Impacts of 10 years of climate warming on forests and peatlands in the Dehcho

Regions: Dehcho Region, South Slave Region

Tags: physical sciences, permafrost, climate change, forestry, peatlands

Principal Investigator: Errington, Ruth (1)
Licence Number: 16337
Organization: Canadian Forest Service
Licenced Year(s): 2018
Issued: Jun 28, 2018
Project Team: Dr. Jagtar Bhatti (Co-Principal Investigator, Canadian Forest Service), Dr. Jakub Olesinski (Collaborator, Government of the Northwest Territories), Ms. Edith Li (Collaborator/ Co-field lead, Canadian Forest Service / University of British Columbia), Mr. Jason Edwards (Collaborator, Canadian Forest Service), summer student #1 (Field Technician, Canadian Forest Service), summer student #2 (Field Technician, Canadian Forest Service or University of British Columbia), Mr. Steve Gooderham (Collaborator, Government of the Northwest Territories), Dr. Lori Daniels (Collaborator, University of British Columbia)

Objective(s): To re-measure a series of permanent monitoring plots to identify any changes to the forest stand structure, tree growth rates, plant community composition, tree, shrub, herb, and lichen biomass.

Project Description: After 10 years of warming climate conditions, the Canadian Fire Service is leading a field project to re-measure a series of permanent monitoring plots to identify any changes to the forest stand structure, tree growth rates, plant community composition, tree, shrub, herb, and lichen biomass. These changes will be associated with climate trends and environmental factors such as soil type, presence of near-surface permafrost and depth to this permafrost.

In July and August of 2018, 33 plots will be revisited in the Dehcho region of the NWT. Plot corners and sub-plots will be relocated (and replaced if marking stakes are missing after 10 years) and all vegetation measurements will be conducted as in 2008. Within each 20 x 20 m plot, trees will be identified by species, categorized as dead or alive and measurements of height and diameter recorded. In eight 1 x 1 m subplots within the larger 20 x 20 m plot area, understory plant communities will be surveyed with percent cover recorded for all species. Depth of the lichen layer will be recorded at 16 points within each vegetation subplot which, along with the percent cover, will be used to estimate lichen biomass from relationships developed in 2008. Outside of the 20 x 20 m plot boundary, samples of understory vegetation will collected from three 50 x 50 cm subplots. These samples will be transported to the Northern Forestry Centre (NoFC) in Edmonton where they will be dried and sorted into species groups to determine the herb and shrub biomass for each plot. Soil samples will also be collected from upland forest plots and measurements of organic soil depth and depth to near-surface permafrost conducted at 13 locations per plot using a long metal rod. Core or disk samples will also be collected from 10 to 20 trees outside each treed plot. The tree samples will be transported back to the NoFC or to the University of British Columbia where they will be analyzed to determine the tree ages and growth rates over time.

The research team will supply posters explaining the goals and general methods of the project for posting in community offices / libraries etc. There may be opportunities for the field crew to give presentations in local communities. Direct collaboration with the Government of the Northwest Territories Forest Management Division (GNWT-FMD) will allow foresters from the Dehcho regional office and from the Hay River office to be directly involved with researchers and the research program. Researchers and students will have an increased understanding of the relevance of their work to the local communities.

For public outreach, the research team will produce a series of small posters describing the study for distribution to local schools and community groups. In the short- to medium-term, a plain language summary, updating success of the field program and preliminary results will be provided to regional GNWT offices, as well as community groups. In the longer term, final results will be disseminated through technical journal papers, a M.Sc. thesis, as well as presentations to GNWT-FMD employees. Highlights of research findings will be communicated to northern communities through the collaboration with the GNWT and through direct presentations and workshops with community groups as opportunities arise.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 1, 2018 to August 23, 2018.