The Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS) at the University of Saskatchewan will play a lead role in a new network of researchers focused on understanding and managing the effects of extreme climate on the Canadian prairies and in other cold western Canadian regions.
The Changing Cold Region Network (CCRN) will study the detailed connections among changing climate, ecosystems and water in the permafrost regions of the sub-arctic, the boreal forest, the Western Cordillera and the prairies.
"This region plays host to globally important natural resources and 80 per cent of Canada’s agriculture production while experiencing one of the most extreme and variable climates in the world," said principal investigator Howard Wheater, director of the GIWS and the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security. "There is an urgent need to understand the nature of these changes so that we may predict and manage uncertain climate and water futures."
The CCRN, created with $5 million over five years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), is organized around five research themes, with 14 observatory sites located across Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the NorthWest Territories and the Yukon. Remote sensing and modeling products will be used to analyze and predict changing land, water and climate interactions in the regions.
"Climate change in Western Canada is one of the most significant challenges to our environmental and economic sustainability," said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad. "This ground-breaking approach involving four government agencies, eight universities and 15 international scientists will provide climate modeling tools not just of benefit to Canada but to other countries in cold regions facing similar issues. This exciting new initiative affirms the U of S as an innovative, interdisciplinary leader in our signature research area of water security."
New and existing data will be used to understand the effects of climate change at local and regional levels, including flows in the major rivers within the region (Saskatchewan, Mackenzie and Peace-Athabasca).
More than 50 university and government scientists and international collaborators from the natural and social sciences will work on the CCRN, which will also provide valuable experience for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.
"CCRN will contribute to the work of Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, and the World Climate Research Program," added Wheater. "This will foster further engagement with our stakeholders in the region as well, including industry, water managers and First Nations communities."