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About The Project

The Project

PPS Arctic Canada (Present processes, Past changes, Spatio-temporal variability in the Arctic delimitation zone, Canada) is the Canadian component of PPS Arctic, an IPY endorsed research program on the causes and consequences of change of the forest-tundra ecotone (the treeline). Together with international researchers we developed common protocols and collected data during IPY to examine change at the treeline. In the summers of 2007-09, we collected data at over a dozen locations in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, northern Manitoba, northern Quebec and Labrador.

The results from these studies contribute to our short-term objectives:

  1. an analysis of recent change in tree and shrub distributions,
  2. the collection of environmental and microclimate data to accompany treeline change,
  3. an investigation of the mechanisms of vegetation change at treeline,
  4. the mapping of the spatial pattern of tree and non-tree species at treeline and in tundra islands within the boreal forest to predict future changes as treeline migrates,
  5. an assessment of the role of disturbance, and
  6. the development of models of the long-term relationship between environmental change, resource availability and human health and well-being in the forest-tundra ecotone.

We conducted experimental and observational studies, trained students and actively engaged northern communities. We collected data on trees of all ages, seeds, vegetation, snow and ice, microclimate, spatial pattern, soil and socioeconomic indicators across the forest tundra ecotone at sites across northern Canada following common protocols developed by researchers in the international PPS Arctic. Additional data were collected regarding the impacts of changes in climatic conditions on treeline and their consequences on ecosystems and communities. Our key finding continues to be the large amount of variability in tree growth, regeneration and spatial pattern among tree species, regions across Canada and even sites within the same region. Evidence of change in and movement of the forest-tundra ecotone is evident in some sites but not in others despite increasing temperatures. Seed viability or seedling recruitment may be hindering treeline movement at these sites. This variation in treeline response may be extremely challenging for outlining general strategies for climate change adaptation in Arctic environments. Key activities have included annual meetings of our international research cluster in Norway, Canada and Russia. We led the organization of the conference Understanding Circumpolar Ecosystems in a Changing World: Outcomes of the International Polar Year, November 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta, in which we promoted synthesis and integration among all terrestrial ecology IPY projects. In the last stage of our project we focus on disseminating our results to northern communities and to the scientific community, sharing the results of our research on the effects of treeline migration on northern ecosystems and communities.

The People

• PPS Arctic Canada is a team of more than 200 researchers including 23 co-investigators, 3 post-doctoral fellows, over 80 students from high school to graduate level and more than 80 northern residents and elders. Training and northern community involvement have been key components of our research project.