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Project: Risk assessment of anthropogenic and natural stressors on the Ronald Lake Bison Herd habitat in Northern Alberta

Project:

Risk assessment of anthropogenic and natural stressors on the Ronald Lake Bison Herd habitat in Northern Alberta

Clients: Government of Alberta, Fort McMurray Métis, Fort McKay Métis, Fort Chipewyan Métis, and Fort McMurray #468 First Nation

Year: 2018-2019

Focus Areas: Ecosystem Services (Wildlife Habitat)

Tools: SyncroSim, ST-Sim

Clients: Government of Alberta, Fort McMurray Métis, Fort McKay Métis, Fort Chipewyan Métis, and Fort McMurray #468 First Nation

Year: 2018-2019

Focus Areas: Ecosystem Services (Wildlife Habitat)

Tools: SyncroSim, ST-Sim

Project Overview:

The Ronald Lake Bison Herd (RLBH), located in Northern Alberta, is one of the few remaining free-ranging and disease-free herds of Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) in Canada (DeMars et al., 2017). The sustainability of the Ronald Lake herd is threatened by several anthropogenic and natural processes, including oil and gas exploration and extraction, forestry, hunting, disease, and hybridization (ECCC, 2016). Local indigenous communities including Fort McMurray Métis, Fort McKay Métis, Fort Chipewyan Métis, and Fort McMurray #468 First Nation have close practical and spiritual connections to the Ronald Lake herd and are concerned for the herd’s longevity. Members of these communities hold valuable knowledge about the Ronald Lake herd and its relationship with the local habitat, developed over generations of observing and sharing land with the herd. Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (ITK) like this is valuable information that can benefit wildlife habitat management to ensure the persistence of species.

We worked with these indigenous communities to develop both conceptual and quantitative state-and-transition simulation models (STSMs) to assess the risk of anthropogenic activities and natural processes to the RLBH habitat. Conceptual models identify what are thought to be the key components of a system, the relationships between the components, and the possible responses of a system to drivers of change summarized in a diagram or flowchart. We collaboratively documented ITK on how different habitats are used by the Ronald Lake herd, as well as existing and potential drivers of change and their impacts on habitat. By integrating this knowledge into conceptual models of the RLBH habitat, we produced powerful communication tools for describing ITK-informed ecological processes with stakeholders that also help to identify important data gaps with respect to the protection of the Ronald Lake herd.

Quantitative STSMs were developed using expert elicitation from members of the RLBH Technical Team, who are individuals from indigenous communities, local industry, and government bodies, as well as academic research collaborators for the RLBH range. Built off our base ST-Sim SyncroSim package and the Ducks Unlimited Wetland Classification System, these models also incorporated local ITK to inform model parameters. Quantitative STSMs have an additional advantage of identifying uncertainties related to the long-term sustainability of key habitat supporting the Ronald Lake Bison Herd at a disturbance footprint and a herd range scale, allowing stakeholders to make informed land management decisions. We continue to work with the Government of Alberta and these local indigenous communities on this project.

Ronald Lake Bison Herd range map (ECCC, 2016)

The extent of free-ranging Wood Bison herds across Canada, with the Ronald Lake Bison Herd circled in red (ECCC, 2016).

Additional Information:

DeMars, C.A., Nielsen, S.E., Edwards, M.A. 2017. Range use, habitat selection, and the influence of natural and human disturbance on wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) in the Ronald Lake Area of northeastern Alberta: March 2017 Update. Report to the Ronald Lake Bison Herd Technical Team, March 31, 2017. University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2H1. 42 pp.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). 2016. Recovery Strategy for the Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) in Canada [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment and
Climate Change Canada. Ottawa. viii + 52 pp.

Project Overview:

The Ronald Lake Bison Herd (RLBH), located in Northern Alberta, is one of the few remaining free-ranging and disease-free herds of Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) in Canada (DeMars et al., 2017). The sustainability of the Ronald Lake herd is threatened by several anthropogenic and natural processes, including oil and gas exploration and extraction, forestry, hunting, disease, and hybridization (ECCC, 2016). Local indigenous communities including Fort McMurray Métis, Fort McKay Métis, Fort Chipewyan Métis, and Fort McMurray #468 First Nation have close practical and spiritual connections to the Ronald Lake herd and are concerned for the herd’s longevity. Members of these communities hold valuable knowledge about the Ronald Lake herd and its relationship with the local habitat, developed over generations of observing and sharing land with the herd (Olson et al. 2018). Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (ITK) like this is valuable information that can benefit wildlife habitat management to ensure the persistence of species.

