Resource and Environmental Management - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Managing the Urban Forest in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
1993-12
Abstract: 

Residential growth in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia is being driven by population expansion. This is fuelled by a buoyant economy, and immigration from eastern Canada and the Pacific Rim.

The traditional source of agricultural land to accommodate municipal expansion on the outskirts of Vancouver became unavailable following a 1972 moratorium on the development of farmland in British Columbia. The effect of this land freeze was to drive new housing onto the largely forested slopes surrounding the Fraser River floodplain. This factor, coupled in the last two decades, with an increasing demand for urban greenspace and housing areas with forest character has prompted many communities and some developers to adopt forest retention programs within, or contiguous to, housing enclaves.

This study examined the context of urban forestry as it applies to housing development tree retention. It examines the legal and design processes that encourage tree retention using a large development 'in the City of Port Moody as an example. The study found that the desire for tree retention has not been matched with informed sub-division or housing design, construction implementation, or subsequent forest stand management. The result has been damaged structures and declining urban forest assets.

Planned reconciliation of the environmental needs of trees versus the site engineering needs of cost-effective development can improve the implementation success of sustainable treeretention programs. In the long term, neglecting the risk of interface fire, or the need for silvicultural strategies and tree safety programs, will precipitate extensive loss of urban forest resources from natural or manmade causes. This is equally as true of trees on public lands as it is on collectively owned or private and commercial property.

Lower Mainland communities must develop comprehensive urban forest programmes. These should emphasize legal, planning, and informational tools, resource potential assessment methods, professional expertise, and public interest in urban forestry. A simple twelve-part model is developed to provide a context in which viable, adequately funded municipal urban forest programmes can be initiated and sustained.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
JC Day
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M.

Navigating Coexistence: Ecological Drivers and Social Implications of Predator-induced Regime Shifts in the Northeast Pacific

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-06-05
Abstract: 

Societies are greatly challenged by regime shifts, when ecosystems undergo fundamental changes that are rapid, unexpected, and difficult to reverse. In order to better navigate these transitions, we need information on the drivers, species interactions, and feedbacks that influence ecosystem dynamics, and an understanding of how human communities are adapting to the profound shifts in ecosystem resources. My thesis applies this social-ecological system lens to an iconic regime shift – the recovery of sea otters (Enhydra lutris) in the Northeast Pacific that is triggering a trophic cascade which causes sea urchin and shellfish-dominated rocky reefs to become productive macroalgae-dominated forests. To examine how predation and herbivory interactions affect the structure, function, and resilience of reef communities on the central coast of British Columbia (BC), I conducted four years of subtidal surveys and experiments. These data confirm the critical role of sea otter predation in suppressing urchin populations, but also demonstrate for the first time, that complementary predation by mesopredators (i.e. sunflower sea star Pycnopodia helianthoides) further enhance the resilience of kelp forests by consuming smaller-sized urchins that are otherwise unconsumed by otters. I also experimentally quantified how numerical and behavioural factors collectively influence herbivory rates that maintain alternative reef states. Kelp consumption rates showed a positive but non-linear relationship with urchin biomass, whereas food subsidies and predator-avoidance behaviour reduced urchin grazing rates. Next, to understand how sea otter recovery influences coastal Indigenous communities, I worked in a collaborative Indigenous partnership to host workshops and conduct survey interviews in a comparative case study. We identified 22 social-ecological conditions that can influence Indigenous peoples’ ability to adapt to otters, and revealed how perceptions and adaptive capacity differed between a BC First Nations community and an Alaska Sugpiaq Tribe. These quantitative and qualitative data suggest that coexistence with sea otters could be improved through strengthening Indigenous agency and authority and enabling collaborative adaptive otter management grounded in traditional knowledge and western science. As a whole, this thesis highlights the complexities, surprises, and contextual nuances that characterize sea otter recovery in tightly coupled social-ecological systems, and provides the foundations for a road map to improve future human-otter coexistence.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Anne K. Salomon
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

How to slash GHG emissions in the freight sector? Policy insights from a technology adoption model of Canada

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-01-09
Abstract: 

