CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECT (2019-2022)

CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECT (2019-2022)

Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost

Quinton William

Project Leader

Climate warming and human disturbance in the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada, has led to widespread permafrost thaw and land cover change that has disrupted the hydrological cycle and the ecosystems and human activities that depend on it. There is a growing awareness in the Dehcho that permafrost thaw is negatively affecting the region's economy, and the health, well-being and livelihoods of its residents. However, there is lack of information on permafrost distribution, evolution, and resultant landscape change trajectory in this region. As a result, the ability to manage and respond to this new and growing threat to the Dehcho is extremely limited. There is therefore an urgent need to develop and mobilise knowledge on permafrost thaw in the Dehcho and elsewhere in the subarctic, develop new, practical and customised predictive tools and strategies to adapt to permafrost thaw, and to provide interactive training to decision makers and other users. In direct response to this need, the Scotty Creek Research Station (SCRS) and the Dehcho First Nations (DFN), co-propose the Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost (DCoP), a Dehcho-wide initiative whose overall objective is to generate a fusion of leading-edge scientific and Indigenous knowledge on permafrost, and to use it as a basis to co-develop new predictive decision support tools and innovative risk management strategies to inventory and manage permafrost and adapt to permafrost thaw. Close consultations with Indigenous communities throughout the Dehcho, identified the urgent need for sustained community engagement based on two-way knowledge exchange to guide specific needs for improved permafrost thaw monitoring, adaptation, process understanding, and prediction. These needs collectively form DCoP's “five themes”, each with specific objectives. DCoP researchers and community members will co-develop a number of knowledge-based (i.e. founded upon scientific and/or Indigenous knowledge) resources for permafrost adaption, including novel and affordable devices for monitoring permafrost and inhibiting ground thaw, new probabilistic methods for determining permafrost presence and thaw susceptibility, knowledge-based evaluation of adaptation strategies, and new means of determining future permafrost conditions and resultant land cover and hydrological changes. Other resources accessible from the portal include real-time data, data archives from the DCoP research and monitoring sites, remote sensing data layers and synthesis products including interactive maps of permafrost distribution, thaw susceptibility, and permafrost thaw-induced land-cover changes. The latest Raven modelling output demonstrating rates and patterns of permafrost thaw, land-cover change and hydrograph response for different scenarios of warming will also be accessible through the data portal. These knowledge-based tools and devices, collectively referred to as DCoP’s “Permafrost Resources”, will be integrated into all DCoP themes, and will be continually updated and improved as DCoP evolves. DCoP will draw upon these resources to inform the development / improvement of knowledge-based adaptation and decision support tools and strategies which can be extended throughout much of the Western Subarctic (i.e. IRIS 5) region, and beyond.

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