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Research Area 3 - Environmental risk assessment and adapting to change

Project leader: Michel Allard
Project leader: Martin-Hugues St-Laurent

Inuit communities and northern natural systems are increasingly exposed to the risks associated with climate change and economic development. These issues affect civil security, the stability and integrity of geo-ecosystems, traditional food sources and safe access to these resources. In partnership with Inuit communities, government and industry, these projects assess the vulnerability of communities, geo-ecosystems, and terrestrial and coastal infrastructures in order to develop tools and practices adapted to the rapid change. The approaches include analysis of the frequency of risk, formulation of landscape restoration techniques, and mitigation strategies for natural resource extraction and exploitation. Historical and cultural practices are studied to evaluate community resilience and adaptation strategies. Knowledge exchange, science education and training, and the development of monitoring and outreach programs are important components of this theme.

This research area includes five themes.

Researchers: Michel Allard, Martin-Hugues St-Laurent; Dermot Antoniades, Dominique Arseneault, Monique Bernier, Pascal Bernatchez, Dominique Berteaux, Najat Bhiry, Stéphane Boudreau, Thomas Buffin-Bélanger, Joël Bety, Karem Chokmani, Steeve Côté, Guy Doré, Bernard Doyon, Marco Festa-Bianchet, Daniel Fortier, Richard Fortier, Pierre Francus, Michelle Garneau, Gilles Gauthier, Martin Grenon, Bernard Hétu, Patrick Lajeunesse, Alexandre Langlois, Claude Lavoie, Martin Lavoie Jean-Michel Lemieux, Dominic Larivière, Esther Lévesque, Guillaume Marie, John Molson, Serge Payette, Reinhard Pienitz, Monique Poulin, Line Rochefort, Alain Royer, René Therrien, Jean-Pierre Tremblay, Thierry Rodon, Nigel Roulet, Warwick F. Vincent, James Woollett, Rosa Galvez, Nicolas Lecomte.

Theme 3.1 - Modelling permafrost dynamics for landscape management and community adaptation

Theme leader: Guy Doré

Northern infrastructures in the communities of Nunavik are exposed to natural hazards such as ground subsidence and landslides which are triggered by thawing permafrost. We document the causal processes of these natural hazards, their frequency and their potential recurrence. Researchers then model coupled physical phenomena such as heat transfer, underwater flow regime, and thaw consolidation of permafrost. These simulations are based on extensive datasets obtained in the field including geomorphological, geotechnical and geophysical surveys, and continuous real-time monitoring. Climate change scenarios generated by the Ouranos Consortium are also integrated in the analyses. The aim is to develop efficient developmental tools and adaptation strategies to reduce the negative impacts of change on the communities and thereby increase the sustainability and viability of their infrastructures.

Researchers: Guy Doré; Michel Allard, Monique Bernier, Bernard Doyon, Daniel Fortier, Richard Fortier, Alexandre Langlois, Jean- Michel Lemieux, Dominic Larivière, John Molson, Alain Royer, René Therrien

Theme 3.2 - Hazard and extreme event assessment for northern territories and development of management tools

Theme leader: Pascal Bernatchez

Climate warming and socio-economic development increase the intensity and frequency of many natural hazards such as ice jams, ice pushes, submersion, erosion, avalanches, rock and landslides, thinning ice cover, forest fires and insect outbreaks. These hazards and industrial development already disrupt traditional and socio-economic activities of northerners and raise vulnerability and public safety issues. The accelerated development of the North generates new challenges. For example, the safe exploitation of mining resources resides on the detailed knowledge of the geomechanical properties of fractured rock masses and is based on a sound understanding of the short and long term evolution of the mines exploited in these areas. The objectives of this theme are to: 1) define the origins and the causes of these hazards; 2) evaluate present and future vulnerability of the northern populations and characterize the activities that take place on the territory, 3) develop adapted designs and exploitation methods, 4) develop tools for land and risk management as well as risk prevention, which can assist decision-makers, 5) transfer these tools to the local communities as well as to the governmental and industrial partners. We use a combination of traditional knowledge on natural hazards, environmental monitoring networks, climate models, coupled physical phenomena models, statistical analyses, and remote sensing to achieve these objectives.

