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Communicating the Benefits and Risks of Digital Agriculture Technologies: Perspectives on the Future of Digital Agricultural Education and Training

File(s): 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-12-17
Abstract: 

British Columbia’s food system is experiencing an emerging trend in the digitalization of agriculture, which will impact agricultural practices in the province. The rapid growth of this field has created a niche for training and education in digital agriculture and more specifically, in areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and computing. However, it remains unclear whether current educators and trainers in British Columbia are communicating both the benefits and risks of digital agriculture, and the need for an inclusive and equitable approach to digital agriculture. To understand the emerging education and training landscape in digital agricultural technologies, this exploratory study engaged in a key informant interview with 12 participants, including educators, relevant government staff, and private training consultants/practitioners in the food and agricultural sector in British Columbia. The small sample is reflective of the nascent nature of this area of research, which seeks to better understand digital agriculture from the perspectives of agricultural educators and trainers both in the public and private sectors. The study found that there is currently a lack of consideration for equity and food sovereignty in digital agricultural training and education. This is primarily due to a gap in engagement with the social aspects of digital agriculture. Without engaging critical social scientists and critical data studies, digital agriculture education, and training may be conducted in ways that do not promote responsible and ethical innovation, and are therefore counterproductive to the development of a just and sustainable food system.

Document type: 
Article

Paleoecological Investigation of Vegetation, Climate and Fire History in, and Adjacent to, Kootenay National Park, Southeastern British Columbia, Canada

File(s): 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2022-01-12
Abstract: 

Paleoecological investigation of two montane lakes in the Kootenay region of southeast British Columbia, Canada, reveal changes in vegetation in response to climate and fire throughout the Holocene. Pollen, charcoal, and lake sediment carbon accumulation rate analyses show seven distinct zones at Marion Lake, presently in the subalpine Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir (ESSF) biogeoclimatic (BEC) zone of Kootenay Valley, British Columbia. Comparison of these records to nearby Dog Lake of Kootenay National Park of Canada in the Montane Spruce (MS) BEC zone of Kootenay Valley, British Columbia reveals unique responses of ecosystems in topographically complex regions. The two most dramatic shifts in vegetation at Marion Lake occur firstly in the early Holocene/late Pleistocene in ML Zone 3 (11,010–10,180 cal. yr. B.P.) possibly reflecting Younger Dryas Chronozone cooling followed by early Holocene xerothermic warming noted by the increased presence of the dry adapted conifer, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and increasing fire frequency. The second most prominent change occurred at the transition from ML Zone 5 through 6a (∼2,500 cal. yr. B.P.). This zone transitions from a warmer to a cooler/wetter climate as indicated by the increase in western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and subsequent drop in fire frequency. The overall cooling trend and reduction in fire frequency appears to have occurred ∼700 years later than at Dog Lake (∼43 km to the south and 80 m lower in elevation), resulting in a closed montane spruce forest, whereas Marion Lake developed into a subalpine ecosystem. The temporal and ecological differences between the two study sites likely reflects the particular climate threshold needed to move these ecosystems from developed forests to subalpine conditions, as well as local site climate and fire conditions. These paleoecological records indicate future warming may result in the MS transitioning into an Interior Douglas Fir (IDF) dominated landscape, while the ESSF may become more forested, similar to the modern MS, or develop into a grassland-like landscape dependent on fire frequency. These results indicate that climate and disturbance over a regional area can dictate very different localized vegetative states. Local management implications of these dynamic landscapes will need to understand how ecosystems respond to climate and disturbance at the local or ecosystem/habitat scale.

Document type: 
Article

Impact of Information Presentation on Interpretability of Spatial Hazard Information: Lessons from a Study in Avalanche Safety

File(s): 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-10-27
Abstract: 

Avalanche warning services publish avalanche condition reports, often called avalanche bulletins, to help backcountry recreationists make informed risk management choices regarding when and where to travel in avalanche terrain. To be successful, these bulletins must be interpreted and applied by users prior to entering avalanche terrain. However, few avalanche bulletin elements have been empirically tested for their efficacy in communicating hazard information. The objective of this study is to explicitly test the effectiveness of three different graphics representing the aspect and elevation of avalanche problems on users' ability to apply the information.

