Climate Change Impacts on the Island Forests of the Great Plains and the 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)

Norman Henderson, Edward Hogg, Elaine Barrow, and Brett Dolter


This study investigates future climate change impacts on ecosystems, with a focus on trees, in 5 island forest sites in the northern Great Plains ecoregion: Sweet Grass Hills (Montana), Cypress Hills (Alberta-Saskatchewan), Moose Mountain (Saskatchewan), Spruce Woods (Manitoba) and Turtle Mountain (Manitoba-North Dakota). The sites are relatively small forests, isolated from other woodlands by intervening grassland. They have high nature conservation, recreational and cultural value. Their smallness, isolation, restricted number of keystone species and ecotone nature make the island forests very vulnerable to climate change.

Using 3 different global climate models (GCMs) incorporating the latest emissions scenarios we construct climate scenarios for the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s according to standard Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines. From these scenarios we derive climate moisture indices (CMIs based on projected precipitation, temperature and evapotranspiration to model available moisture for vegetation growth. All GCM scenarios indicated declines in moisture levels over time. As compared to the climate normals (the baseline climate) of 1961-1990, the predicted decline in moisture availability at the 5 island forests is approximately 10 cm by the 2020s, 21 cm by the 2050s, and 32 cm by the 2080s. As moisture availability is a critical determinant of forest structure and heal that Plains forest sites, the loss of such substantial amounts of moisture is expected to have severe impacts, including the conversion of large areas of forest from trees to scrub or grass cover, the possible extirpation of some tree species, and negative impacts on biodiversity, landscape diversity, and recreational and cultural values. Landscape change maybe sudden and dramatic, via vectors such as wildfire, insect attack or severe drought. Traditional minimal-intervention management will not prevent loss of diversity and risks catastrophic and permanent landscape change. Management that aims simplyto retain existing vegetation, or to restore historical vegetation distributions and ecosystems, will fail as the climate steadily moves farther away from recent and current norms. A realistic biodiversity strategy must take into account that climate, and therefore flora, fauna, hydrology and soils, will not be static over this century. In a world of climate change, selection of protected areas may need to focus on site heterogeneity and habitat diversity (as these provide some buffer against climate change) rather than on representativeness. As well, preserving some elements of biodiversity will require increasing management counter-intervention across the landscape. Climate change is not currently considered within management plans at any of our study sites.

Given the island forests’ vulnerability and the magnitude of probable climate change impacts, we recommend an interim strategy of “managed retreat,” incorporating active, anticipatory management, as the best risk management approach. Elements of this “no regrets” strategy include aggressively controlling wildfires and other disturbances, maintaining or creating successional stand diversity, maintaining or increasing landscape diversity, and aiding regeneration of key extant species. It mayalso be necessary to introduce more drought-tolerant varieties of existing species and, in extremis, to introduce entirely new species should a key extant species prove unsustainable as the climate shifts. As the forests are isolated, in-migration of tree species or varieties better adapted to the changing climate would have to be provided by active management. Provenance trials should be undertaken to test new tree varieties and species to provide us with maximum options for ecological salvage. Zoning within each island forest will be a valuable technique allowing a differentiated response to climate change. As the management response to climate change may have to be radical compared with traditional North American nature conservation practice, extensive public consultation will be required. A binational biophysical monitoring program that looks at the entire Plains island forest archipelago collectively, rather than at each site in isolation, is strongly recommended. Also recommended is the expansion of this study north and south to encompass all island forests within the Great Plains ecoregion to determine the bounds of probable climate change, to determine island forests’ individual and collective vulnerability, and to foster knowledge transfer of best monitoring, management and consultations practice.

Simulating Climatic Impacts on, and Adaptive Management Options for, Boreal Forest Ecosystems in Western Canada

D.T. Price, R. Hall, F. Raulier, M. Lindner, B. Case, P. Bernier


Given that some impacts of climate warming are being observed across Canada (the current drought in Alberta and Saskatchewan being only one example), and that climate model projections indicate larger, systematic changes occurring within the next 50-100 years, sustainable management of Canada’s forest resources will need to take the effects of such changes into account. The most immediately observable impacts are likely to be changes in species productivity, competition and survival. Estimating these impacts will be critical for the development of adaptation and mitigation strategies.

