Satellite Monitoring for Assessing Resource Development’s Impact on Bathurst Caribou (SMART)
Principal Investigator: Chen, Wenjun (5)
Licence Number: 15750
Organization: Canada Centre for Remote Sening
Licenced Year(s): 2015
Issued: Aug 28, 2015
Project Team: Jan Adamczewski (advise on investigation question, communication and outreach, use the monitoring methods and results for Bathurst Range Planning process and cumulative impact assessments, Environment and Natural Resources, GNWT), Bruno Croft (advise on investigation question, communication and outreach, use the monitoring methods and results for Bathurst Range Planning process and cumulative impact assessments, Environment and Natural Resources, GNWT), Greg Sharam (assist on field work along gradients from the Ekati-Diavik mining sites, ERM-Rescan Environmental Services Ltd.), Sjoerd van der Wielen (advise on TK for understanding the mechanisms for the zone of influence of mining operations , Tlicho Government), Jody Snortland Pellissey (advise on investigation question, communication and outreach, use the monitoring methods and results for Bathurst Range Planning process and cumulative impact assessments, Wek'èezhìi Renewable Resources Board), Sylvain Leblanc (field survey, foliage biomass and phenology monitoring, caribou movement and distribution and modeling, CCRS, NRCan)

Objective(s): To improve the understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the zone of influence (ZOI) from resource development disturbed areas in the Bathurst caribou habitat, and their relationships with caribou habitat use and productivity, by integrating traditional knowledge, field surveys, and remote sensing technology.

Project Description: We have two specific objectives over the next three years:
1) to improve the understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the zone of influence (ZOI) from resource development disturbed areas in the Bathurst caribou habitat, and their relationships with caribou habitat use and productivity, by integrating traditional knowledge, field surveys, and remote sensing technology; and,
2) to investigate the relationships between food availability gradients and caribou movement over the Bathurst caribou summer range using remotely sensed leaf biomass time series and GPS data of satellite collared cows, so that caribou occurrence within and outside of the ZOI can be better quantified using stochastic distribution models parameterized using these relationships.

During the last three years, the current Northwest Territories (NWT) Cumulative Impacts Monitoring project (CIMP) team has developed and refined remote sensing methods for mapping and monitoring vegetation growth and phenology over the arctic. The research team also produced a series of habitat indicators for quantifying forage availability, quality and accessibility over the Bathurst caribou range. More importantly for the first time in the world, the research team established a significant relationship between the summer range conditions and caribou productivity at the population level. This relationship could potentially serve as a basis to address the second need.

In 2015, the research team propose to conduct field survey on changes of environmental factors that could potentially affect caribou (e.g., what caribou can see (mine visibility, fogginess), hear (noise), and taste (dust accumulated on forage, vegetation composition, and leaf biomass), and/or smell (soil PH)), at various distances from the Ekati mining operation. At each distance location, 5 to 20 plots will be selected. At each of the 0.5 m by 0.5 m plot, GPS position, mining operation visibility, vegetation species composition, and the mean height and percentage cover of each vascular plant species will be recorded. Down-looking digital photos (visible, near-infrared, and hyperspectral) will be taken in order to better link field measurements to satellite remote sensing imagery. Sample of shrub leaves, grass leaves, and lichen will be collected in a sealed bag for measuring the amount of dust on vegetation (shrub and grass leaves for dust in current year and lichen for multiple years). A known amount of leaves (or lichen) will be washed in water and the dust amount in the washed water will be measured using a turbidity meter. The noise level will be recorded by the Svantkh SVAN 977 Sound and Vibration Meter and Analyzer, while soil PH will be measured using a Soil pH and Conductivity Meter (i.e., HACK H135 Advanced Compact WaterPR by Cole-Parmer Canada). This will serve as a partial fulfillment to the aforementioned baseline information, with deliverable including:
•dataset of disturbed areas by resource development within Bathurst caribou habitat since 1985 using Landsat time series and related GIS information; and,
•initial field measurement data of vegetation composition, leaf biomass, soil PH, noise level, dust accumulation on forage, and visibility at locations of various distance from the Ekati-Diavik mining areas.

Involving in field survey on gradients of factors related to caribou’s responses to mining operations (e.g., mine visibility, vegetation composition, and leaf biomass, noise, dust accumulated on forage, soil PH).

A summary report on traditional knowledge on how caribou responded to human activities will be presented to communities through Tlicho Government. Results of the field survey on environmental changes caused by the Ekati-Diavik mining operations inside of the Bathurst caribou range will be presented to all NWT decision makers (Environment and Natural Resources, Government of Northwest Territories, Wek'èezhìi Renewable Resources Board, and Tlicho government). Methods and results about the mechanisms of zone of influence, and probability functions of caribou daily movement direction and speed, as well as caribou distribution maps will be communicated to all NWT decision makers, as well as other users such as CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment Network and EIM-Rescan Environmental Services Ltd. Team members will present monitoring results at meetings organized by CIMP, Government of Northwest Territories, Wek'èezhìi Renewable Resources Board, and CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment Network. An annual project report and final project report to CIMP and NWT Discovery Portal

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