Healthy Forests, Healthy Aquatic Ecosystems

Theme II

 Forests area key resource industry in Canada, and aquatic ecosystem services (AES) should be a central component of forest management practices. However, poor understanding of how forest ecosystems attributes regulate these AES, an increasing shift  from harvesting for wood products to supplying biofuels to meet emerging markets, and complexities posed by predicted changes to Canada’s climate have all hindered formal integration of AES into the decision making progress.

landscape-51.jpgA comprehensive understanding of the controls on AES in forest landscapes via hypothesis testing will be developed using data collected from monitoring, experimental manipulation, modeling, and scenario planning. Leveraging previous investments in catchment studies across Canada and working closely with our partners,  a predictive understanding of the multiple stressors associated with forest management and explore the links and trajectories of process controls on AES will be developed. This will underpin evaluations of the cumulative effects of forest management on these services. These results and partner participation within and among Themes will support scenario analyses to forecast future forest conditions and explore trade-offs between ecological and socio-economic risks in order to identify desired futures and management options to achieve these futures. AES indicators along with cumulative effect stresses and responses developed through the research will be used to evaluate strategies for forest protection, and compensation and mitigation strategies for offsetting impacts of disturbed forest lands on AES. The evaluation will result in a framework that can be implemented by government and industry to develop management policies and practices that ensure ongoing provision of AES. Forest management will have a critical influence on the future supply of AES upon which many communities depend; this research will develop strategies for ensuring sustained delivery of these services that can inform policy at a national scale.


Key Objectives:

  • Use an integrated approach  to explore first the reference condition of AES and then the effects of forest management practices, specifically forest harvesting on AES
  • Determine how AES responds to disturbance by measuring targeted and rigorously evaluated indicators of the structural and functional integrity of the catchments (i.e. health) that can provide meaningful estimates of the value of these services to downstream users
  • Integrate catchment studies from across Canada that include gradients of naturally and anthropogenically disturbed forest catchments to address how underlying differences in climate geology, topography, soils, forest types and disturbance regime affect the sustainability and delivery of the AES water purification, storage and flood control
  • Design a series of manipulative experiments to test hypotheses about the mechanistic interactions among physical, chemical and biological responses to forest disturbance and how these affect AES
  • Identify the driving forces that influence ecosystem services in forested aquatic ecosystems, define critical uncertainties in the determination of these drivers, describe major characteristics of alternative scenarios, and develop logical forest management policy and practice options and an associated set of indicators that target desired future forest states
  • Integrate the theoretical advancements generated by network researchers and partners using scenarios associated with future landscapes
  • Combine ecological and socioeconomic perspectives in assessing the best combination of planning  versus incentivized approaches to managing AES



2.1 – Physical, chemical and biological indicators of aquatic ecosystem services from     headwaters of forested landscapes

2.2 – Experimental manipulations to test the effects of forest management activities on physical, chemical and biological indicators of aquatic ecosystem services from headwaters of forested landscapes

2.3 – Cumulative effects of catchment disturbances on downstream ecosystem services in forested landscapes

2.4/2.5 -Identifying desired social, economic, and aquatic ecosystem service futures and policy implementation needed to sustainably manage forest ecosystems

2.cross – Cross-Project Research Enterprises – Johnston Miller

2.cross- Cross-Project Research Enterprises – David Aldred


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