ALCES Based Project Reports

Year Title (Author, Description) File Download
2008

Towards Acceptable Change: A Thresholds Approach to Manage Cumulative Effects of Land Use Change in the Southern Foothills of Alberta

Peggy Holroyd; Univ. of Calgary Dissertation

In September 2005, a group of landowners, industry, environmental groups and local governments launched an ALCES project to assess the cumulative impact of future land use in southwest Alberta, called the Southern Foothills Study (SFS). The project was created in response to local concerns over the potential impact of growing land use development and the desire for a stakeholder-driven land use planning process. At the outset of the project, three components of environmental and socioeconomic value were identified by the SFS members: fescue grassland, grizzly bears, and water. This research builds upon the work of the SFS to look at how thresholds can be used to help manage the cumulative effects of land use activity on the valued ecosystem components. Candidate thresholds for the valued components were identified through a literature review and interviews with key informants. In a workshop with member of the SFS, the candidate thresholds were evaluated from a social perspective. Alternative scenarios of development were developed to explore the implications of setting thresholds on land use development and activity. Recommendations for thresholds-based management of cumulative effects are provided, considering regulatory and land management processes in Alberta.

Towards-Acceptable-Change.pdf
2008

Chief Mountain Study Executive Summary

Silvatech Consulting

Background The Chief Mountain Study (CMS) is a grassroots driven study directed by a multistakeholder, consensus-based working group that includes government, industry, First Nations, landowners, NGO’s and Parks Canada. The study arose from local concern about land-use trends and their associated long-term impacts on landscape level indicators such as groundwater stocks, surface water quality, grizzly bear, and native grasslands. The study area is located in the southwestern portion of Alberta including: Cardston County, the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, the Kainai and Piikani First Nations’ reserves and Waterton National Park. The area covers roughly 925,000 hectares (2.28 million acres) and is predominantly cultivated agriculture (43% of study area), native origin grasslands (30% of study area) and forests (18% of study area). Human footprint currently covers about 2% of the study area. • Key Findings of the Study Emerging Land use Trends • Growth in settlements and transportation networks represent significant threats to grassland integrity in the region. • Acreages are on track to surpass agricultural residences in area. • Wind turbines are becoming a significant land use. They have a relatively small footprint but a potentially high visual impact. • The area needed for recreational activities is increasing rapidly and is expected to surpass the energy sector footprint before 2057. • Hydrocarbon sector footprint growth is projected to be relatively low compared with other land uses. • Conventional oil, natural gas, and coal bed methane activity is projected to be substantially less than projected in the adjacent Southern Foothills Study. Emerging Environmental Trends • The amount of water held in shallow groundwater aquifers is declining. • Livestock and humans are primarily responsible for the continuing declines in surface water quality. • Native grassland integrity (area presence) is projected to decline. • Forest fragmentation is forecasted to increase. • Grizzly Bear populations are likely to decline. Study Description The purpose of the study was to assess the potential cumulative effects of land use and footprint growth within the study area if their current trends continue for the next 50 years. The ALCES computer simulation model was chosen to assist with projection, analysis and reporting of the changes brought about by natural ecological processes and human land-use. The CMS assessed 4 scenarios: a base case & 3 sensitivity scenarios. The base case scenario simulated the way things are occurring today to continue over the next 50 years and is intended to be used as a benchmark for comparing outcomes tested in other scenarios or sensitivities. Model projections into the future are never made with total certainty. Sensitivity analysis is an approach designed to help assess risk and uncertainty associated with model assumptions. This study included 3 sensitivity analyses; 2 were based on changing land use rates of development and 1 was based on assessing the risk associated with the range of estimates from the best available data about current groundwater aquifer volumes. Land Use Sectors Modelled The CMS modelled human-based activity including: energy & mining, forestry, agriculture & livestock, transportation, human settlements, general industry, and recreation. The CMS also modelled natural processes including fire and insect disturbance events. Model data was obtained from: the Southern Alberta Sustainability Strategy (Government of Alberta), Southern Foothills Study, Apache Canada Ltd., Shell Canada, Statistics Canada, Canadian Wind Energy Association, Hydrogeological Consultants Ltd., CMS stakeholder group, Forem Technologies and Silvatech Consulting Ltd.