To address this question, we conducted an online survey in the spring of 2020 that presented participants with one of three graphic renderings of avalanche problem information and asked them to rank a series of route options in order of their exposure to the described hazard. After the route ranking tasks, users were presented with all three graphics and asked to rate how effective they thought the graphics were. Our analysis data set included responses from 3056 backcountry recreationists with a variety of backgrounds and avalanche safety training levels. Using a series of generalized linear mixed effects models, our analysis shows that a graphic format that combines the aspect and elevation information for each avalanche problem is the most effective graphic for helping users understand the avalanche hazard conditions because it resulted in higher success in picking the correct exposure ranking, faster completion times, and was rated by users to be the most effective. These results are consistent with existing research on the impact of graphics on cognitive load and can be applied by avalanche warning services to improve the communication of avalanche hazard to readers of their avalanche bulletins.

Document type: 
Article

Indigenous Knowledge of Key Ecological Processes Confers Resilience to a Small-scale Kelp Fishery

File(s): 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-05-05
Abstract: 

1. Feedbacks between social and ecological processes can lead to sustainable stewardship practices that support ecological resilience among harvested populations. This is evident along the world's coast lines, where Indigenous knowledge systems have facilitated millennia of human–nature coexistence. However, social–ecological conditions globally are quickly shifting, posing challenges for coastal Indigenous communities where customary harvest of ocean resources, such as kelps, needs to adapt to growing markets, novel climates and changing governance regimes. Consequently, a pressing need exists to determine how specific ecological and social variables drive key dynamics within coupled human–ocean systems.

2. Motivated by the information needs of an Indigenous community on Canada's Pacific Coast, we co-designed a traditional harvest experiment, field surveys and semi-directed interviews with Indigenous resource users and managers to measure the ecological resilience of the feather boa kelp Egregia menziesii to harvest and determine what environmental variables most affected its recovery. We wove these results with information on current stewardship practices to inform future management of this slow-growing perennial kelp based on Indigenous knowledge and western science.

3. We found that Egregia recovered from traditional harvest levels faster than expected with minimal impact on its productivity because plants sprouted new fronds. In fact, traditional harvest levels of Egregia mimicked natural frond loss. Indigenous knowledge and empirical ecological evidence revealed the importance of individual plant size, site-specific seawater temperature and wave exposure in driving Egregia recovery. Indigenous stewardship practices reflected these ecological relationships in the practice of selecting large plants from sites with healthy patches of Egregia. While we documented key social controls of harvest, current self-reported harvest levels of kelp fronds were two times greater than the stated social norm, but only 1.2 times greater in terms of kelp biomass.

4. Consequently, traditional harvest protocols facilitate Egregia recovery and promote its sustained use. However, its ecological resilience is susceptible to the erosion of customary practices and warming ocean temperatures.

5. Co-produced research that mobilizes multiple bodies of knowledge can enhance our understanding of social–ecological resilience, empower local decision makers and democratize the science and practice of natural resource management.

Document type: 
Article

Supporting Indigenous Adaptation in a Changing Climate: Insights from the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre (British Columbia) and the Fort Apache Heritage Foundation (Arizona)

File(s): 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-06-09
Abstract: 

Indigenous peoples are both disproportionately threatened by global climate change and uniquely positioned to enhance local adaptive capacities. We identify actions that support Indigenous adaptation based on organizational and community perspectives. Our data come from two Indigenous organizations that share cultural heritage stewardship missions—the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre (Stó:lō Nation, British Columbia) and the Fort Apache Heritage Foundation (White Mountain Apache Tribe, Arizona). These organizations collaborated with us in exploring community perceptions of climate effects, investigating community adaptation opportunities and constraints, and identifying actions that support Indigenous adaptation. Research methods included engagement with organizational collaborators and semi-structured interviews with organizational representatives and community members and staff. Results confirm that Stó:lō and Apache territories and communities have experienced climate change impacts, such as changes in temperature, hydrology, and increase in extreme weather events. Climate effects are cumulative to colonial depletion of traditional environments and further reduce access to traditional resources, practices, and food security. Results indicated that certain actions are identified by community members as adaptation enablers across case studies—most prominently, perpetuation of Indigenous culture and knowledge, climate education that is tailored to local contexts, collaborative decision-making among community institutions, and integration of climate adaptation into ongoing organizational programs. We conclude that Indigenous-owned organizations are engaged in the expansion of adaptive capacity and hold potential to further support their communities.

