• Pushing the Boundaries of Freshwater Ecosystem Restoration: Evaluating a Conservation Initiative in Terms of Social-Ecological Resilience

      Krievins, Katrina; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
      Freshwater ecosystems are among the most transformed systems on Earth despite their critical importance to human well-being. This research utilized a single case, embedded case study design to explore the possibility of an approach to aquatic ecosystem restoration informed by social-ecological resilience as a way of applying current understandings of complex adaptive systems to restoration for improved outcomes. Trout Unlimited Canada’s Stream Rehabilitation, From Form to Function Training Program was assessed and restoration initiatives informed by the program were evaluated in terms of social-ecological resilience. The findings from this study indicate that the approach to restoration taught in the training program, along with the initiatives informed by the program, reflect principles for building resilience. Furthermore, the outcomes of the restoration initiatives informed by the program were found to be positive. These findings provide encouraging evidence in support of a new approach to restoration informed by social-ecological resilience.
    • Visualizing climatic and non-climatic drivers of coastline change in the Town of Lincoln, Ontario, Canada

      DeCock, Meredith; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
      Increased urbanization leads to greater anthropogenic stresses of coastal zones. Threats faced by coastal communities, such as natural hazards, are being exacerbated with changing environmental and climatic conditions. Many studies have measured coastline change; however, they fail to address non-climatic drivers, such as land use changes. The enclosed research included three separate but complementary articles to examine climatic and non-climatic drivers of change for the Lake Ontario coastline in the Town of Lincoln, Ontario. In the first article, a novel approach combining a coastline change analysis using historical aerial photographs in a geographic information system with the exploration of climatic and non-climatic drivers of change was developed. The novel approach will be useful for planners and residents in understanding factors that drive coastline erosion. In the second article, this methodology was applied to the Town of Lincoln. The case study identified vulnerable areas of the coastline and included a narrative of how certain drivers may have contributed to the erosion. The results suggested that Lincoln has erosion issues, largely concentrated in four main areas, with rates of erosion between 0.32 and 0.66 m/yr over an 84-year period. Between 1934 and 2018, the Town of Lincoln lost approximately 30 hectares of land, a fiscal loss of approximately $1M. The east side of Lincoln has shown more erosion due to many interacting drivers, such as the orientation of the coast, the sandier substrate, and the proximity of the highway constructed in the late 1930s. There are many barriers to climate change adaptation, including a general lack of understanding of how climate change may impact communities directly. The third article explored the utility of visualizations as a tool for science communication. Visualizing the impacts of climate change may be an important tool to help cities, regions, and countries prioritize adaptation. Replication of the methodology in an area such as the Great Lakes may produce a more comprehensive understanding of whether erosion is driven primarily by climatic or non-climatic factors. This can advance our understanding of coastline change and coastal vulnerability, as understanding the current state is essential before imagining a more sustainable future.
    • Determining Individual Endorsement Levels for Water Resilience Principles – A Case Study of the Town of Lincoln, Ontario.

      Obasi, Oluseyi; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
      The integrity of freshwater ecosystems is being challenged, mainly due to the failures of the traditional command-and-control governance approach. A social ecological resilience approach to water resources management (water resilience) has been proposed to help mitigate these challenges. To effectively implement this approach, individual endorsement and attitudes to water resilience and its underlying principles must be better understood; however, very little research has examined individual attitudes towards this concept. This thesis studied the extent to which individuals endorse (support and agree with) managing and governing water resources using a social ecological resilience approach. To explore and determine endorsement of water resilience, a quantitative vignette questionnaire was utilized in a single exploratory case study in the Town of Lincoln, Ontario. The vignette questionnaire was developed based on the seven underlying principles of social ecological resilience and elicited responses for both local and non-local water contexts. Demographic data was also collected to examine how they relate to endorsement scores. Overall, respondents indicated a medium level of endorsement for the water resilience principles, with lower endorsement for the local than the non-local context. However, the extent of endorsement for the resilience principles differed as a function of location, the type of water challenge, individual experiences, and the conceptualization of the resilience principles. Those with higher overall endorsement scores tended to be female, older and attached more meaning to water bodies. Sex, political ideology and attaching meaning to local water bodies emerged as important predictors of water resilience endorsement. The vignette questionnaire proposes a suitable methodological framework for determining and measuring endorsement levels for the resilience principles. A factor analysis showed the seven resilience principles as consisting of two major components: principles related to ‘the system being governed’ and principles related to the ‘governance system’. The results of this thesis provide useful insights to policy makers/planners in developing more adaptive, integrative and resilient water governance approaches tailored to align with particular community perceptions and demographics. For future research, the nuances of endorsement, as well as additional factors like personality and psychological factors that may influence endorsement levels, should be considered.
    • Understanding perceptions of the state of the environment in relation to ecological measures: Intergroup differences and the influences of an interpretive program

