Supporting humans in a thawing landscape
Permafrost thaw induced by climate change impacts people living in the North in various ways. Changes in ground surface conditions may damage buildings and infrastructure and compromise transportation networks when roads and airports are impacted. Changes induced by permafrost thaw in the landscape have started to affect traditional subsistence activities and food security by altering the ecosystem and releasing harmful contaminants into the food chain. Consequently, permafrost thaw generates significant costs associated to technological and cultural adaptations. However, permafrost thaw is still poorly understood at many levels; its impact on society is underestimated.
This research team will enhance the capacity of northern communities to foresee and adapt to environmental change by improving fundamental knowledge of permafrost thaw and partnering with northern communities to examine the applied consequences of this process for the management of land, infrastructure, and food security in permafrost terrain. Critical points will be investigated by the research team, including:
1- Analyzing infrastructure/construction/urban land use interactions with permafrost, with a focus on transportation networks, in collaboration with government and northern partners to better understand these processes and design adaptation and mitigation approaches.
2- Continue and extend permafrost mapping and characterization in northern communities, and transfer knowledge in support of selection of appropriate foundations designs for buildings and for community land use planning.
3- Partnering with the communities to assess and explain ecological change in their lands induced by permafrost thaw and how their subsistence and cultural activities may be impacted, and increase the resilience of local communities to the impact of climate change.
4- Using innovative techniques such as CT-scanning to develop fundamental knowledge about permafrost thaw, by investigating how the different components present in permafrost such as gases (methane and carbon dioxide), particulate and dissolved carbon, and fluids, are mobilized during permafrost thaw.
The innovative, multidisciplinary, networked approach proposed in this programme puts emphasis on collaboration with communities, territorial governments and other stakeholders across Northern Canada. This collaborative approach will be pivotal to address the concerns of northern people, ensure the optimal use of research efforts, facilitate adaptation, and increase resilience in northern communities.