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Mahon C.L.,Environment Canada | Mahon C.L.,University of Alberta | Holloway G.,Fiera Biological Consulting Ltd | Solymos Pe.,University of Alberta | And 5 more authors.
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2016

Direct and indirect effects of disturbance may cause the decline of specialist species and alter the condition of ecological communities. We characterized the community structure and niche characteristics (niche position, marginality, breadth) of upland and lowland boreal birds at scales relevant to both natural and human disturbance patterns in western boreal forests undergoing rapid and extensive multi-sector resource development. Our goal was to identify the degree of ecological specialization in order to inform activities directed at conserving a diversity of species (e.g. specialists and generalists) within the western boreal bird community. We used avian data (>5,220 point counts) and environmental variable data comprised of forest composition, stand, and landscape pattern metrics at local (7.1. ha), landscape (1,963. ha), and regional (11,310. ha) scales to determine boreal bird distribution and community-level associations using Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) and Outlying Mean Index (OMI) analysis. OMI analysis explained a high proportion of variance in the dataset (71.8%) and separated boreal birds along two axes associated with moisture-productivity and age-structural complexity gradients. Niche position was influenced by local scale variables (height, age, area of mature-old forest, area of wet soil types), but also landscape and regional scale variables (total area of hardwood and conifer, mean nearest neighbour distance of conifer, and total core area of productive upland conifer). Only 15 of 67 species (22%) had marginal (atypical) niches and narrow niche breadths exhibiting specialization in old hardwood and white spruce forests and burned, open, and lowland habitats. Most species occupied typical or common habitats within the study area and exhibited generalist strategies typical of species in heterogeneous and disturbed habitats that undergo frequent change. Our results suggest the need to design and implement multi-species plans to conserve a diversity of western boreal bird species (e.g. specialists and generalists) at the regional scale. © 2015 .

Clare S.,Fiera Biological Consulting Ltd. | Creed I.F.,University of Western Ontario
Wetlands Ecology and Management | Year: 2014

At the core of any evidence-based policy analysis are accurate data and the policy analytic capacity of government agencies to use these data to develop and measure metrics of policy success. This study evaluated the government's policy capacity to manage wetlands in Alberta, Canada, by measuring and evaluating three policy metrics: (1) no net change of wetland area; (2) permitted versus unpermitted wetland loss; and (3) an information tracking system that provides credible regulatory oversight. Using a climate-corrected wetland loss inventory, we detected the loss of 242 wetlands, totaling 71 ha, in the Beaverhill subwatershed between 1999 and 2009. The majority of the losses occurred on land that were classified as 'developed' (urban and industrial) or 'agriculture'. When wetland loss was compared to government-issued wetland permit data, we found that over 80 % of the wetland area was lost without a government permit. The wetland permit data also revealed serious problems with information tracking by both government and non-government agencies responsible for policy and regulatory oversight. In order to resolve these common policy failures, governments need to commit more resources towards acquiring, effectively managing, and freely sharing information that can be used to evaluate policy outcomes to 'open up' wetland management and decision making to include active participation from informal institutions, local governments, and the general public as a means to drive improved regulatory oversight. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

Clare S.,Fiera Biological Consulting Ltd. | Krogman N.,University of Alberta
Society and Natural Resources | Year: 2013

Environmental trading programs are seen as promising tools for fostering sustainable development, yet little is know about how decision-making practices in these emerging policy spaces influence program outcomes. This study quantifies wetland compensation outcomes in Alberta, Canada, and compares these outcomes to statements made in government-issued compensation guidelines. Contrary to guideline intent, we found a strong tendency to skip over wetland avoidance in favor of compensatory payments for wetland loss; that compensation sites are frequently located outside the watershed of impact; and that distances between impact and compensation sites often exceed what is considered reasonable under the guidelines, without commensurate increases in compensation ratios. Agency capture was found to drive these implementation failures, and mechanisms producing capture in this case include overhead governance and organizational goal ambiguity. This study suggests that greater attention must be given to agency context if environmental trading programs are to be effective tools for managing environmental resources. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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