Resource and Environmental Management, School of

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Urban Sustainability: From Theory Influences to Practical Agendas

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-09-04
Abstract: 

Achieving sustainability goals is complex and requires policy coherence; yet effective action for structural change has been elusive partly because global issues must be primarily addressed locally. Agreements such as the UN Global Goals and the New Urban Agenda and current pressing problems such as the 2020 pandemic demonstrate that it is impossible to tackle global socio-ecological system issues without addressing urban vulnerabilities and consumption models. This article presents a critical review of theoretical roots, conceptual influences, major debates, limitations, and current trends in community and urban sustainability. Broader sustainability theories and intellectual traditions of the last two centuries have shaped current urban agendas, most of which however do not cater to a systemic approach and may lead to policies that do not integrate all three pillars of sustainability. While cities are challenged by the difficulties of addressing multiple objectives, meaningfully engaging citizens, and consistently tracking progress, the limitations of urban sustainability application can lead to lost opportunities, lack of credibility, and increased public skepticism. Fundamental changes are required in local decision-making and citizen mobilization to move from current piecemeal approaches towards long-lasting urban sustainability and successful implementation of global goals.

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Article
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Enabling Coexistence: Navigating Predator‐induced Regime Shifts in Human‐ocean Systems

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-05-11
Abstract: 

1. Rapid system‐wide changes triggered by predators can pose considerable challenges to people. In the Northeast Pacific, the recovery of sea otters Enhydra lutris following their extirpation due to the 18th and 19th century fur trade is driving a social‐ecological regime shift with profound implications. While the ecological consequences of this shift are well documented, very little research has examined the conditions that enable or constrain people's ability to adapt to the social, economic and cultural changes that transpire.

2. Through a collaborative partnership and workshops with Indigenous knowledge holders spanning Alaska to British Columbia, along with quantitative and qualitative interviews in two Indigenous communities among the first to experience sea otter recovery, we examined people's perceptions of the social‐ecological conditions that affect their ability to adapt to these changes.

3. We found that communities differed in their relative rankings of adaptation‐enabling conditions; however, the following four broad strategies were perceived as critical to improving coexistence with sea otters: (a) strengthening Indigenous governance and decision‐making authority; (b) promoting adaptive co‐management; (c) weaving Indigenous knowledge and Western science into management plans and (d) establishing learning platforms. Both communities also identified that increased livelihood options and financial assistance would not compensate for lost food security.

4. Differences in enabling conditions and attitudes towards sea otters within and between communities can be attributed to the social‐ecological and political context in which sea otter recovery occurs.

5. Our study suggests that enhancing Indigenous peoples' ability to adapt to predator‐induced regime shifts will require a transformation in current resource governance systems if we are to navigate towards an ecologically sustainable and socially just operating space. Overall, this work highlights the need for more Indigenous authority, knowledge and leadership in addressing predator‐induced regime shifts in coupled human‐ocean systems.

 

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Article
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Persistent Organic Pollutants and Mercury in Genetically Identified Inner Estuary Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Residents of the Guayaquil Gulf, Ecuador: Ecotoxicological Science in Support of Pollutant Management and Cetacean Conservation

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-03-20
Abstract: 

The bottlenose dolphin is one of the most common cetaceans found in the coastal waters, estuaries, and mangroves of Ecuador. However, its population size is gradually declining in the Gulf of Guayaquil, and anthropogenic factors including habitat degradation, uncontrolled dolphin watching, dredging activities, increasing maritime traffic, underwater noise, bycatch, and marine pollution have been implicated in their decline. Very little is known about contamination by persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and mercury in bottlenose dolphins from the Pacific coast of South America. To address this research gap, the first assessment of total mercury (THg) and POPs, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), in free-ranging bottlenose dolphins in mangroves (El Morro Mangrove Wildlife Refuge) of the Gulf of Guayaquil, was conducted in Ecuador in 2018. Dolphin samples (i.e., skin and blubber; n = 9), were obtained using dart biopsy field methods for contaminant analysis. POP concentrations ranged from 0.56 to 13.0 mg/kg in lipid weight, while THg ranged from 1.92 to 3.63 mg/kg in dry weight. The predominant POPs were OCPs (50% of ΣPOP), followed by PCBs (46%) and PBDEs (6.0%); particularly, p,p′-DDE, the main DDT metabolite and a potent anti-androgenic, accounting for 42% of ΣPOP, ranging from 0.12 to ∼7.0 mg/kg lw, followed by PCB 153 (8.0%) and PCB 180 (5.0%). PBDE 47 accounted for 2.0% of ΣPOP. While the POP concentrations are lower than those found in dolphins from many other regions of the world, some of the THg concentrations are within the concentration range found in dolphins from the southeastern coast of the United States. The ecotoxicological risk assessment showed that some of the sampled dolphins are exposed to immunotoxic and endocrine disruption effects by POPs and mercury. The low genetic diversity of this distinctive dolphin population, likely exhibiting genetic isolation and a unique evolutionary heritage, could be lost if the population continues to decline in the face of anthropogenic threats, including chemical pollution. Our finding shows that bottlenose dolphins in coastal Ecuador are exposed to environmental contaminants and can be used as sentinel species for ecosystem health to monitor pollution in the region and to support ecotoxicological risk assessment and regional pollutant management.