This project attempts to assess these potential impacts on western boreal forest ecosystems using a suite of process models applied to detailed spatial data sets. In principle, the models must first be calibrated and tested by running them with data representative of current climate conditions for the study area. Only when this has been achieved with acceptable results should the effects of possible future climates be investigated using scenario data (ideally derived from global climate model simulations).

Current models of stand productivity generally employ traditional growth and yield (G&Y) modeling based on plot-level measurements of tree growth. Because local climate is a major determinant of environmental conditions at all forest sites, yield forecasts based on such models are likely to be inaccurate if appreciable changes in climate do occur. In the worst cases, the predictions of future yield could be completely incorrect. An alternative approach is to develop process-based growth models that use physiological and physical principles to relate stand growth to climate. The Canadian Forest Service’s Laurentian Forestry Centre (LFC) is at the forefront in developing and testing this approach. LFC is leading a project termed ECOLEAP (Extended COllaboration for Linking Ecophysiology And Forest Productivity) (, in which forest net primary productivity (NPP) issimulated mechanistically, and then mapped at the landscape scale using spatial data.

The project reported here, and referred to as ECOLEAP-West, builds on this initiative for two ecologically-distinct study regions within Alberta and Saskatchewan, respectively. Process-based models to estimate NPP were driven by spatial data sets including digital elevation, soils, satellite remote sensing, and interpolated climate. These NPP estimates were then compared to site-level productivity estimates derived from field measurements at permanent sample plots inthe Foothills Model Forest (FMF) study area in Alberta. The aim was to establish an acceptable level of agreement between the different estimates of NPP, and then apply the process-based models to the Saskatchewan study region. The end products should include tools to assess forest productivity under both present-day and plausible future climates, and to investigate the effects of forest management options to adapt to climate change. Preliminary results indicate that forest management can have significant effects on productivity, species composition and carbon sequestration.

Development of an Information System for Supporting Climate Change Impact and Adaptation Strategies Studies within the Prairie’s Petroleum Industries

G.H. Huang, Z. Chen, L. Liu, Y.F. Huang, J.B. Li, Z.Y. Hu, I. Maqsood, Y.Y. Yin


Petroleum operations range from exploration, production and refining to transportation and storage. Climate change will lead to a number of direct and indirect impacts on this industrial sector. Therefore, a challenging question faced by the industry is how they should adapt to the changing climatic conditions in order to maintain or improve their economic and environmental efficiencies. In this research, initial efforts are made to assess the interrelationships between climate change and petroleum activities in Canada’s prairies. A number of processes within the prairies’ petroleum industry that are vulnerable to climate change are examined through extensive survey, investigation and analysis. In addition to the organization of workshops, roundtable meetings and panel discussions, many questions were designed and distributed in various ways (mail, email, telephone call, interview, and internet) to collect information of perceived climate-change impacts and adaptation strategies. Many people from industries, research institutions, governments, and non-governmental organizations were contacted for information and knowledge acquisition. Multivariate statistical analyses (chi square test) were conducted to examine potential correlations among various surveying results. These analyses were helpful for identifying potential conflicts of interest, biases and interactions. Thus, more reasonable interpretation of the surveying outputs can be obtained. Based on the investigation and surveying results, an expert system (named ISSCCI) was developed for facilitating integrated climate-change impact assessment and adaptation-strategy analysis within the prairie’s petroleum industry. A vast amount of information related to industrial processes, climate-change impacts, potential adaptation alternatives, and system component interactions was integrated within the ISSCCI framework. The developed ISSCCI can provide decision support for the prairie’s energy industries and the related governmental organizations to conveniently examine issues of climate-change impacts and potential adaptation options.

Assessing the Potential for Policy Responses to Climate Change

Adam M. Wellstead, Debra J. Davidson, Richard C. Stedman


This report provides an overview of findings from the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative project, Assessing the Potential for Policy Responses to Climate Change. The authors use a number of social science methods to examine the policy making process in the Prairie agriculture, forestry, and water sectors. A web-based survey of 800 decision-makers examined their policy belief structure, their attitudes towards climate change issues and risk, and their network structures. The results reveal that competing policy belief structures do exist and may prove important in determining the future direction of climate change policies.