      Mallette, Angela; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
      Understanding the state of environment is foundational to environmental management. There is a clear need for enhanced ecosystem status assessments. At the same time, there are scholarly trends toward incorporating the social sciences in environmental management. Evidently, there is a need for more ecological as well as social knowledge of the state of our ecosystems. This thesis examines how the state of the environment is understood through an ecological and social perspective. Emphasis is placed on ecological measures as well as perceptions, with specific attention to intergroup differences and the influences of an interpretive program. Two studies were conducted at the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve, a protected area in the Niagara Region of Canada. The first study consisted of an ecological assessment and a survey administered to experts and visitors. The ecological assessment of the state of the environment was compared to expert perception-based assessments. Perceptions were also compared between experts and visitors. The second study involved administering the survey to individuals receiving two different educational interventions, thereby exploring the influence of an environmental interpretive program on how people perceive the environment. Overall results from the two studies show that expert perception-based methods of environmental status can be a proxy for ecological data in cases where perceptions align with ecological measures, and can be used to complement ecological data in cases where perceptions are at odds with ecological measures. Visitors’ overall perceptions differed significantly from ecological measures, regardless of an interpretive program, and in fact, an interpretive program increased the difference. Visitors and experts were also found to differ significantly in their perceptions, a meaningful finding for resolving intergroup conflicts and for building a common understanding. Findings from the research can improve status assessments, address intergroup conflicts, develop a better sense of the people that interact with a natural site, inform areas for education efforts, and enhance the effectiveness of education programs. This thesis highlights the value in comparing perceptions to ecological measures and emphasizes the importance of evidence from natural and social sciences to managing social-ecological systems.
    • The Use of Remote Sensing to Map and Monitor Coastal Dune Vegetation Change at Southampton, Ontario, Canada

      Hague, Brodie; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
      Coastal dune ecosystems in the Great Lakes Basin are fragile, rare ecosystems that are under increasing threat due to anthropogenic and natural forces. The Chantry Dune system in Southampton, Ontario is one of five major dune systems along the eastern shores of Lake Huron. The dune complex provides habitat for a diverse range of vegetation species, some of which are endemic, rare, and threatened. This research mapped and monitored dune vegetation change at the Chantry Dune system from 2005-2012 using multi-temporal normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) images produced from QuickBird and GeoEye-1 imagery acquired in 2005 and 2012, respectively. Next, a post-classification comparison change-detection technique was applied to determine the patterns of change in vegetation cover. Finally, the maximum-likelihood classifier (MLC) was applied to the GeoEye-1 data to produce a land-use/land-cover map. Results revealed that increased vegetation growth occurred throughout the dune system while NDVI values remained unchanged or increased slightly from 2005-2012. Application of the MLC resulted in a map output with an overall classification accuracy of 97%. The results and outcomes of this research will provide much needed baseline information, which can be used by local stakeholders and authorities to improve dune management practices.
    • Decision-Making in Agriculture: Why do Farmers Decide to Adopt a New Practice?