Chief-Mountain-Study-Executive-Summary.pdf
2007

Seeking a Balance: Assessing the Future Impacts of Conservation and Development in the Mackenzie Watershed

Matt Carlson, Erin Bayne, Brad Stelfox; Canadian Boreal Initiative

This study explored how development of the Mackenzie watershed’s natural resources may transform the region over the next 100 years. Our intention was two-fold. First, at a general level, we sought to increase awareness of the Mackenzie watershed and how impending economic development may alter one of the world’s most intact ecosystems. Second, and more importantly, we evaluated the capacity of the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework to balance economic development with conservation of the watershed’s ecological integrity. To explore the future effects of development to the Mackenzie watershed, land-use simulations were conducted for the AlbertaPacific Forest Management Agreement area (Al-Pac FMA) in northeastern Alberta and a southern portion of the Dehcho Territory (southern Dehcho) in the Northwest Territories. The Al-Pac FMA is one of the most heavily developed portions of this watershed and contains a substantial portion of the Athabasca oil sands, which is the second largest oil deposit in the world. The southern Dehcho is rich in gas deposits but, unlike the Al-Pac FMA, development has been limited to date. Together, these two study areas provided an opportunity to assess and compare development impacts and conservation opportunities in areas where the allocation of natural resources to development is currently high (Al-Pac FMA) and low (southern Dehcho). The effects of development over a 100-year time frame were assessed using the ALCES computer model. ALCES simulated land use in each study area under two development scenarios. A business-as-usual scenario was simulated to explore the effects of expected resource development and conventional conservation strategies. A Boreal Forest Conservation Framework (Framework) scenario was also simulated to explore the effects of an increased conservation effort. In keeping with the Framework, the scenario consisted of increased levels of protection and strategies to mitigate disturbance from resource development. The conservation strategies implemented in the Framework scenario reflected those proposed by Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries and the Dehcho First Nations. In the Al-Pac FMA, the strategies were to increase the area protected from three percent to six percent of the study area, to maintain old forest in the managed landscape, and to minimize the area impacted by industrial disturbances. In the southern Dehcho, the strategies were to increase the area protected from zero to 48 percent of the study area and to minimize the area impacted by industrial disturbances. In both study areas, the business-as-usual scenario resulted in an increased density of linear disturbances and a decreased area of older productive softwood forest. Changes to the density of linear disturbances and area of older productive softwood forest often exceeded disturbance thresholds that have been proposed to protect against negative effects to wildlife, which suggested that business-as-usual development is not sustainable. The conservation strategies that formed the Framework scenario reduced landscape disturbance, often to within the boundaries of disturbance thresholds. In the southern Dehcho, the density of linear disturbances remained below the disturbance threshold and half of the study area was kept free from industrial disturbance. Decline in the area of older productive softwood forest was not avoided because non-productive forest dominated the protected areas, thus illustrating the importance of adequately protecting all forest types. In the Al-Pac FMA, application of the Framework scenario was able to avoid decline in the area of older productive softwood forest. The linear disturbance threshold was exceeded, however, demonstrating that it will be challenging to avoid negative ecological effects of development in the southern Mackenzie watershed. The ecological implications of simulated landscape transformations were evaluated in greater detail by assessing impacts to woodland caribou and bird populations. The assessment was completed using wildlife models based on data collected from northern Alberta. Five bird species were included: the blackthroated green warbler, bay-breasted warbler and Canada warbler, which are species associated with older forest; the ovenbird, which is a species associated with mature forest; and the white-throated sparrow, which is a species associated with younger forest and much more common than the others. Simulations of a business-as-usual scenario predicted that the woodland caribou population would decline in both study areas, indicating that the species is likely to be extirpated unless conservation strategies are improved. In the southern Dehcho, the simulation predicted a 21-percent decline in ovenbird and bay-breasted warbler populations and a 32-percent decline in a

Seeking-a-Balance.pdf
2008

Chief Mountain Study - A Forecast of Land Use Cumulative Effects (presentation)

