UBC Okanagan researcher joins team to protect B.C. forested watersheds

Interior university coalition funds disaster prevention research initiatives

B.C.’s forests and watersheds have taken a beating over the past few years.

Wildfires, floods, landslides and pests such as the Mountain Pine Beetle have all had significant environmental and socio-economic impacts on communities across the province.

A new initiative from the Interior University Research Coalition (IURC)—the Disaster Prevention, Response, Recovery and Resilience (Disaster PR3) fund—is helping researchers explore the impacts of these forest disturbances. The goal of the coalition is to amplify research that addresses the new realities faced by communities in B.C.’s Interior, where researchers are on the front lines of disaster events.

Faculty and students at UBC’s Okanagan campus, Thompson Rivers University and the University of Northern British Columbia—which together make up the IURC—are collaborating on three research projects that will examine natural disturbances and their impacts on various watershed processes in forests, hillside slopes and crown land.

“We want to establish inter-institutional and interdisciplinary research teams to address an important and complex research area,” said Janice Larson, director of the Tri-University Partnership Office, which oversees the IURC.

“Climate change and increased land development have emerged as influential factors in the occurrence of wildfires, floods and other natural disasters. The Disaster PR3 grant will fund research that will allow us to better plan for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters.”

READ MORE: UBC Okanagan opens new high-tech learning and teaching building

READ MORE: UBC Okanagan presentation reveals Franz Ferdinand’s connection to Okanagan

UNBC Professor Stephen Déry has teamed up with UBCO and TRU researchers to examine changes in climate and hydrology across key watersheds in the Fraser and Upper Columbia River basins, which have been affected by wildfires over the past two years. Along with assessing the impact of fires and other disturbances on watersheds, the researchers aim to better understand how these disasters have affected Indigenous people’s health with the goal to develop innovative measures to help mitigate future disasters.

“Changes in the land, air and water all affect the inhabitants of BC’s Interior,” sais Déry. “It is essential to gauge how floods and drought impact the lives of British Columbians, particularly Aboriginals who live off the land and water.”

UBC Okanagan Professor Adam Wei is working with Déry and TRU’s Tom Pypker to examine the long-term effect of forest disturbances—wildfire, mountain pine beetle, timber harvesting and climate change impacts—on the hydrological systems of forests.

Forests are critical elements in of our aquatic ecosystems, explains Wei. Large-scale disturbances of our forests can increase stream flow and soil erosion and consequently cause floods, landslides and other hazards that affect people and communities.

READ MORE: Kelowna’s newest supportive housing project opens

“As far as we know, there are currently no identified thresholds for large forest landscapes or watersheds in BC or elsewhere,” said Wei. “In addition, there are no studies on forest disturbance thresholds for peak or low flows.”

“The results from this proposed research will greatly advance watershed science and provide timely results that will help the province manage forest disturbances and reduce or minimize severe hydrological hazards.”

A final project will examine how wildfires and climate change have increased the risk of landslides in BC. Dwayne Tannant, a UBC Okanagan civil engineering professor, notes that assessing landslides is problematic due to the unstable nature of slope regions. Working with TRU’s Crystal Huscroft and John Church, and UNBC’s Joseph Shea, this project will use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to perform 3D mapping of landslide areas in cooperation with Tolko.

Images acquired from the UAV will be used to visualize geomorphic features and measure the landslide geometry and movement. Tannant notes that previous attempts to measure landslides have been unsuccessful, with instruments being destroyed by moving earth.

“Landslides, by their nature, are dangerous places to work and many areas are inaccessible,” said Tannant. “We believe that UAVs will prove to be excellent tools for assessing burn intensity, soil types and slope gradients and allow us to create accurate hazard maps for debris and mudflows.”

The funding was awarded earlier this month, and all three research teams expect to see results over the next two years.

“This is just the beginning of what our three interior universities are capable of when they work together to tackle pressing challenges facing the region,” said Larson.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Kelowna firefighters douse blaze in hedges

The cause of the fire on Renfrew Road is under investigation.

Kayaker still missing as COSAR continues aerial searches

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

Kelowna Springtime Regatta draws more than 50 sailboats

Sailors treated to windy, excellent long weekend conditions on Okanagan Lake

Crews responding to car crash in West Kelowna

A collision has been reported at the intersection of Carrington Road and Butt Road.

Get those flowers competition ready

Gardeners will come together June 29, for the 22nd Juried Flower Show

Weather holds up for Rutland May Days

60th annual May Day midway, market and entertainment saw hundreds of attendees

Update: Plan to see more smoke from South Okanagan wildfire

Richter Creek wildfire, 12 kilometres west of Osoyoos, is an estimated 400 hectares

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

South Okanagan runners take top spots in Peach City RunFest

Both the top male and female half-marathon winners were from Penticton

Former Greyhound Canada employees gather in Okanagan to say a final farewell

“Greyhound may take our jobs but they will never take our friendships,” says former bus driver

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Okanagan tattoo fundraiser draws tons of support

Lineup around the block in Vernon for start of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

Most Read