We worked with these indigenous communities to develop both conceptual and quantitative state-and-transition simulation models (STSMs) to assess the risk of anthropogenic activities and natural processes to the RLBH habitat. Conceptual models identify what are thought to be the key components of a system, the relationships between the components, and the possible responses of a system to drivers of change summarized in a diagram or flowchart. We collaboratively documented ITK on how different habitats are used by the Ronald Lake herd, as well as existing and potential drivers of change and their impacts on habitat. By integrating this knowledge into conceptual models of the RLBH habitat, we produced powerful communication tools for describing ITK-informed ecological processes with stakeholders that also help to identify important data gaps with respect to the protection of the Ronald Lake herd.

Quantitative STSMs were developed using expert elicitation from members of the RLBH Technical Team, who are individuals from indigenous communities, local industry, and government bodies, as well as academic research collaborators for the RLBH range. Built off our base ST-Sim SyncroSim package and the Ducks Unlimited Wetland Classification System, these models also incorporated local ITK to inform model parameters. Quantitative STSMs have an additional advantage of identifying uncertainties related to the long-term sustainability of key habitat supporting the Ronald Lake Bison Herd at a disturbance footprint and a herd range scale, allowing stakeholders to make informed land management decisions. We continue to work with the Government of Alberta and these local indigenous communities on this project.

Ronald Lake Bison Herd range map (ECCC, 2016)

The extent of free-ranging Wood Bison herds across Canada, with the Ronald Lake Bison Herd circled in red (ECCC, 2016).

Additional Information:

DeMars, C.A., Nielsen, S.E., Edwards, M.A. 2017. Range use, habitat selection, and the influence of natural and human disturbance on wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) in the Ronald Lake Area of northeastern Alberta: March 2017 Update. Report to the Ronald Lake Bison Herd Technical Team, March 31, 2017. University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2H1. 42 pp.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). 2016. Recovery Strategy for the Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) in Canada [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment and
Climate Change Canada. Ottawa. viii + 52 pp.

Clients: Government of Alberta, Fort McMurray Métis, Fort Chipewyan Métis, and Fort McMurray #468 First Nation

Year: 2018-2019

Focus Areas: Ecosystem Services (Wildlife Habitat)

Tools: SyncroSim, ST-Sim

Project Overview:

The Ronald Lake Bison Herd (RLBH), located in Northern Alberta, is one of the few remaining free-ranging and disease-free herds of Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) in Canada (DeMars et al., 2017). The sustainability of the Ronald Lake herd is threatened by several anthropogenic and natural processes, including oil and gas exploration and extraction, forestry, hunting, disease, and hybridization (ECCC, 2016). Local indigenous communities including Fort McMurray Métis, Fort McKay Métis, Fort Chipewyan Métis, and Fort McMurray #468 First Nation have close practical and spiritual connections to the Ronald Lake herd and are concerned for the herd’s longevity. Members of these communities hold valuable knowledge about the Ronald Lake herd and its relationship with the local habitat, developed over generations of observing and sharing land with the herd (Olson et al. 2018). Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (ITK) like this is valuable information that can benefit wildlife habitat management to ensure the persistence of species.

We worked with these indigenous communities to develop both conceptual and quantitative state-and-transition simulation models (STSMs) to assess the risk of anthropogenic activities and natural processes to the RLBH habitat. Conceptual models identify what are thought to be the key components of a system, the relationships between the components, and the possible responses of a system to drivers of change summarized in a diagram or flowchart. We collaboratively documented ITK on how different habitats are used by the Ronald Lake herd, as well as existing and potential drivers of change and their impacts on habitat. By integrating this knowledge into conceptual models of the RLBH habitat, we produced powerful communication tools for describing ITK-informed ecological processes with stakeholders that also help to identify important data gaps with respect to the protection of the Ronald Lake herd.

Quantitative STSMs were developed using expert elicitation from members of the RLBH Technical Team, who are individuals from indigenous communities, local industry, and government bodies, as well as academic research collaborators for the RLBH range. Built off our base ST-Sim SyncroSim package and the Ducks Unlimited Wetland Classification System, these models also incorporated local ITK to inform model parameters. Quantitative STSMs have an additional advantage of identifying uncertainties related to the long-term sustainability of key habitat supporting the Ronald Lake Bison Herd at a disturbance footprint and a herd range scale, allowing stakeholders to make informed land management decisions. We continue to work with the Government of Alberta and these local indigenous communities on this project.

Ronald Lake Bison Herd range map (ECCC, 2016)

The extent of free-ranging Wood Bison herds across Canada, with the Ronald Lake Bison Herd circled in red (ECCC, 2016).

Additional Information:

DeMars, C.A., Nielsen, S.E., Edwards, M.A. 2017. Range use, habitat selection, and the influence of natural and human disturbance on wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) in the Ronald Lake Area of northeastern Alberta: March 2017 Update. Report to the Ronald Lake Bison Herd Technical Team, March 31, 2017. University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2H1. 42 pp.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). 2016. Recovery Strategy for the Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) in Canada [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment and
Climate Change Canada. Ottawa. viii + 52 pp.