Document type: 
Article

A Landscape-Level Assessment of Restoration Resource Allocation for the Eastern Monarch Butterfly

File(s): 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-05-18
Abstract: 

The Monarch butterfly eastern population (Danaus plexippus) is in decline primarily due to habitat loss. Current habitat restoration programs focus on re-establishing milkweed, the primary food resource for Monarch caterpillars, in the central United States of America. However, individual components of the Monarch life cycle function as part of an integrated whole. Here we develop the MOBU-SDyM, a migration-wide systems dynamics model of the Monarch butterfly migratory cycle to explore alternative management strategies’ impacts. Our model offers several advances over previous efforts, considering complex variables such as dynamic temperature-dependent developmental times, dynamic habitat availability, and weather-related mortality across the entire range. We first explored whether the predominant focus of milkweed restoration in the mid-range of the Monarch’s migration could be overestimating the Monarch’s actual habitat requirements. Second, we examined the robustness of using the recommended 1.2–1.6 billion milkweed stems as a policy objective when accounting for factors such as droughts, changes in temperature, and the stems’ effective usability by the Monarchs. Third, we used the model to estimate the number and distribution of stems across the northern, central, and southern regions of the breeding range needed to reach a self-sustainable long-term Monarch population of six overwintering hectares. Our analysis revealed that concentrating milkweed growth in the central region increases the size of the overwintering colonies more so than equivalent growth in the south region, with growth in the northern region having a negligible effect. However, even though simulating an increase in milkweed stems in the south did not play a key role in increasing the size of the overwintering colonies, it plays a paramount role in keeping the population above a critically small size. Abiotic factors considerably influenced the actual number of stems needed, but, in general, our estimates of required stems were 43–91% larger than the number of stems currently set as a restoration target: our optimal allocation efforts were 7.35, 92, and 0.15% to the south, central, and northern regions, respectively. Systems dynamics’ analytical and computational strengths provided us with new avenues to investigate the Monarch’s migration as a complex biological system and to contribute to more robust restoration policies for this unique species.

Document type: 
Article

An Evaluation of a Consumer Food Waste Awareness Campaign using the Motivation Opportunity Ability Framework

File(s): 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-03-11
Abstract: 

As awareness around the issue of food waste has grown, various types of interventions to reduce food waste have emerged, many of which tackle waste at the household level. The most popular type of intervention is the awareness campaign, where information and tips are provided to individuals in order to motivate and improve the abilities of households to reduce the amount of food waste they generate, and to better manage food in general. This study is the first to apply the Motivation Opportunity Ability (MOA) framework to assess the experience of householders who participated in an awareness campaign intervention study. Specifically, it highlights how the intervention impacted their motivations, opportunities and abilities to reduce food waste. Using two focus groups engaging a total of 44 participants in the City of Toronto, we found that the awareness interventions had positive impacts in improving motivation and ability. They were less impactful in providing opportunities to reduce food waste but we did find that interventions that act as nudges can help provide some opportunities, albeit at a micro-scale. The study also found that despite the campaign, there were many barriers that resulted in households not acting in accordance with their motivations and abilities, mainly due to challenges around store promotions. This paper contributes to an emerging body of literature applying the MOA framework in the field of food waste studies and recommends that future interventions are designed in a manner that addresses all three factors.

Document type: 
Article

Urban Sustainability: From Theory Influences to Practical Agendas

File(s): 
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.

Document type: 
Article

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

File(s): 
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.

 

Document type: 
Article

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

File(s): 
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.

Document type: 
Article