Evaluation of the Effects of Climate Change on Forage and Livestock Production and Assessment of Adaptation Strategies on the Canadian Prairies

A report to the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative Climate Change Action Fund

R.D.H Cohen, C.D. Sykes, E.E. Wheaton and J.P. Stevens


An understanding of adaptation of plant and animal systems in response to changes in climate will help to reduce the risk involved in livestock production. Climate change will affect a large array of systems. Forage and livestock production will not be excluded from the impact of climate change. The purpose of this study was to understand the concept of adaptation and to integrate adaptive management strategies within the beef industry. A case study was undertaken at three locations to determine the impact of climate change as predicted by the CGCM1 model on livestock production. Three adaptation strategies were devised namely an early turnout date, intensive early season grazing and an extended grazing season. These were applied to simulation for the years 2051-2090. The results should only be considered as only an example of the possible responses to climate change.

A climate change scenario was created using the Canadian Climate Change model (GCM1) and integrated into the GrassGro Decision Support System (DSS). Three adaptation strategies were tested in comparison to a baseline simulation (1961-1990) for 2 pasture associations, Russian wildrye/alfalfa (RWR/ALF) and Crested Wheatgrass (CWG) at three locations Melfort, Saskatoon, Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Climate change predictions were simulated for the years 2051-2080.The effects of climate change on livestock production were complex and results were variable for each site. The effects were more prominent at Saskatoon than Melfort and Swift Current, reflecting strong regional specificity and variability.The adaptation strategies were more successful for RWR/ALF than for CWG pasture at Melfort and Swift Current while CWG appeared to be more successful at Saskatoon. Indeed, the results suggest that productivity of beef cattle grazing RWR/ALF pastures at Melfort and Swift Current could be enhanced with climate change. However, Russian wild ryegrass is slow and difficult to establish. Therefore one of the recommendations from this report calls for a greater research effort into the establishment problems of this grass.

