning alternative approaches to climate change,and in particular to the relationship between health and the natural environment.