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, Steven D (2)
Licence Number: 16524
Organization: University of Saskatchewan
Licenced Year(s): 2019
Issued: Mar 29, 2019
Project Team: Geoff Kershaw (PhD student, Wilfrid Laurier University)

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

Sampling protocols for permafrost include thaw depth probing, automated monitoring stations
The research team will be examining the permafrost by thaw depth probing and automated monitoring stations. Tree core samples will be collected using increment borer, height and diameter measurements will be noted. Viable local seeds will be planted in experimental plots, germination and survival censuses will be conducted each year.
Shrubs/dwarf vegetation samples will be collected using a slack hammer soil sampler. All sampling protocols are non-destructive, except where soil samples are taken. This leave a roughly 10 cm diameter hole where the team have collected the ground vegetation and roots, and a ~20 cm long soil plug.

Traditional knowledge (TK) is crucial in any study of northern environments. The research team is eager to incorporate northern-based community members into the research efforts. The team are particularly interested in research assistants and/or students, so that may maximize the knowledge exchange. The team envision recruiting one field assistant from with ties to Sahtu lands to assist with field data collection (including permafrost probing and seedling surveys). This experience will build field and technical skills for the research assistant. Moreover, the meteorological dataset (air, ground surface, and permafrost temperatures) from 1990 to present, represents the only dataset of its kind along the Canol Heritage Trail in the Tulita District of the Sahtu Settlement area of the Selwyn-Mackenzie Mountains. This dataset would be an asset to any government, community, or university-led study that involves quantification of wildlife populations (e.g., caribou, grizzlies, raptor (e.g., Gyrfalcon) and related prey (ptarmigan)).

During the tenure at Dechen la' Lodge in August, oral presentations of project results will be given to local and ephemeral residents, and tourists. Academic publications will be prepared from the data collected on this project. An annual report will be prepared for the Earthwatch Institute and the Aurora Research Institute. The PI would also circulate any publications, reports, and photos from this work to the Norman Wells Renewable Resource Council, Sahtu Renewable Resources Board, Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated, Tulita District Land Corporation Limited, the Tulita Renewable Resources Council, and via social media. This would be a means to disseminate the results of this work to a wide audience, though the PI welcomes suggestions from community members as to how to better spread the knowledge gained from this work.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 16, 2019 to August 26, 2019.