The movement of goods through freight transportation accounts for approximately 6% of total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions worldwide and 10% of Canada’s emissions, yet the freight sector is rarely targeted by GHG abatement research and policy. To address this gap, I use a technology adoption model (CIMS-Freight) to explore the effectiveness of policies in achieving GHG reductions in land freight (trucking and rail), and to determine scenarios that achieve Canada’s ambitious GHG reduction targets (i.e. 80% by 2050 relative to 2005 levels). To account for uncertainty in model parameters, I incorporate a Monte Carlo Analysis in which I run 1000 iterations of each simulation. My modeling results indicate that current policies (i.e. fuel efficiency standards as well as the federally proposed carbon price and low-carbon fuel standard) will not achieve 2030 and 2050 GHG reduction targets – where freight emissions will continue to rise, albeit at a lower rate than a “no policy” scenario. I also simulate the effectiveness of several individual policies: fuel efficiency standards, a carbon tax, low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), a zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate for truck and purchase subsidy. Even at their most stringent levels, no individual policy has a high probability (at least 67% of Monte Carlo iterations) of achieving 2030 or 2050 GHG reduction targets. Finally, I find that several policy combinations can have a high probability of achieving 2050 goals, in particular a stringent ZEV mandate for trucks complemented by a stringent LCFS. While other effective policies and policy combinations are possible, it is clear that Canada’s present and proposed policies are not nearly stringent enough to reach its ambitious emissions reductions targets.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Jonn Axsen
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M.

Exploring the link between the Conceptual Model of Avalanche Hazard and the North American Public Avalanche Danger Scale

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-01-11
Abstract: 

In 2010, Statham, Haegeli, et al. (2018) introduced the Conceptual Model of Avalanche Hazard (CMAH) to improve transparency and consistency of avalanche bulletin production in North America. However, since the CMAH has no explicit link to the avalanche danger scale, forecasters must rely on their own judgment to assign danger ratings, which can lead to inconsistencies in public avalanche risk communication. My research aims to address this missing link by exploring the relationship between avalanche hazard assessments and danger rating assignments in public avalanche bulletins. Using conditional inference trees, key decision rules and components of the CMAH influencing danger rating assignments are extracted. While the analysis offers insights into the assignment rules, it also highlights substantial variability that cannot be explained by components of the CMAH. The results from this study offer a foundation for critically reviewing existing forecasting practices and developing evidence-based decision aids to increase danger rating consistency.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Pascal Haegeli
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M.

Sub-regional variation in the structure, composition and ecology of old-growth floodplain forests in the Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-06
Abstract: 

A strong understanding of regional variation in structure and composition of old-growth floodplain forests and ecosystem drivers is critical for improving riparian old-growth management. We reviewed the literature to develop a framework to evaluate these and the relative roles of climate, disturbance, other drivers and their interactions. We then examined forest structure from 17 plots across ~11° of latitude along the northern Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest (PCTR). Mean annual temperature and precipitation were the most influential drivers of stand structure. Several flood proxies correlated with structural attributes suggesting that hydrological disturbance is a key driver of structure, likely driving greater variability among floodplain stands than upland stands. Northern plots showed slower stand development compared to southern plots, differences in structure suggest a need to re-evaluate sub-regional boundaries of the PCTR. Delineating sub-regional boundaries are important for monitoring and predicting how climate change will affect these forests and their disturbance regimes.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Ken Lertzman
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M. (Planning)

Densification of Vancouver's neighbourhoods: Energy use, emissions, and affordability

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-03
Abstract: 

The City of Vancouver in British Columbia has committed to use 100% renewable energy and reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. Like many cities in North America, much of the Vancouver's land area currently consists of single-family detached home neighbourhoods—a type of land use that has been associated with higher than average per capita energy use and emissions. In this study, I used an energy-economy-emissions model, CIMS, to evaluate how densifying these low-density neighbourhoods with medium-density housing forms would influence energy use, emissions, and home energy and personal transportation affordability. While densification was found to have a modest influence on reducing building emissions, zero-emission building regulations were found to be much more effective, highlighting the importance of energy-switching policy for residential building decarbonization. However, an affordability co-benefit of densification was found: smaller, more energy efficient dwellings in dense building forms reduce annual energy costs relative to detached homes, especially when coordinated with policies and actions to limit vehicle ownership.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Mark Jaccard
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M. (Planning)

Evaluating British Columbia’s economic policies for liquefied natural gas development

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-08-30
Abstract: 

British Columbia is attempting to develop a large-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector to export natural gas to Asia, with capital investments estimated to be as high as $40 billion for a single LNG plant. An alleged benefit of LNG development is increased revenue for the BC provincial government of over $27 billion. Our research investigates potential fiscal benefits for BC from LNG and the processes that were followed when developing the new LNG-related economic policies. Research methods include an analysis of relevant documents, interviews with key actors, and quantitative modeling of LNG revenue impacts. Results show that the primary objective of the fiscal mechanisms is to ensure that the LNG industry is developed in BC and maximizing the return to government is a secondary objective. Secondly, the process of developing the LNG policies did not follow best practices from a public policy perspective. Thirdly, the government’s projected incremental revenue from an LNG export industry is significantly exaggerated.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Sean Markey
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M. (Planning)

