Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

Despite the acknowledged complexity associated with sustainable development, it remains for society to assess, monitor and report information pertaining to changes in resource condition and the potential impacts on socio-economic values.  Often the challenge is to translate scientific results into information relevant to deliberative decision-making processes.  This research stream focuses on the challenge of meaningfully monitoring and assessing natural resource condition at a range of scales to support innovative impact mitigation and adaptation strategies.

A brief summary of this stream follows:

Completed Research Projects

Improving the effectiveness of Environmental Assessment for sustainable development

This research explored the grounded analysis of Environmental Assessment (EA) related policies, programmes and projects internationally. Specific projects have included: a constant comparison of EA regulations across Canada; proposing a new hierarchical approach to environmental decision making for EA (Morin, MSc); a critical review of Cumulative Effects policy in Alberta’s oil sands (Farias Zarate, MSc); an evaluation of the effectiveness of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in South America (Kis Madrid, MSc); proposing a framework for evaluating the effects of brick kilns in Mexico using SEA (Aguirre Zamarripa, MSc); determining the policy implications of cumulative effects associated with wind power development in Nova Scotia (Tutty, MSc); a constant comparison of EIA requirements in East Africa and international aid agencies (Jadhav, MSc); a discussion of the potential for implementing Cumulative Effects Assessment in Canada (Stoimenova, MSc); and exploring ways in which to integrate EA practices into community planning processes (Poirier, MSc).

Assessing the Vulnerability of Victoria's Central Highlands Ecosystems to Climate Change.

C.R. Nitschke, S.K. Arndt, R.J. Keenan and G.M. Hickey.

In collaboration with postdoctoral fellow Craig Nitschke, a pilot study to assess tree species vulnerability to climate change in the Central Highlands of Victoria, Australia was conducted. We modeled species and ecosystem resilience to changes in phenology, frost damage, drought risk, and heat stress likely to be associated with climate change. We identified that the Central Highlands forests are vulnerable to predicted climate change, but management options exist that can reduce this vulnerability. In particular, adaptation actions that focus on fostering the ecological resilience of tree species will, in turn, maintain their regeneration niche across a wider range than would otherwise be the case.

Funded by: Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria, Australia (2007-08).

Sustainable Food Security and Environmental Management Through Integrated Assessment of Rural Development Initiatives. M.A. Curtis, G.M. Hickey, J. Fyles, B. Pelletier.

In partnership with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES) at McGill University has prepared a multi-year project proposal that addresses issues of sustainable food security and environmental management in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda) using an Integrated Assessment (IA) framework. The development of this project proposal was made possible by a contribution from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), which was used for literature/database search, consultations in East Africa and the organization and implementation of two planning workshops in Montreal, Canada (June 2008) and in Nairobi, Kenya (July 2008).

Funded by: Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) (2008).