Advancing cumulative effects assessment methodology for river systems
Seitz, Nicole Elyse
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Increased land use intensity has adversely affected aquatic ecosystems within Canada. Activities that occur over the landscape are individually minor but collectively significant when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions, and are defined as cumulative effects. Existing approaches to cumulative effects assessment for river systems within Canada are ineffective. This thesis aims to improve the practice of cumulative effects assessment by evaluating current methodology for linking landscape change and river response over a large spatiotemporal scale. As part of this goal, I offer a framework for better incorporating science into current practices for cumulative effects assessment. The framework addresses the challenges involved in cumulative effects assessment, such as defining appropriate spatial and temporal scale, complex ecological and hydrologic pathways, predictive analysis, and monitoring. I then test the framework over a large spatiotemporal scale using a case study of the lower reaches of the Athabasca River Basin, Alberta. Three objectives are addressed: 1) changes in land use and land cover in the lower ARB for several census dates (1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001) between 1976 (historic) and 2006 (current day) are identified; 2) linkages between landscape change and river water quality and quantity response are evaluated; and 3) results of the different methods used to link landscape stressors with stream responses are compared. Results show that the landscape has changed dramatically between 1976 and 2006, documented by increases in forest harvesting, oil sands developments, and agricultural intensity. Secondly, results suggest that linear regression tests combined with regression trees are useful for capturing the strongest associations between landscape stressors and river response variables. For instance, water abstraction and agricultural activities have a significant impact on solute concentrations. This suggests that water abstraction and agriculture are important indicators to consider when conducting a watershed cumulative effect assessment on a similar spatiotemporal scale. The thesis has strong implications for the need for improved water quality and quantity monitoring of Canada‟s rivers. The research provides a means of identifying appropriate tools for improved watershed cumulative effects assessment for scientists and land managers involved in the environmental impact assessment process and protection of Canada‟s watersheds.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
CommitteeDubé, Monique; Noble, Bram; Patrick, Robert
Copyright DateFebruary 2011
land use/land cover