Landscape scale flooding in the Great Slave Lake Plain

Regions: Dehcho Region, North Slave Region

Tags: physical sciences, habitat loss, landscape disturbance, flooding, environmental change

Principal Investigator: Armstrong, Terry (8)
Licence Number: 14964
Organization: Envronment and Natural Resources, GNWT
Licenced Year(s): 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Issued: Sep 08, 2011
Project Team: Dr. Steve Kokelj (Investigator, AAND), Dr. Michael Pisaric (Investigator, Carleton University), Mr. Wayne Condon (Investigator, ARI/Aurora College)

Objective(s): To examine change in lake area in this ecoregion; to quantify the type and amount of habitat loss or modification; to investigate whether recent changes are part of a longer-term cycle and evaluate the causes of this change; and to document and integrate local and traditional knowledge of physical and biological habitat changes to land use and wildlife populations.

Project Description: The objectives in 2011 are to draw together multiple sources of information to: (1) examine change in lake area in this ecoregion, (2) quantify the type and amount of habitat loss or modification, (3) investigate whether recent changes are part of a longer-term cycle and evaluate the causes of this change, (4) determine a way to document and integrate local and traditional knowledge of physical and biological habitat changes to land use and wildlife populations.

Objective 1 will be accomplished by examining historical Landsat satellite imagery from 1972 to the present and digitizing historical aerial photographs from the 1950’s to the 1970’s, then calculating changes in lake area from those data. Objective 2 will be accomplished by an analysis of current Landsat imagery to determine habitat changes over time. Objective 3 will be accomplished by first examining existing climate records from the region. These records will provide a snapshot of how climate has changed over the past 50 years or so. Tree cores will be collected from spruce/larch/jack pine trees in this region. The researchers intend to locate and sample trees at least 100 years old and perhaps as much as 200 years. The growth of the trees will be compared to climate data from the region to determine a potential climatic control on tree growth (e.g., early summer precipitation as found in the Yellowknife region). After determining the climatic controls, those relations will be used to reconstruct the climatic parameter back in time allowing for the placement of recent climate trends in a much longer perspective. It will also allow the opportunity to examine the data for long-term trends and possible cycles related to climate in this region that could be driving some of the observed water level changes. Tree coring will take place over a 10 day period in the summer of 2011. For objective 4, in 2011-2012 the research team will work with the Fort Providence Resource Management Board to scope the potential for a traditional knowledge study where the community would gather local knowledge documenting previous water level fluctuations and their impacts on wildlife. If there is scope and desire for a TK study in the community, a proposal will be developed for 2012- 2013.

Advice and input on the project will be sought from the Fort Providence Resource Management Board. The board will direct access to local and traditional knowledge and can recommend a local resident to be hired to guide and assist with field sampling. ENR will lead this year's study but there is potential for this work to stimulate a longer-term environmental monitoring project which could be led by the community.

A brief, plain language report on work done in 2011 will be sent to the Fort Providence Resource Management Board, as was done following preliminary work in 2010. The researchers will also make a presentation to the community to share findings, including maps showing the results of objectives 1 and 2, and preliminary data from objective 3. Maps are key focal points and will help facilitate discussion within the community. The researchers anticipate one or more peer-reviewed publications will result from this study.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from September 7, 2011 to October 31, 2011.