Researchers: Pascal Bernatchez; Michel Allard, Dominique Arseneault, Monique Bernier, Thomas Buffin-Bélanger, Karem Chokmani, Guy Doré, Richard Fortier, Martin Grenon, Bernard Hétu, Patrick Lajeunesse, Alexandre Langlois, Jean-Michel Lemieux, Guillaume Marie, John Molson, Alain Royer, René Therrien.

Theme 3.3 - Sustainable practices for conservation, natural resource exploitation and ecological restoration of northern landscapes affected by human activities

Theme leader: Line Rochefort

In order to propose sustainable solutions, the decision-making processes related to the changes affecting northern regions in terms of the environmental, economic and social components must be based on a solid scientific foundation. Our aim is to improve the methods used in the management of renewable natural resources as well as in the mitigation strategies developed for the exploitation of these resources (e.g. mining and oil exploration and exploitation). We experiment with various strategies in order to minimize the impacts of human activities, sustain ecological services (e.g. traditional food sources, availability and quality of drinking water, long term carbon sequestration in bogs) and maintain the ecological integrity of protected northern areas. We use restoration ecology to develop new practices adapted to the extreme climate found in northern habitats, protected areas and villages.

Researchers: Line Rochefort; Dermot Antoniades, Monique Bernier, Dominique Berteaux, Joël Bêty, Stéphane Boudreau, Steeve Côté, Guy Doré, Marco Festa-Bianchet, Michelle Garneau, Gilles Gauthier, Claude Lavoie, Esther Lévesque, Serge Payette, Monique Poulin, Reinhard Pienitz, Nigel Roulet, Jean-Pierre Tremblay, Warwick F. Vincent, Rosa Galvez.

Theme 3.4 - Historical insights into the adaptability of northerners

Theme leader: James Woollett

The long history of northern land occupancy by aboriginal people provides a wide variety of empirical examples of their adaptability to environmental change in the past 5000 yrs. We identify periods of major environmental and ecological change in the past and define the relationship between these changes and environmental, economic and historical factors. We evaluate the historical impacts of human activity on the evolution of northern landscapes and resources (deforestation, bogs, and exploitation of animals). In order to do this, we use a combination of scientific disciplines (earth sciences, chemistry, archaeology, history, anthropology, remote sensing, and historical ecology) and traditional knowledge. We study the cause and effect of the variability of subsidence modes (fishing, hunting and farming) and land management practices over the past 1000 years in Icelandic study sites. Our work clarifies our understanding of the way land (forests, bogs, driftwood) and marine resources facilitated the survival of the various cultures. The data gathered assist the community in developing tools and practices of land use planning which are adapted to the environmental context, while allowing them to better assert their history and reinforce their cultural identity.

Researchers: James Woollett; Dominique Arseneault, Monique Bernier, Najat Bhiry, Martin Lavoie, Reinhard Pienitz, Milla Rautio.

Theme 3.5 - Tools and methods to enhance knowledge transfer and exchange

Theme leader: Thomas Buffin-Bélanger

We develop and use innovative methods to acquire, share, transfer and manage knowledge in order to make CEN’s fundamental and applied expertise available to other users. CEN contributes to the education and social health sectors in the North by developing outreach programs and sharing its research infrastructures and resources with the communities. In order to better interpret the processes operating in the natural environment, to predict their evolution, and develop relevant tools adapted to the North, we work in close collaboration with northern stakeholders and communities to assist them in the acquisition and assimilation of information emerging from CEN’s research. Our partners from the public and private sectors are involved in projects targeting specific research priorities and these partners have access to our expertise and infrastructures. Validation of the applied use of our data and expertise by these sectors is essential to train HQP, revise our methods, improve them, and become more efficient in our capacity to transfer and share knowledge. The creative use of knowledge transfer tools facilitates information sharing with the various users and makes the data and knowledge issued from our work readily accessible and easy to use.

Researchers: Thomas Buffin-Bélanger; Michel Allard, Monique Bernier, Pascal Bernatchez, Joël Bêty, Najat Bhiry, Esther Lévesque, Warwick F. Vincent, Nicolas Lecomte.


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