      Collas, Lydia; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
      Current rates of environmental degradation demand changes to the way in which food is produced. Transforming agricultural production requires both the development and the adoption of new practices that facilitate high yields at least environmental cost. Many beneficial practices have already been developed and their limited adoption now constrains their potential to deliver sustainable agriculture. Greater understanding is needed of why farmers decide to adopt or reject different practices. The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) has been used in an agricultural context to examine adoption. The TAM posits that perceptions of a practice’s usefulness (PU) and its ease of use (PEOU) drive its adoption. In this thesis, the TAM was first revised such that adoption was considered as being composed of five stages to reflect the preparatory and trial phases that precede the full-scale adoption of agricultural practices. An empirical study was then conducted to investigate farmers’ attitudes in the Southern Ontario region towards agrominerals and cover cropping – two practices that show promise in maintaining soil health at low environmental cost. PU and PEOU were found to be significant drivers of the adoption of agrominerals. However, PEOU did not have a significant direct effect on farmers’ decisions to continue using cover crops. A longitudinal study that applies the revised TAM is needed to ascertain whether it is effective in explaining the adoption process, particularly in the latter stages of adoption when PEOU appears to be of less importance and PU alone appears to largely drive farmers’ decision-making. The concern participants showed for the potential environmental impacts of agriculture highly varied with those showing greater concern reporting greater intentions of adopting agrominerals. Socio-economic and agro-ecological factors were found not to be correlated to adoption. This study demonstrated the need to increase knowledge sharing between farmers and scientists to facilitate the transition towards sustainable agricultural production.
    • Postglacial Reconstruction of Fire History from a Small Lake in Southwest Yukon using Sedimentary Charcoal and Pollen

      Prince, Tyler J; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
      Previous research suggests climate warming during the current century is likely to lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of wildfire. Recent wildfire seasons in northern Canada generally support these studies, with some of the worst fire seasons on record occurring during the past few years. While we can readily track the spatial and temporal distribution of these events during recent decades using satellite-derived data, the historical records of past fire activity are relatively short. Proxy records of past fire activity are needed to fully understand how fire regimes may be shifting in response to the changing climatic conditions. A high-resolution fire record, dating back to the early Holocene, has been reconstructed using a 512-cm sediment core collected from a small lake in southwest Yukon. Macroscopic charcoal was counted throughout the core at 0.5-cm contiguous intervals. The core was also analyzed for loss-on-ignition and magnetic susceptibility. Fossil pollen preserved in the lake sediment was analyzed to determine vegetation change throughout the Holocene. Results indicate an average signal to noise index of 6.2, suggesting the peaks are significant and detectable from the slowly varying background level and the record is suitable for peak detection. Macroscopic charcoal analysis indicates an active fire history throughout the record, with 90 fires occurring throughout the Holocene. Results suggest the fire regime in this region responds to both top-down (climate) and bottom-up (vegetation) factors. Fire return intervals changed in response to shifts in precipitation and temperature as well as the expansion of lodgepole pine into the region. The shifts in precipitation and temperature were attributed to the oscillation of the Aleutian Low pressure system and fluctuations in climate associated with the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age.
    • Understanding Canadian Winegrowers’ Perceptions of Climate Change and Their Implications for Adaptation Behaviors

      Jobin Poirier, Emilie; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
      Climate change (CC) is currently impacting and will continue to affect the international and the Canadian wine industry in the future. Understanding how Canadian winegrowers perceive CC and address its consequences through adaptation can help support the grape and wine industry in the context of CC. The thesis aimed to understand how winegrowers perceive CC and the ways CC adaptation is occurring throughout Canada. Two studies were conducted in the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Québec and Nova Scotia. The first study of this thesis characterizes winegrowers with respect to their environmental values, CC knowledge and beliefs, and their perception of the consequences of CC on their winegrowing operations. The second study describes the present state of CC adaptation in the Canadian wine industry, as well as the adaptation strategies currently used and considered for future implementation to cope with specific weather events associated with CC. This study also investigates the attributes that drive CC adaptation throughout the country. Together, the two studies provide an overview of CC perception and adaptation in the main winegrowing provinces of Canada for the first time in literature. The thesis also contributes to the scholarly literature on CC perception and adaptation by highlighting the drivers that influence winegrowers’ adoption – or lack thereof – of adaptation practices in their operations. It also offers practical information that can be used by stakeholders of the industry to communicate CC information and adopt new practices to address its effects.
    • An Analysis of Invasive Species Management in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada: Establishment of a Database to Improve Knowledge Sharing

