UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Scaling-up natural resource management in northern landscapes : utilizing landscape ecology and remote sensing in environmental impact assessment and wetland monitoring Harker, Karly J.


The rapid pace of natural resource development often exceeds our capacity to comprehensively monitor its range of environmental impacts. More recently, increases in both the availability and spatio-temporal scale of environmental geodata have created new opportunities for improving environmental assessment and monitoring. Here I aim to improve upon the conceptual and technical basis for scaling-up assessment and monitoring via exploration of two contrasting landscapes typical of northern Canada. In Chapter 2, I examined different ways of incorporating landscape ecology and ecosystem service approaches into the first phase of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) during the scoping process. Using examples from the Skeena River watershed in northwest British Columbia, I first demonstrated how changing the extents of spatial boundaries can potentially misrepresent cumulative impacts. Second, I used network analysis to assess the extent to which seemingly small, localized developments can disrupt landscape connectivity and how historical aerial photographs can help improve restoration planning. Lastly, I present a framework for using regulating ecosystem to better account for water filtration services provided by wetlands. Building upon these insights, in Chapter 3 I utilized a 27-year time series of Landsat imagery to monitor road construction and evaluate subsequent recovery trends in boreal peatlands. I examined long-term trends of wetland-relevant tasseled cap (TC) indices (wetness, greenness, etc.) using a Before/After, Control/Impact study design, which also controlled for the impact of precipitation trends. I demonstrated not only that hydrologic disruption is discernible via remote sensing, but that it persisted for at least 5-years post-disturbance with no signs of hydrologic recovery in several types of wetlands. Furthermore, hydrologic disruptions following road construction were not evenly distributed within wetlands, but rather concentrated near roadside margins. Taken together, my research provides insight into the possibilities for practical yet rigorous up-scaling of environmental assessment techniques using open-source data. Furthermore, my work also highlights current gaps in implementation of concepts and tools in environmental monitoring, as well as solutions to aid responsible, transparent natural resource development.

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