The Climate Sensitivity of the Soil Landscapes of the Prairie Ecozone

Dr. David Sauchyn


The project reported here examined sensitivities of prairie soil landscapes to climate change, variability and extreme hydroclimatic events. Early in the project, a review of existing climate impact assessments and methodologies suggested that most are based on an incomplete understanding of the climate forcing of geomorphic systems, especially in relation to the influence of scale on the understanding and modeling of biophysical systems. Therefore a high priority was given to developing a practical framework for the assessment of potential impacts of climate change on the soil landscapes of the Canadian plains. This framework 1) facilitates transfer of the results of scientific research to stakeholders for the planning of adaptation to soil landscape sensitivity, and 2) is spatially-explicit, unlike models and methods that lack geographic reference and thus direct application to the real world. This approach to climate impact assessment requires a spatial data model and a model of the geomorphic response to climate. Since landforms are the product of geomorphic processes, assemblages of landforms and the associated soil profiles, are the geographic expression of a geomorphic systems. The use the soil landscape as a spatial data structures expands climate impact assessment beyond the study of soil loss or and beyond the farm or field. Conventional approaches to the assessment of soil erosion risk, estimating potential soil loss from fields, will not support the integrated planning over large areas or thus the adaptation to the impacts of climate change.
The response of geomorphic systems to climate is complex. Long periods of landscape stability are interrupted by short bursts of erosion as s system responds to the forces of a hydroclimatic event that exceeds a geomorphic threshold. Irreversible landscape change can occur in response to single events. Much of what we know about the climatic forcing of natural systems is base on detailed field experiments conducted over small areas in contrast to the scale of land and water management. A “scaling down” of climate and a “scaling up” of process data is required for the study of climate impacts on soil landscapes. Most process simulation models fail to work when scaled up because of the greater complexity of larger systems and non-linearity caused by feedback among system variables, and the emergence of characteristic patterns and processes at coarser scales. Virtually all existing models of soil loss and landscape change are inappropriate for the spatial analysis of the climatic forcing of surface processes in the Canadian plains. The greatest promise for a model-based approach lies in relatively simple physically-based models, because they are more scale robust than empirical models (i.e. derived from the measurement of erosion from plots) or the data-rich analytical modelling of slope and channel processes. Models reduced to a form that capture essential or salient factors are most easily applied to assessment of soil landscape sensitivity at a regional. In fact dimensionless indices are simple and practical, yet meaningful, models of landscape sensitivity. Mapping the Aridity Index (Precipitation/Potential Evapotranspiration) for 1961-90 and the 2050s demonstrates the the area of land at risk of desertification will increase by about 50%.
In managed landscapes erosion is mostly a socio-economic issue since erosion can be prevented by soil conservation, but capability and willingness to implement soil conservations are governed by a host of social and economic factors. Even though rates of erosion are managed, land managers must realize that landscape change is a threshold process, such that the conditions that lead to land degradation are established before they are recognized. An increase in theprobability of extreme erosion evens, as the result of climate change, above “once in a lifetime”may justify increased use of soil conservation.
The most practical yet rigorous methodology for assessing of the climate sensitivity of prairie soil landscapes is to “serve” a georeferenced data base such that stakeholders are able to derive maps interactively and apply simple climate change scenarios to geo-referenced data, targeting sensitive soil landscapes. This approach requires 1) definition and analysis of scale domains and thresholds that determine the relevant parameters at a given scale and also enable the scaling up from landforms to landscapes, and 2) a methodology for classifying and identifying soil landscapes according to primarily geomorphic criteria. These problems are the basis for two M.Sc. theses scheduled for completion during 2002. In the meantime, we have implemented the Internet Map Server technology that will enable us to serve the resulting database at the PARC web site. For demonstration purposes, the IMS has been applied to the existing coarse scale SoilLandscapes of Canada, to detailed soil survey and to other public-domain georeferenced databases.
Our PARC Quick-Start project has produced 1) a more thorough understanding of the conceptual and technical issues related to a rigorous and spatially-explicit evaluation of the impacts of climate change on soil landscapes, and 2) a practical framework for enabling this evaluation and the planning of adaptation to minimize the impacts of soil landscape sensitivity on agriculture, forestry and water quality. The concrete deliverable is the interactive map services available at the PARC web site (, where researchers and stakeholders can apply simple climate change scenarios to geo-referenced data, targeting sensitive soil landscapes.

Socio-Economic Vulnerability of Prairie Communities to Climate Change

Principle Investigator: Edward Cloutis

Co-Investigators: Anke Kirch, Jillian Golby, Grant Wiseman, Darcy Carter


Climate change is a phenomenon that is receiving increasing worldwide attention. While substantial research has been carried out on the potential effects of climate change in the Canadian Prairies at the regional, provincial, and individual farm levels, no studies have evaluated the socioeconomic impacts of these changes at the community level. In addition, despite the increase in media attention, many people at the community level are still uninformed and confused about the potential biophysical and socioeconomic impacts of climate change. The research presented in this report assessed the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture and forestry, and evaluated the detailed impacts on six rural municipalities in the Canadian prairies. The research project was designed as an evolutionary model, allowing for progressive improvements in functionality and sophistication. An initial model in the form of a software toolwas developed and established: the Socio-Economic Analysis (SEA) model. The model is designed to examine the socioeconomic impacts of climate change on agriculture and forestry in prairie communities and to aid these communities in determining the economic impacts of various adaptation strategies. It is flexible and interactive and can accommodate various standard or user-defined scenarios. The base data used in the SEA model includes biophysical data published by various authors, as well as economic and socioeconomic data from various government agencies. The output from various iterations of the SEA model shows that climate change impacts on agriculture mostly depend on the chosen scenario, while all forestry scenarios agree that grassland and other vegetation types will extent northwards, thereby reducing the amount of boreal forest in the three Prairie provinces.