Indigenous community preferences for food and ceremonial fishery outcomes: Quantifying the importance of harvestable biomass and spatial distribution via a discrete choice experiment

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-17
Abstract: 

Fisheries are inherently complex, with important interactions among biological dynamics, the environment, and the socio-economic systems in which they are embedded. Managing fisheries for both short- and long-term sustainability requires taking a management-oriented paradigm focused on meeting goals and objectives that are important and acceptable to all fisheries participants. Indigenous communities regularly feel that they are under-represented in fisheries decision-making, and that their cultural and livelihood objectives are ignored. Governments want to integrate Indigenous criteria into their definition of fisheries management success, but to date there is a lack of tools and processes to help Indigenous communities quantify their objectives in a way that can effectively inform the DFO process. Using a case study on the West Coast of Vancouver Island (WCVI), this project examines how a simple survey with a discrete choice experiment (DCE) can be used to help quantify Indigenous objectives. I worked with the Nuu-chah-nulth Indigenous community to design and implement a DCE to determine their preferences for the outcomes of a food and ceremonial fishery. The DCE provided quantitative information to show positive preferences for increased layers of spawn on bough and quality of spawning area, and negative preferences for increasing number of spawning areas and increasing travel time. Additionally, we found evidence of a shifting preference baseline in the Nuu-chah-nulth community, highlighting a loss of traditional Nuu-chah-nulth knowledge caused by low herring abundances along the WCVI. DCE results are supported by qualitative comments from the Nuu-chah-nulth community, making us confident that the DCE was able to effectively represent community preferences. Overall, we found that DCE’s can help Indigenous communities translate their general fishery goals into specific measureable objectives, allowing their goals and values to be better represented and included in fisheries management decision-making.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Sean Cox
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Project) M.R.M.

Public willingness to pay for improvements in ecosystem services and landowner willingness to accept for wetlands conservation: An assessment of benefit transfer validity and reliability using choice experiments in several Canadian watersheds

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-07
Abstract: 

Benefit-cost analyses are often used to evaluate the economic efficiency of proposed policies or projects. Such analyses require analysts to estimate the benefits and costs in monetary terms of any changes related to the policy being analyzed, including to the environment (e.g., changes in water or air quality). However, estimating these monetary values can be difficult since prices are often not available due to market failure. As such, several non-market valuation techniques have been developed for use in assessing these monetary values, including original research techniques, such as choice experiments, and benefit transfer which applies existing non-market values estimated using original research techniques to other contexts (e.g., locations). Several studies have evaluated the validity and reliability of benefit transfer in a variety of contexts. In this thesis, I contribute to this literature by assessing transfers in contexts not yet evaluated. In doing so, I use choice experiments to investigate landowner preferences for wetlands conservation in two Ontario watersheds and elicit the general public’s willingness to pay values for changes in ecosystem services in four Canadian watersheds. This research resulted in four papers. The first paper, motivated by the loss of wetlands in Southern Ontario, involves assessing the preferences and willingness to accept (WTA) of farm and non-farm landowners for enrolling their land in wetlands conservation programs. Though preferences and values are heterogeneous, many landowners are willing to enrol and at moderate cost. Using data from this paper, in the second and third papers I evaluate the validity and reliability of transfers of WTA and predicted program participation market shares, respectively. Results suggest that transfers of WTA are similarly valid and reliable to transfers of willingness to pay, while transfers of predicted participation market shares are considerably more valid and reliable than a parallel assessment of transfers of WTA. Finally, using data from the general public survey I evaluate alternatives for reconciling quantitative choice experiment attributes with differing levels for benefit transfer. A key finding of this research is that transfers rooted in “relative” preferences are more valid and reliable than transfers rooted in “absolute” preferences.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Duncan Knowler
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Identifying operation-specific ski run classes and their acceptability for skiing from avalanche risk management decisions in mechanized skiing

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-05
Abstract: 

While mountain guides in mechanized skiing operations use a well-established terrain selection process to manage the physical risk from avalanches, the relationship between the acceptability of ski runs for guest skiing and the terrain character is complex. First, this thesis presents a new approach for deriving ski run types from daily terrain assessment records of two operations in British Columbia, Canada. It uses a combination of self-organizing maps and hierarchical clustering to identify groups of runs that have been assessed similarly in the past and organizes them into operation-specific run hierarchies. The thesis then uses this foundation and applies a general linear mixed effects model to explore the relationship between acceptable skiing terrain (i.e., status open) and avalanche hazard conditions. Expressing this relationship numerically provides an important step towards the development of meaningful decision aids, which can assist commercial operations to manage their avalanche risk more effectively and efficiently.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Pascal Haegeli
Department: 
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.R.M.