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Johnston Lake

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Beaver River No. 622 SK

Developing temporal hydroecological perspectives to inform stewardship of a northern floodplain landscape subject to multiple stressors: Paleolimnological investigations of the Peace–Athabasca Delta

Year: 2012

Effective stewardship of ecologically-significant floodplain landscapes requires knowledge of the relative roles of natural processes and upstream human activities on environmental flows. In these landscapes, hydroecological conditions that develop from potentially competing drivers, such as climate change and industrial development, tend to be expressed at spatial and temporal scales that are often inadequately captured by existing monitoring datasets. Consequently, perceived cause–effect relations may be misunderstood, conflict can escalate among stakeholders, and effectiveness of surveillance systems, policies, and governance may be impaired. This is the context for the Peace–Athabasca Delta (PAD), an internationally-recognized water-rich floodplain landscape located in northern Alberta (Canada) that has been subject to multiple stressors. Here we synthesize evidence from paleolimnological records that have fostered an unparalled window into the natural history of this landscape. Over the past 12 years, we have assembled numerous decadal- to multicentennial-long records of hydrological and ecological variability, including an exceptionally detailed chronicle of Peace River flood frequency and magnitude spanning ~600 years. These efforts recently culminated in a 5200-year reconstruction of Lake Athabasca water-level history. Results have provided the foundation to identify drivers of landscape change and generate insight into the delta’s dynamic and ongoing evolution. Contrary to widespread perceptions that hydroelectric regulation of the Peace River since the late 1960s has reduced the frequency of ice-jam floods and lowered floodplain lake-water levels, results indicate that climate variability exerts the overwhelming influence on the delivery of water to the PAD. We show that impending climate-driven freshwater scarcity of a scale unprecedented in our collective societal memory now poses a significant threat to the ecological integrity of this world-renowned landscape and a major challenge to water resource managers. Also, we propose a hydroecological monitoring program, built upon the knowledge gained from our extensive process studies and paleoenvironmental research, to inform effective ongoing stewardship of the delta.

Plant use among the Metis near Lac La Biche, Alberta: A study of tradition and change

Author(s): Johnston, B. C.

Year: 1992

This work studied change in the use of wild plants among the Metis near Lac La Biche, Alberta. The data were obtained from thirty-three residents at the Kikino and Buffalo Lake settlements during the summers of 1990 and 1991. The study had three objectives; the determination of the plant species used and their purposes, quantitative change, or retention, in the use of each of several plant categories, and the reasons for the change or retention in each category. Eighty-six plant species were identified for purposes of food, medicine, fabrication, fuel, and miscellaneous intents. These groupings were further divided into fourteen sub-categories. Respondents reported a reduction of use in all fourteen. The most substantial reductions occurred in non-berry foods, fabrication plants, tobaccos, and dyes. Reductions in the categories of berries and cherries, organic medicine, smoking woods, and decorative plants were less substantial than in other groupings. The most frequently cited reasons for change were: the economic integration of residents into the cash economy of the exterior culture, the better quality or convenience of some commercial goods, and the present occupation and consequent location of residents. In the later case, residents reported that they rarely participated in the traditional activities which once brought them into the wilderness, a location which prompted the use of traditional plant products. Modern roads and vehicles have also improved the accessibility of commercial goods. In some instances the same reasons that were given for change also served to continue the use of a few plant categories. The introduction of goods from the exterior culture has in some cases displaced previous plant uses. In others, commercial goods are used in addition to traditional plant applications. The overall reduction in wild plant use will likely continue.

Some observations on permafrost distribution at a lake in the Mackenzie Delta, N.W.T., Canada

Year: 1964

Reports investigations of the thawing effect of water on permafrost in northern Mackenzie District during Apr 1961. Holes were drilled under the center of a small, shallow lake with a mean bottom temperature higher than 32 degrees F and at various distances to the west of the lake. Hand probings were made near the edge of the lake, soil and water samples taken, ground temperatures measured, altitude and various terrain surveys made. It was found that the sediments below the center of the lake were unfrozen to bedrock; but the position of the permafrost table rose progressively toward shore and the thawing effect was confined to the ground lying under the lake. The thermal effect of the lake however, extended for some distance beyond.