The main output from this research is an easy-to-use, transparent software model with the capabilities to analyse and display climate change impacts for individual Prairie communities.The individual objectives achieved in this study included:
•Development of a Socio-Economic Analysis (SEA) software program which examines the economic impacts of climate change on agriculture and forestry in the three prairie provinces at the rural municipality level and provides guidance in terms of the economic impacts of various adaptation strategies;
•Extensive consultations with partner Prairie communities in order to identify their needs for a climate change tool, such as the Socio-Economic Analysis (SEA) model, and the development of an extensive network of community partners for further model development;
•A thorough review of existing vulnerability and climate change models;
•Identification of socioeconomic activities vulnerable to climate change;
•A determination of the most relevant and accessible socioeconomic measures for use in the SEA;
•Collection of existing data on biophysical vulnerability to climate change in the Canadian Prairies;
•Assembly of relevant socioeconomic data on a community level.
The modelling team hosted and attended workshops and meetings with RM representatives in order to identify the needs of the users. A literature review was carried out on the issues of climate change, vulnerability and adaptability with special regard to the Canadian Prairies. Socio-economic measures suitable for use in model development were reviewed. The review revealed that, geographically, agriculture and forestry were the most vulnerable activities in the Prairies. Published data on impacts of climate change on agriculture and forestry were collected into a database, as well as sector employment, which was the most readily accessible parameter to evaluate socioeconomic impacts. The biophysical and socioeconomic data was entered into Microsoft Excel and Access databases. The SEA model was designed based on the available data. The model completed to date is a core component that can be extended in the future. The next step will be to build other submodels, when the necessary funding is secured. The initial version of the model was developed for six test locations: in Manitoba the RMs of Stanley and Swan River; in Saskatchewan the RMs of Indian Head and North Battleford; and in Alberta the Counties of Stettler and Athabasca. The model was programmed using Visual Basic 6.0.

The Effects of Elevated CO2 and Temperature on Herbicide Efficacy and Weed/Crop Competition

Final Report Prepared for the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative

Daniel J. Archambault, Xiaomei Li, Darren Robinson, John T. O’Donovan, Kurt K. Klein


The dynamics of competition between crops and weeds are affected by environmental conditions, and have been shown to change with CO2 enrichment. Differential responses of C3 and C4 plants to elevated CO2 and temperature may cause shifts in their competitive interactions. There is a need to evaluate the effects of elevated CO2 and temperature on crop/weed competition and herbicide efficacy to develop strategies for agriculture in the face of climate change. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of elevated CO2 and temperature on the efficacy of commonly used herbicides and on crop/weed competition. Specifically, the objectives were to:

  1. determine the effects of elevated CO2 on the efficacy of herbicides in controlling wild oats, Canada thistle, redroot pigweed, green foxtail, lambsquarters, kochia and common groundsel,
  2. study herbicide efficacy at ambient and elevated CO2 levels on wild oats and green foxtail grown in competition with barley,
  3. develop a CO2 dose response curve that will be used to establish a timeline of change in herbicide efficacy by taking into account current rates of change in atmospheric CO2,
  4. study the interactive effects of elevated CO2 and temperature on herbicide efficacy in wild oats,
  5. conduct an economic analysis to provide preliminary monetary values of the effectsof elevated CO2 and temperature on weed/crop competition and herbicide efficacy.

We screened several herbicide/weed combinations and selected crops for effects of elevated CO2 using both greenhouse-based and growth-chamber based gas exposure systems. We found that responses of weeds and crops to increasing CO2 levels were species-specific. Herbicide efficacy can be negatively affected by elevated CO2 and effects were dependent on the mode of action of herbicides, on weed species and on competition. While double-ambient CO2 caused a decrease of 57% in efficacy of the herbicide Fusion applied to wild oats (C3), no effects of elevated CO2 were found when the herbicide was applied to green foxtail (C4). CO2-related reduction in efficacy of Round-up Transorb applied to Canada thistle was reversed when weeds were grown in competition with canola. Dose response experiments showed that efficacy of certain herbicides could be adversely affected at CO2 levels approximately 160 ppm above ambient. Based on these findings, an experiment was designed to study CO2/temperature interactions on growth of wild oats and herbicide efficacy using either ambient levels of CO2 or ambient + 160 ppm and daytime temperature of either 23,26 or 29oC. Daytime temperatures above 23oC decreased growth both in control and herbicide-treated plants. Increasing daytime temperature from 23 to 29oC caused decreased efficacy in the herbicides Fusion and Liberty but not in Assert 300. Decreases in efficacy were greatest at ambient CO2 for Fusion and greatest at ambient + 160 ppm CO2 in Liberty. While analysis of variance did not detect a significant interaction between CO2 and temperature, both elevated CO2 and temperature caused decreased efficacy of the herbicide Liberty on wild oats.

