Wednesday, February 17

 3:30pm - 5:00pm

Planning for Change – Tools and Models for Conservation Planning

Changing landscapes, climates and ecosystems: Taking stock & building strategies to promote resilient ecosystems.

Venue: Multipurpose

Moderator: Claudia Haas M.Sc - Conservation Areas Biologist, Government of the Northwest Territories

Wednesday, February 17, 3:30 - 4:00

A comprehensive framework for sustainable land-use in large dynamic systems

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Northern regions of Canada are globally significant, supporting naturally-functioning ecosystems with a full complement of native biota and human cultures with deep links to the lands and waters. These areas are also experiencing significant land-use pressures, and are already showing effects of climate change.  Conventional planning and management paradigms reflect a history that includes extensive alteration of socio-ecological systems and related processes often include a constrained set of options that are reactive to existing conflicts and crises.  Such situations reinforce the mistaken impression that conservation is a cost to resource development, rather than a fundamental component of sustainability.  Planning proactively for true sustainability requires a precautionary approach that acknowledges the uncertainty in management decisions, and seeks to maintain or enhance resilience at broad spatial scales.   These are critical considerations as northern regions face unprecedented challenges, but also incredible opportunities. We advance a conceptual and analytical framework for large, dynamic landscapes that exploits the strengths of conservation planning and adaptive resource management through a systems approach to environmental and socio-cultural sustainability.  Related land-use planning involves identification of ecological benchmarks in combination with active management regimes and a robust monitoring program that systematically enhances learning and reduces management uncertainty.  The framework promotes innovative management based on shared stewardship.  This approach offers potential to maintain the full range of natural and cultural values that boreal regions currently support, while realizing desirable economic opportunities.   We provide examples of application of this framework across boreal regions of Canada and Alaska.

Co-author (won't be speaking): Fiona Schmiegelow – Professor and Director of Northern Sciences Program, University of Alberta

Wednesday, February 17, 4:00 - 4:30

Priority Areas for Conservation in Yukon’s Boreal Mountains

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Yukon’s Boreal Mountains (Cordillera) has not been significantly transformed by human activity, however continued growth in population and resource development is inevitable. Currently, only 11% is protected with the majority in high-elevation mountains of the southwest. I identified areas of high conservation value for ~290,00 km2 of Yukon’s Boreal Mountains using ecological benchmark conservation planning tools developed by the BEACONs group. Networks of benchmark areas are primarily intact, i.e. without significant human land disturbance, large enough to accommodate natural fire regimes, and representative of regional environmental diversity. I compared multiple scenarios for networks of benchmark areas varying in level of intactness (i.e., 80%, 90%, and 100% of area without human footprint) and total area (covering 15%, 25%, 35%, and 50% of the study area). The best benchmark area networks representing regional environmental variability were <100% intact and covered 35-50% of the study area. While numerous opportunities for large, intact benchmark areas exist, valley bottoms with unique ecosystems are disproportionately impacted by human land disturbance. Thus, a strategy for conserving valley bottom habitats is critical. The priority conservation areas identified can form the foundation of conservation assessments in regional planning alongside other conservation values (e.g. focal wildlife habitats, rare and special elements).

Wednesday, February 17, 4:30 - 5:00

Projected Climate-Biome (Cliome) shifts in Yukon: Implications for Planning

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Identification of zones of high conservation value, and designation of some as high priority conservation lands, are key features of regional land use planning. This generally involves mapping vegetation communities (also termed land covers or ecosystems) as habitats for a suite of focal species. Vegetation communities are changing with climate change, because temperature, moisture and natural disturbance frequently define distribution limits for many plants. Capitalizing on an existing modeled dataset for Yukon from Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning (SNAP), we examine shifts in the distribution of 18 clusters of climate parameters, and the vegetation communities currently associated with them (collectively termed “cliomes”) across three, 30-year time steps, from the present through the 2090s.

By the 2090s, Yukon may lose seven cliomes and gain one. Three regional changes, if accompanied by vegetation redistribution, represent biome shifts: complete loss of climate conditions for arctic tundra in north Yukon; emergence of climate conditions supporting grasslands in southern Yukon valleys; reduction in climates supporting alpine tundra in favour of boreal forests types across mountains of central and northern Yukon. Higher elevations in southern Yukon are projected to change least in climate. The northernmost parks, and those <100 km2 in size, show the greatest turnover in cliomes over time. This analysis can assist with: planning connectivity between protected areas; identifying novel conservation zones that will maximize representation of habitats during the emerging changes; designing plans, management and monitoring for individual protected areas.

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