Transitioning of permafrost to wetland and implications for biomass gains and losses

Regions: Dehcho Region, North Slave Region, South Slave Region

Tags: physical sciences, permafrost, vegetation, remote sensing, wildfire, wetlands, LiDAR survey

Principal Investigator: Chasmer, Laura E (1)
Licence Number: 16602
Organization: University of Lethbridge
Licensed Year(s): 2019
Issued: Jul 29, 2019
Project Team: Laura Chasmer, Chris Hopkinson, William Quinton, Linda Flade, Dustin Brooks, Emily Jones, Rachelle Shearing, Jesse Aspinall

Objective(s): To determine spatial variations in post-fire vegetation growth and better understand trends in satellite remote sensing data over broad regions.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.4527.

The objectives are to:
1) Compare the distribution of tree and shrub biomass within accessible areas in the Taiga Shield and Taiga Plains landscapes using lidar remote sensing, and by developing tree and shrub vegetation biomass models from field data;
2) Characterize and compare non fire-disturbed patterns of vegetation succession and changes in biomass per land cover type (forested uplands, permafrost plateaus, bogs, fens, and the transition zones between) using time series airborne lidar data;
3) Determine spatial variations in post-fire vegetation growth using across a chronosequence of wildfires of varying ages (since fire) and within different land cover types using lidar and field data;
4) Use lidar time series and biomass measurements to better understand trends in satellite remote sensing data over broad regions.

The research activities will involve ground plot measurements of vegetation and some destructive harvesting of shrubs. To do the plot measurements, the research team will locate sites of interest, both within undisturbed and fire-burned areas within a hundred meters from highways (and away from publicly owned properties) so that sites are easily accessible. At each site the team will install a temporary forest mensuration plot. Within each forest mensuration plot, tree height, stem diameter, foliage cover, and density will be measured, and dominant and subdominant species will be classified. The plot will be located using survey-grade GPS and located within the lidar data collected at the same time. In addition, a line of small plots originating from the centre of the forest plot will also be measured. These will be geographically located and will include elevation, vegetation height, cover, and species. Biomass samples will be collected from whole shrubs along the transect, such that enough shrubs can be harvested within specific height ranges for 5 dominant shrub species. Shrub species will be put into paper bags, labelled and brought back to the University of Lethbridge for weighing and drying.

The research team will provide community members with digital maps and images of the biomass surrounding their communities using the lidar data as well as the changes that are occurring. The team will also include a blog of our travels and field data collections.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 29, 2019 to August 31, 2019.