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

Regions: Sahtu Settlement Area

Tags: physical sciences, ground temperature, permafrost, treeline

Principal Investigator: Mamet, Steve D (3)
Licence Number: 15744
Organization: University of Saskatchewan
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2016 2015 2014 2012 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003
Issued: Aug 19, 2015
Project Team: Geoff Kershaw (Field assistant, Fort Nelson First Nation Lands Department)

Objective(s): To determine the long-term recovery of permafrost landforms after abandonment of the CANOL No. 1 project, including oil spills and gravel pits; and to determine the status of treeline.

Project Description: Objectives of this research project are to determine: 1) the status of permafrost landforms; 2) long-term recovery after abandonment of the CANOL No. 1 project, including oil spills and gravel pits; and, 3) the status of the treeline.

Since 1990, automated microclimate stations powered by solar cells have been operated in the study area. One station is located at each of five permafrost landforms called palsas (low peat covered mounds with permafrost cores). The stations keep a record of permafrost and near-surface temperatures. Depth of thaw is measured at several hundred permanent probing sites using a metal probe to penetrate through the thawed soil to the permafrost table.

Oil spills and gravel pits have been naturally recovering since the early 1940’s. Plant species and their characteristics on these disturbances have been monitored since the late 1970’s.

Tree cores are taken to determine the age of trees and to reconstruct past climate. Surveys are conducted to locate and measure seedlings to assess whether new trees are growing.

During the research team’s time there, the group receives lessons from local elders on the natural history and heritage of the area, as an exchange for presentations on the results of the monitoring of revegetation and treeline change during the last several decades.

Oral presentations of project results will be given to local and ephemeral residents, and tourists at Dechen la' Lodge. Academic publications will be prepared from the data collected on this project. An annual report will be prepared for both the Earthwatch Institute and the Garfield-Weston foundation.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 20, 2015 to December 31, 2015.