The economic analysis performed using plant growth and herbicide efficacy changes suggested that potential monetary losses due to CO2-induced decreases in herbicide efficacy can be partially or totally overcome by increases in crop yields caused by elevated CO2. Nonetheless,the results also suggest that weed control will be crucial in realizing potential increases in economic yield of crops as atmospheric CO2 concentrations increase. Since yields were not measured directly in this study, several assumptions were made to estimate the expected changes in yields that may occur as a result of the changes in CO2 levels and herbicide efficacies. The changes in biomass caused by increased levels of CO2 were translated into expected changes in yields using three different case scenarios. Case one assumed that yield increases were directly proportional to the biomass increases that occurred. Case two assumed that the increases in yields were half of the increase in biomass. Case three assumed that yields did not increase as biomass levels increased. Further studies on the effects of elevated CO2 and temperature on crop yields and herbicide efficacy are required to diminish the uncertainties in the economic analysis. If effects of climate change on crop/weed competition and herbicide efficacy are common, they will have a significant impact on agriculture.

It was concluded that:

  1. The efficacy of herbicides either decreased, increased or did not change when herbicides were applied to weeds grown at elevated CO2.
  2. Effects of elevated CO2 on herbicide efficacy may change when weeds are grown in competition with crops.
  3. Herbicide efficacy changes were only found to occur at 160 ppm above ambient levels of CO2. According to the current rate of change in atmospheric concentrations of CO2, this corresponds  to approximately 50 years from present.
  4. Elevated temperature tended to decrease herbicide efficacy and the effects of temperature and CO2 can be additive.
  5. The economic analysis performed using plant growth and herbicide efficacy changes suggest that potential monetary losses due to decreased herbicide efficacy can be partially or totally overcome by increases in crop yields caused by elevated CO2. Nonetheless, the results also suggest that weed control will be crucial in realizing potential increases in economic yield of crops as atmospheric CO2 concentrations increase.
  6.  In this study, most of the data used to produce the economic analysis were extrapolations from short-term screening experiments and several assumptions needed to be made. Further             studies on the effects of elevated CO2 and temperature on crop yields and herbicide efficacy are required to diminish the uncertainties in the economic analysis.

Climate Change and an Ecosystem – Resource Adaptation Approach for Vulnerable Lakes in the Boreal Plain Ecozone

G. E. Melville


All major climate-change agenda efforts in recent years echo the need for more empirical scientific information about climate change and adaptation to freshwater ecosystem impacts. The adaptation research undertaken in this study begins the process of providing answers to the general question posed by resource managers and other stakeholders, “What options can we choose from to ensure the sustainability of the aquatic resources under our stewardship?” More specifically, the research results in a systematic methodological framework which resource managers could build on to determine adaptation options for specific lake types, as well as examples with respect to such options.

Research concentrates on the numerous larger lakes in the Boreal Plain which, although they are not necessarily “cold” lakes, tend towards the “cold” end of the temperature spectrum. The biophysical components of these lakes are highly vulnerable and, unlike some of the smallest lakes, which could simply disappear if climate change impacts were extreme, many of the biophysical elements of these lakes would probably continue to exist. The research in this study addresses resources in relation to climate change and adaptation at three levels of ecological organization. The three are lake habitat, intermediate levels in food webs, primarily small-bodied fish species, and large-bodied fish species.

This study focuses primarily on two large-bodied cold-water species, lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) and lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), both salmonids. All analyses begin under the umbrella of climate-related total allowable catch, or TAC, probably the most direct, integrative, management tool. Yield calculations per se have been based on relatively simple empirical models, in which fishery yields are related to summer thermal habitats.

Two lakes were selected for inclusion, Lake Winnipeg and Kingsmere Lake, Prince Albert National Park, as examples of a large but relatively shallow water body and a relatively deep system respectively. Lake Winnipeg deserves special attention simply because it is one of the world’s great lakes. Kingsmere Lake provides one of the few examples of a cold, dilute system for which one can investigate process and pattern, in an integrated manner, across a range of trophic or food web levels.

