Climate Change Adaptation Planning for Northwest BC Communities

Project Details

Lax Kw’alaams, Prince Rupert and Terrace; N 54.55, W 129.23
Coast Tsimshian Resources LP
2010 – 2011
Team Member(s):
Dirk Brinkman (Project Lead, Brinkman Group); David Marmorek, Don Robinson, Sarah Beukema, Marc Porter, and Darcy Pickard (ESSA); Ralph Matthews (UBC); Katie McPherson and Kate Menzies (project coordinators); James Casey (World Wildlife Fund); Jed Kaplan and Joe Melton (L’École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and University of Victoria); Cortex Consultants
Service Area(s):
Climate Change Adaptation
Services Employed:
Science Communication, Ecological Modelling, Community Engagement, Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, Strategic Planning, Global Climate Modelling

The Problem We Aimed to Solve

People of the Skeena region are concerned about how climate change will affect their communities and way of life. This area in northwestern BC is bordered on the east by landscapes that continue to experience the profound ecological and economic impact of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, and on the Pacific coast by uncertainty about the health of fisheries. The First Nations and all municipalities are concerned about reducing the risks of similar shocks from climate change; a threat that could compound the region’s existing social and environmental challenges. Our goal in this two-year project was to find ways to encourage climate change adaptation within the diverse communities of the region.

How We Helped

Led by the Brinkman Group, this multi-stakeholder initiative brought together social and ecological scientists from government, academia, NGOs, Indigenous groups and the private sector – all supported with funding from the provincial Future Forest Ecosystems Scientific Council (FFESC) and the federal Mitacs program. ESSA scientists worked with colleagues from L’École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne to develop and apply the climate sensitive LPJ-Guess vegetation model to a 32,000 km2 landscape within the Skeena watershed, using a range of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) future climate scenarios. Coupled with the global climate modeling and biophysical studies, sociologists from the University of British Columbia met with Elders and leaders from the communities of Prince Rupert, Lax Kw’alaams and Terrace. The sociologists aimed to understand each community’s perceptions about climate and climate change, how each community values the natural environment, and how these values and perceptions have changed over the past two decades. The sociological and ecological studies were complemented by concurrent landscape planning research led by the World Wildlife Fund, and by a program to sample and monitor fisheries sensitive watersheds, sponsored by the BC Ministry of Environment.

Our Project’s Impacts

Day-long workshops in each community brought leaders together and provided a forum for discussions about climate change adaptation. The basis of these discussions were presentations synthesizing the results of the interviews. Graphs and animations showing the simulation results supported the presentations. The simulations illustrated possible changes in seasonal runoff patterns for the next 60 years. The simulations also showed changes in how the landscape could suit various tree species over the same period, and how a variety of climate and harvesting regimes would impact carbon storage.