Barry Wilson and Mark Hudson, Silvatech Consulting

Background The Chief Mountain Study (CMS) is a grassroots driven study directed by a multistakeholder, consensus-based working group that includes government, industry, First Nations, landowners, NGO’s and Parks Canada. The study arose from local concern about land-use trends and their associated long-term impacts on landscape level indicators such as groundwater stocks, surface water quality, grizzly bear, and native grasslands. The study area is located in the southwestern portion of Alberta including: Cardston County, the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, the Kainai and Piikani First Nations’ reserves and Waterton National Park. The area covers roughly 925,000 hectares (2.28 million acres) and is predominantly cultivated agriculture (43% of study area), native origin grasslands (30% of study area) and forests (18% of study area). Human footprint currently covers about 2% of the study area. • Key Findings of the Study Emerging Land use Trends • Growth in settlements and transportation networks represent significant threats to grassland integrity in the region. • Acreages are on track to surpass agricultural residences in area. • Wind turbines are becoming a significant land use. They have a relatively small footprint but a potentially high visual impact. • The area needed for recreational activities is increasing rapidly and is expected to surpass the energy sector footprint before 2057. • Hydrocarbon sector footprint growth is projected to be relatively low compared with other land uses. • Conventional oil, natural gas, and coal bed methane activity is projected to be substantially less than projected in the adjacent Southern Foothills Study. Emerging Environmental Trends • The amount of water held in shallow groundwater aquifers is declining. • Livestock and humans are primarily responsible for the continuing declines in surface water quality. • Native grassland integrity (area presence) is projected to decline. • Forest fragmentation is forecasted to increase. • Grizzly Bear populations are likely to decline. Study Description The purpose of the study was to assess the potential cumulative effects of land use and footprint growth within the study area if their current trends continue for the next 50 years. The ALCES computer simulation model was chosen to assist with projection, analysis and reporting of the changes brought about by natural ecological processes and human land-use. The CMS assessed 4 scenarios: a base case & 3 sensitivity scenarios. The base case scenario simulated the way things are occurring today to continue over the next 50 years and is intended to be used as a benchmark for comparing outcomes tested in other scenarios or sensitivities. Model projections into the future are never made with total certainty. Sensitivity analysis is an approach designed to help assess risk and uncertainty associated with model assumptions. This study included 3 sensitivity analyses; 2 were based on changing land use rates of development and 1 was based on assessing the risk associated with the range of estimates from the best available data about current groundwater aquifer volumes. Land Use Sectors Modelled The CMS modelled human-based activity including: energy & mining, forestry, agriculture & livestock, transportation, human settlements, general industry, and recreation. The CMS also modelled natural processes including fire and insect disturbance events. Model data was obtained from: the Southern Alberta Sustainability Strategy (Government of Alberta), Southern Foothills Study, Apache Canada Ltd., Shell Canada, Statistics Canada, Canadian Wind Energy Association, Hydrogeological Consultants Ltd., CMS stakeholder group, Forem Technologies and Silvatech Consulting Ltd.

Chief-Mountain-Study-Final-Results-Presentation.pdf
2009

Valuation of water quantity for the Bow River Basin

Jonathan Holmes

An approach, and computation of estimating water quantity for the Bow River Basin in Alberta

Jonathan-Holmes-WATER-QUANTITY.docx
2009

Estimating the cost of water quality for the Bow River Basin in Alberta

Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan Holmes offer thoughts on approaches for computing water quality.

Jonathan-Holmes-WATER-QUALITY.docx
2004

Southern Alberta Landscapes: Meeting the Challenges Ahead - Input-Output Model

Suren Kulshreshtha and Russell Consulting

GoA Report on Economic Input Output Model involving ALCES

Input-Output-Economic-Models-for-Southern-Alberta-Landscapes.pdf
2007

The Changing Landscape of the Southern Alberta Foothills

Southern Alberta Land Trust and Brad Stelfox

Report of the Southern Foothills Study Business as Usual Scenario and Public Survey

Southern-Foothills-Study-Phase-1-and-2.pdf
2008

State of Baptiste Lake Watershed

Matt Carlson, ALCES Group - for the Baptiste Lake Watershed Stewardship Group

In response to concerns regarding the health of lakes in the region, summer villages at Baptiste, Island and Skeleton Lakes have formed the Baptiste, Island, and Skeleton Lakes Watershed Management and Lake Stewardship Council (BISL). BISL's vision for Baptiste Lake is to "maintain a healthy lake and watershed, recognizing the importance of living within the capacity of the natural environment and providing sustainable recreational, residential, agricultural, and industrial benefits". The State of the Watershed report contributes to achieving the vision by describing the current condition of the Baptiste Lake and its watershed, and assessing potential strategies to improve the health of the lake and watershed.

State-of-Baptiste-Lake-Watershed-report-2008.pdf
2009

Cumulative Effects Assessment of the North Saskatchewan River Watershed using ALCES

Dr. Michael Sullivan, ALCES Group - for the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance

The North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance (NSWA) was designated in 2005 as the Watershed Planning and Advisory Council (WPAC) for the North Saskatchewan River basin, under Water for Life: Alberta's Strategy for Sustainability. Part of its mandate as a WPAC is to prepare an Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP) for the North Saskatchewan River Basin (NSRB). This plan will include advice to the government of Alberta regarding the watershed values and trade-offs that are acceptable to a broad spectrum of stakeholders. As part of their work towards the IWMP, the NSWA desired to gain a better understanding of long-term, cumulative impacts of development on the watershed, and to highlight potential conflicts between development and sustainability. The NSWA engaged the ALCES® Group to undertake a high-level, strategic and exploratory cumulative effects modeling for the NSRB. Specifically, the NSWA-ALCES® cumulative effects assessment project is intended to simulate the effects of major land uses in the watershed (agriculture, forestry, urban, and petrochemical industry) on specific watershed “values” (i.e., biodiversity, landscape integrity, water quality, and water quantity) over a 100 year time span.

Cumulative-Effects-of-Land-Uses-in-the-North-Saskatchewan-River-Watershessd.pdf
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