This study offers resource managers the only set of empirical harvesting models for cold freshwater fish which will conserve population structure in the target populations. These models are based on climate-related habitat features. These models substantially improve the precision of previous efforts; more importantly however, they add accuracy through the incorporation of conservation considerations. Continued use of any previous empirical models will ultimately have disastrous effects on all freshwater fisheries, if they haven’t already. The new climate-based TAC models are highly predictive for most lakes, but analyses indicate the model for lake trout may be inadequate for lakes <1000 km2 in surface area. More work is needed in the development of the lake whitefish TAC for all lakes, regardless of size, since sustained yields may yet be overestimated by the model developed in this study. As a great lake, we need to know far more about all aspects of Lake Winnipeg to manage it properly, regardless of the issue or context.

It is probable that we can best adapt to climate change through proper management of our remaining fish stocks. Additional management adaptation requirements include the development  of adequate fishery monitoring programs, few of which exist in the Boreal Plains Ecozone. In the short term, management agencies across the Boreal Plain Ecozone should implement a moratorium on lake trout fishing; this is the only real hope for the lake trout of the ecozone. The management agencies should also implement a comprehensive in-depth assessment of the state of surviving lake trout populations. Lake trout in the Boreal Plain are in a similar situation to that of large carnivores in the Rocky Mountains, where the fate of the “last of the last, not the last of the best” (c.f. P. Paquet) is at stake.

Forest Ecosystem Vulnerability to Climate: An Assessment of the Western Canadian Boreal Forest

M. Johnston, E. Wheaton, S. Kulshreshtha, V. Wittrock, J. Thorpe


The Canadian Boreal Forest is a mainstay of the Canadian economy, and it has immense social, environmental and intrinsic importance. Canada depends on the boreal forest for many essential products and services including forest products, wildlife habitat, recreation, research, and educational opportunities, and spiritual values. Forestry is an important primary goods-producing industry in the Prairie Provinces. Many of the communities and businesses in the north depend heavily on forest related activities. As the boreal forest is altered by climate change, these values will be compromised in important ways. Climate change is expected to affect boreal forests to a greater degree than other forest types because of its northern location and because boreal forests are more sensitive to temperature.

Currently available information on climate change impacts is presented at global or regional scales and does not provide adequate information for forest and other resource managers to make decisions on changing their management to adapt. Overall objectives of this project are to collect and synthesize information on climate change impacts on western Canada’s boreal forest, and to present the information at spatial and temporal scales meaningful to forest management and planning. Specific objectives of this project are: 1) targeted literature review; 2) conceptual model; 3) sensitivity analyses of landscapes; 4) modelling approaches; 5) adaptation option identification; and 6) communication of results.

The Canada Country Study forest literature review by Wheaton (1997) was updated in several main topic areas including moisture and other climate variables, fire, insects, diseases, and economics. Interactions, knowledge gaps, adaptation options were discussed, and recommendations were developed. A very substantial gap in current boreal forest impacts, adaptations, and vulnerability work is that findings have not been drawn together in any comprehensive way. This is a serious obstacle to determining the vulnerability of the boreal forest and of those communities that rely on the forest. A conceptual model to accomplish this integration is essential and the foundation to further modelling (Figure 1).

We developed and presented a preliminary integrated conceptual model based on the findings from the literature review, meetings, workshops, and an assessment of existing models of various types.The conceptual model highlighted and synthesized the impact of climate change on forest fire frequency and severity; moisture stress and productivity; and forest insect pest outbreaks. Also included is the recognition that climate-induced impacts will occur in association with other land use activities such as timber harvesting, mining development and road construction. These must also be taken into account when assessing the ecological and socio-economic impacts of climate change. Conceptual models were also created to advance research on the effect of climate change on the output of the forest sector and to estimate the economic impacts of climate change on the forest sector. A limitation to this entire work was the lack of published impacts and adaptations papers for this area and subject. This lack is being partly addressed, as additional work done for the Government of Canada’s Climate Change Action Fund and for the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC) is being completed. However, socio-economic aspects, for example, may still be neglected.