      Brown, Lyn; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
      Worldwide, 17,000 invasive species drive biodiversity loss, and cost the global economy at least $1.4 trillion annually. The UN and Convention on Biological Diversity have declared invasive species a global initiative and requested increased data sharing on invasives. Existing worldwide and local databases focus on distribution, abundance, identification, and impacts of invasives, but not management activities. No database focuses on invasive management for the Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada. This study used sustainability science and the Ecosystem Approach Principles to guide the design of an invasive species management database. The goal of the study was to document current aquatic and riparian invasive management activities in the Niagara Region and develop a database that would become a tool to facilitate collaboration at the regional level. The objectives were to (1) inventory current invasive detection and control activities in the Niagara Region and make comparisons to recommended techniques in the literature; (2) examine perceived efficacy of control techniques; and (3) develop a database integrated with a GIS mapping component. Seventy-one organizations involved in riparian/aquatic invasive management in the Niagara Region were contacted and 16 were interviewed in-depth. In 2017/2018 there were 35 separate control efforts reported, involving 10 riparian invasives and two aquatic invasives, with most concentrated along the Niagara River. Collaboration efforts were minimal, occurring for only six specific projects. Recommendations from this study include: develop a regional invasive species plan; increase control efforts along the Welland Canal and Lake Erie shoreline; consider a wider variety of control techniques; and increase collaboration, information-sharing and resource-sharing among organizations. Overall, this database provides a baseline for the current state of aquatic and riparian invasive management activities in the Region, and can be used as a tool to identify resource-sharing opportunities, management efficacy, priority areas, areas of improvement, and future resource needs. This can help Niagara progress towards achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 9 and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal Target 15.8.
    • Dissecting Collaboration in Environmental Management and Governance: Examining Qualities, Outcomes, and Relationships

      Feist, Alison; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
      As a proposed strategy in addressing both limitations associated with conventional approaches to environmental management and governance, as well as challenges of wicked environmental problems, collaboration is a concept in which is highly examined yet unclearly assessed. The thesis aimed to explore collaboration in environmental domain to better understand this intricate process and how it works. Specifically, collaboration was explored terms of three elements: 1) the qualities which contribute to the process of collaboration (e.g. trust, social learning, shared understanding), 2) outcomes of collaborating, and 3) how qualities relate to outcomes (i.e. relationships). Two studies were conducted. The first study of this thesis involved conducting a systematic mapping review to unpack collaboration in environmental management and governance in the scholarly literature in terms of these three elements. The second study involved a multiple case study design to explore findings from this first study in empirical settings, in which three case studies of climate change adaptation collaboratives in New Brunswick were examined using a mixed methods approach. The overall findings from the studies are indicative of some similar elements examined in the literature and present in practice, as well as some discrepancies which should drive further examination into key elements of collaboration. The research contributes both conceptually and empirically to the scholarly literature by addressing gaps of understanding on collaboration in the environmental domain. It also contributes to collaboration in practice, to aid in determining how collaborative strategies can be understood to be more effective as an alternative approach to environmental management and governance.
    • THE IMPACTS OF RECENT WILDFIRES ON STREAM WATER QUALITY AND MACROINVERTEBRATE ASSEMBLAGES IN SOUTHERN NORTHWEST TERRITORIES, CANADA

      Garner, Caitlin Sarah; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
      High-latitude regions are currently undergoing rapid ecosystem change due to increasing temperatures and modified precipitation regimes. Since 2012, the Northwest Territories (Canada) has been experiencing severe drought and wildfire seasons. In 2014 alone, fires within the Northwest Territories consumed over 3.4 million hectares of forested land; 1.4 times larger than the national yearly average for Canada. Wildfire is one of the most important agents influencing age structure and composition of forest stands, as such, it is a critical factor in ecosystem dynamics. The impacts of wildfire on terrestrial systems garner more attention compared to aquatic habitats. This is especially true when considering aquatic ecosystems, specifically sub-arctic streams, where the impact of fires on stream ecology and chemistry are relatively understudied. Freshwater ecosystems, such as lakes and streams, are relied upon by northern communities for their cultural significance and economic and environmental goods and services they produce, including country foods. This study examines the impact of recent wildfire on freshwater streams within the North Slave, South Slave, and Dehcho regions of the Northwest Territories (Canada) through analysis of their water chemistry and benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages. Benthic macroinvertebrates, the macroscopic organisms living within/on the substrate of streams, were sampled following methodologies outlined by the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN). Biological indices (e.g. Species Richness, Shannon Diversity Index) were calculated and compared statistically to determine relationships regarding benthic diversity and abundance. Results of this study suggest that recent wildfires cause short-term perturbations in water quality, such as increases in dissolved aluminum, TSS and turbidity. In addition, results indicate slight structural changes in invertebrate communities of streams within burned catchments (impacted) compared to those in unburned catchments (control), including increased richness and abundance of primary consumers and their predators.