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Article
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Characterizing the Nature and Variability of Avalanche Hazard in Western Canada

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-04-12
Abstract: 

The snow and avalanche climate types maritime, continental and transitional are well established and have been used extensively to characterize the general nature of avalanche hazard at a location, study inter-seasonal and large-scale spatial variabilities and provide context for the design of avalanche safety operations. While researchers and practitioners have an experience-based understanding of the avalanche hazard associated with the three climate types, no studies have described the hazard character of an avalanche climate in detail. Since the 2009/2010 winter, the consistent use of Statham et al. (2017) conceptual model of avalanche hazard in public avalanche bulletins in Canada has created a new quantitative record of avalanche hazard that offers novel opportunities for addressing this knowledge gap. We identified typical daily avalanche hazard situations using self-organizing maps (SOMs) and then calculated seasonal prevalence values of these situations. This approach produces a concise characterization that is conducive to statistical analyses, but still provides a comprehensive picture that is informative for avalanche risk management due to its link to avalanche problem types. Hazard situation prevalence values for individual seasons, elevations bands and forecast regions provide unprecedented insight into the inter-seasonal and spatial variability of avalanche hazard in western Canada.

Document type: 
Article

Diverse Knowledge Systems Reveal Social–Ecological Dynamics That Inform Species Conservation Status

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-10-26
Abstract: 

Understanding changes over historical timescales is essential to gauge conservation status of a species. Modern ecological data typically neglect past magnitudes of change, which fortunately can be evaluated by bridging disparate knowledge sources. We synthesized zooarchaeological, historical, traditional, and western science knowledge to document changes in relative abundance of key species in Canada's northern abalone social–ecological system (SES) from the Holocene to present. Integrated models fit to traditional and western science data revealed 3.7% annual population decline from 1940s to 2010s for large abalone, although traditional knowledge density estimates were 9.5× higher than those derived from western science. Abalone are presently scarce compared to the mid‐1900s, but more abundant than before the early 1800s, calling their endangered status into question. Linking multiple knowledge sources can build SES understanding, facilitate power sharing, and support ecologically sustainable and socially just conservation outcomes.

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Article
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Consumers Continue To Be Confused About Electric Vehicles: Comparing Awareness among Canadian New Car Buyers in 2013 and 2017

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-11-14
Abstract: 

Despite policy support and technological progress, consumer adoption of electric vehicles remains limited globally. One important barrier to electric vehicle adoption may be limited consumer awareness. We investigate trends in consumer awareness, familiarity, and experience with electric vehicles by comparing cross-sectional survey responses from two representative samples of Canadian new vehicle-buyers collected in 2013 (n = 2922) and in 2017 (n = 1808). While a significantly higher proportion of 2017 respondents have 'heard of' key electric vehicle models, stated familiarity and experience are low for both samples. Further, about three-quarters of respondents in both samples are confused about the basic notion of how to refuel (or recharge) electric vehicles—and how these vehicles differ from hybrids. Conversely, over half of 2017 respondents report having seen at least one electric vehicle charger in public, which is more than double the proportion reported in the 2013 sample. These trends hold in analyses of three Canadian provinces, including two that have engaged in significant consumer outreach activities over this time frame. Overall, in contrast to expectations, our results suggest that consumer awareness remains low and stagnant, which may hinder market growth and inhibit the climate mitigation potential of electric vehicles.

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Article
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Low Blue Carbon Storage in Eelgrass (Zostera Marina) Meadows on the Pacific Coast of Canada

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-06-13
Abstract: 

Seagrass habitats provide important ecosystem services, including their ability to take up and store substantial amounts of organic carbon, known as ‘blue carbon.’ However, the paucity of geospatial and carbon storage information along the Pacific Coast of Canada hinders the inclusion of blue carbon storage data in conservation planning and policy development in coastal habitats. We assessed the carbon storage and accumulation rates in three eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadows in southern Clayoquot Sound on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. The intertidal and subtidal portions of each meadow were mapped and sampled to estimate eelgrass density, biomass, and carbon, and sediment cores were analyzed to estimate sediment carbon storage and accumulation rates. Aboveground biomass measurements were consistent with estimates for Zmarina in other regions, with average aboveground carbon biomass estimates of 16.78 g C m-2 and 16.25 g C m-2 in the intertidal and subtidal areas, respectively. However, the estimated aboveground to belowground biomass ratio was an order of magnitude higher than for seagrass species in temperate/tropical areas, largely because belowground biomass was up to 10 times lower than for other Zmarina meadows, averaging 6.17 g C m-2 and 5.03 g C m-2 in the intertidal and subtidal zones, respectively. Sediment carbon concentrations did not exceed 1.30%Corg, and carbon accumulation rates ranged from 2.90–39.61 g Corg m-2 yr-1, decreasing with depth and averaging 10.8 ± 5.2 g Corg m-2 yr-1. While sediment carbon stocks were generally higher in the eelgrass meadows relative to non-vegetated reference sites, carbons stocks averaged 1343 ± 482 g Corg m-2, substantially less than global averages. These carbon results confirm that eelgrass does contribute to carbon storage in Clayoquot Sound but at lower rates than identified for more tropical seagrasses. By improving the quantification of site-specific carbon dynamics, eelgrass’ role in climate change mitigation and conservation planning can be assessed.

