Long-term ecological and geomorphological investigations in the alpine tundra of the Mackenzie Mountains, NWT

Regions: Sahtu Settlement Area

Tags: physical sciences, permafrost, climate change, permafrost degradation

Principal Investigator: Kershaw, G. Peter (38)
Licence Number: 14222
Organization: University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2016 2015 2014 2012 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003
Issued: Aug 01, 2007
Project Team: Jeff Suter (Graduate Student, University of Alberta), Steve Mamet (Graduate Student, University of Alberta), Aaliya Adam (Undergraduate field assistant, University of Alberta)

Objective(s): Permafrost landforms are shrinking in response to climate warming. The researchers want to measure the amount of change each year and the temperature of the permafrost year-round. In addition they want to measure the rate of plant recovery on disturbed areas resulting form the CANOL Project (1942-45).

Project Description: Permafrost landforms are shrinking in response to climate warming. The researchers want to measure the amount of change each year and the temperature of the permafrost year-round. In addition they want to measure the rate of plant recovery on disturbed areas resulting form the CANOL Project (1942-45).

The main study objectives are to: 1. determine the status of permafrost landforms in the study area, and 2. determine long-term recovery after abandonment of the CANOL No. 1 project. Both these objectives are part of long-term studies in the area that were initiated in 1974. Intensive investigations were carried out in 1974, 1977-82 and since 1990. With climate change potentially resulting in warming in the north it is important to know the current condition of permafrost landforms. Since 1990, automated microclimate stations have been operated in the study area. Since 1945 disturbances have been affected by natural processes of revegetation and studies have been underway since 1977 to determine the nature of these processes.

Access to the study area during the summer is via the Yukon along the Canol Road through Macmillan Pass. Beyond the base camp, four-wheel drive vehicles, mountain bikes and foot will be the means of transport. Automated microclimate stations powered by solar energy cells operate year-round. The base at Camp 222 includes solar cells to power laptop computers. The field season will be in late July, or early August, to late August. Limited soil sampling and permafrost coring will be conducted and a small amount (<25 kg) could be returned to University of Alberta for analysis. Ground-penetrating radar will be used to map distribution of permafrost in several permafrost landforms. Tree and shrub samples will be retrieved for aging and climate interpretation purposes.

This project has been in a monitoring mode with no published material since 2003. Dr. Kershaw did participate in a community symposium in Yellowknife, gave a CBC radio interview, and presented a public lecture in early March 2006.
Fieldwork will be conducted from August 01 to August 31, 2007 within 5 km of the Canol Heritage Trail, extending from Macmillan Pass (Yukon border) to Caribou Pass.