WATERLOO – Wilfrid Laurier University’s Changing Arctic Network (CANet) research team has been awarded $3.2 million in funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to continue to build Laurier’s global leadership in cold regions environmental research.
Climate warming is resulting in dramatic changes to ecosystems across the Canadian North, including conversion of forests to wetlands and tundra to shrub landscapes. It is also changing the quantity and quality of water in streams, rivers, and lakes, and thawing permafrost at unprecedented rates.
“Building on our partnership with the Government of the Northwest Territories, formalized in 2010, this funding allows us to grow and deepen the resources available for our joint work,” said Deborah MacLatchy, vice-president: academic and provost, and acting vice-president: research at Laurier. “This CFI funding will support our transformative research infrastructure that enables the discoveries about the North that will improve the lives of Canadians.”
Increasingly, circumpolar countries are looking to the Canadian North as an ideal location for conducting essential northern research. This knowledge is needed to understand the global implications of a changing climate. CANet will support world-leading infrastructure to meet these globally important research challenges.
“Northern Canada is one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth,” said Jennifer Baltzer, associate professor of Biology and Canada Research Chair in Forest and Global Change. “The Changing Arctic Network will carry out integrated ecosystem studies to better understand the changes that are occurring to the tundra, forests, streams, rivers and lakes.”
In addition to these changes, the Canadian North is expected to undergo increased mining, oil and gas exploration and production and construction of new highways and pipelines in the coming years.
“There is an urgent need to better understand the impact of a changing climate on the environment, and to begin preparing for increased resource development in the North,” said Philip Marsh, professor of Geography and Environmental Studies and Canada Research Chair in Cold Regions Water Science. “The CANet infrastructure platform will allow the Partnership to enhance its world-class research infrastructure throughout the Northwest Territories.”
This funding will provide the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada with improved knowledge about these fragile northern environments, how to manage the forests, waters and fish of these regions and ensure that northern resources are developed in a sustainable manner.
CANet is interested in changes in flood frequency of rivers, in changes of water quality and in changes to the fish that inhabit these waters. “CANet will couple state-of-the-science research stations with neighbouring communities to facilitate knowledge development and sharing between scientists and local land users,” said William Quinton, associate professor of Geography and Environmental Studies and Canada Research Chair in Cold Regions Hydrology.
In addition to research stations, the infrastructure funding will support 20 “living laboratories”, each representing a widely occurring bio-physical environment; plus, updates to three environment and natural resources laboratories in the Northwest Territories.
Partners on the project include the Government of the Northwest Territories, Université de Montréal, University of Guelph and the Laurier Institute of Water Science and the Cold Regions Research Centre.