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Article
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Expanded Consumer Niche Widths May Signal an Early Response to Spatial Protection

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-10-15
Abstract: 

Marine management interventions are increasingly being implemented with the explicit goal of rebuilding ocean ecosystems, but early responses may begin with alterations in ecological interactions preceding detectable changes in population-level characteristics. To establish a baseline from which to monitor the effects of spatial protection on reef fish trophic ecology and track future ecosystem-level changes, we quantified temperate reef fish densities, size, biomass, diets and isotopic signatures at nine sites nested within two fished and one five-year old marine protected area (MPA) on the northwest coast of Canada. We calculated rockfish (Sebastes spp.) community and species-specific niche breadth for fished and protected areas based on δ13C and δ15N values. We found that rockfish community niche width was greater inside the MPA relative to adjacent fished reefs due to an expanded nitrogen range, possibly reflecting early changes in trophic interactions following five years of spatial protection. Our data also demonstrated that the MPA had a positive effect on the δ15N signature of rockfish (i.e., trophic position), but the effect of rockfish length on its own was not well-supported. In addition, we found a positive interaction between rockfish length and δ15N signature, such that δ15N signatures of rockfish caught within the MPA increased more rapidly with body size than those caught in fished areas. Differences in rockfish size structure and biomass among fished and unfished areas were not clearly evident. Species of rockfish and lingcod varied in trophic and size responses, indicating that life-history traits play an important role in predicting MPA effects. These results may suggest early changes in trophic behavior of slow-growing rockfish due to predation risk by faster growing higher trophic level predators such as lingcod inside MPAs established on temperate reefs. Consequently, spatial protection may restore both the trophic and behavioral roles of previously fished consumers earlier and in measurable ways sooner than observable changes in abundance and size.

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Article
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Measuring Social-Ecological Resilience Reveals Opportunities for Transforming Environmental Governance

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-09-01
Abstract: 

Understanding the resilience of social-ecological systems can advance our ability to transform environmental governance and achieve ecologically sustainable and socially just outcomes. However, measuring this multidimensional emergent system property has been elusive. We translated theoretical principles of resilience into ecological and social metrics and used expert knowledge to assess how they have changed through three sequential governance regimes of the Pacific herring fishery in northwestern Canada. We showed a significant reduction in system-wide resilience between previous Indigenous and historical colonial governance regimes, and limited change with the onset of the latest environmental justice era. We also detected recent signs of recovery among several metrics of resilience, thereby signaling that this system exhibits the preconditions for governance transformation. Pinpointing the erosion and recovery of attributes that confer social-ecological resilience can reveal leverage points and highlight strategic pathways to enable deliberate transformation toward a more ecologically sustainable and socially just future.

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Article
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Drawing on Indigenous Governance and Stewardship to Build Resilient Coastal Fisheries: People and Abalone along Canada's Northwest Coast

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-10-11
Abstract: 

Small-scale indigenous abalone fisheries on the northwest coast of Canada persisted for at least two millennia prior to modern commercial and recreational fisheries that lasted for four decades before collapsing, causing a coast wide closure that remains today. What traditional governance and stewardship practices fostered resilient fisheries along Canada’s northwest coast and how might they inform collaborative institutions that foster ecologically sustainable and socially just coastal fisheries in future? In collaboration with two coastal First Nations, a policy analysis of northern abalone (GaalGuuhlkyan (Skidegate Haida), ǧaɫǧṇ̓íq̓ (Heiltsuk), Haliotis kamtschatkana) stewardship was conducted to assess where traditional and modern fisheries governance and management aligned or failed to align with seven theoretical principles of socialecological resilience. The analysis revealed that traditional principles of reciprocity and contingent proprietorship of clan-based fishing areas aligned with resilience principles whereas contemporary centralized decision-making and region-wide management policies did not. Moreover, current issues of power asymmetry and lack of trust need to be addressed to build a future indigenous-state governance approach to coastal fisheries. This research demonstrates how indigenous resource governance and stewardship practices generated over millennia of social learning and experimentation offer insights that could be broadly applied to foster resilient coastal fisheries today.

Document type: 
Article