Type of resources
Contact for the resource
Although the extent to which large-scale environmental change will affect birds that breed in arctic areas will vary among species, reduced reproductive success and population declines have been observed in long-distance migrants and species whose reproduction depends on non-climatic cues. However, the proximate cues that birds use to determine timing of breeding and have not been examined across a broad taxonomic scale and remain poorly quantified for many species. Similarly, factors influencing the distribution and survival of nests are limited for many species, particularly those that breed in northern locations. This program evaluates the processes that influence timing of breeding, nesting distribution, and nest success across a range of taxa, thus improving predictions of how avian populations will respond to changing environmental conditions across their ranges.
Our current understanding of the factors that influence where birds nest is incomplete, yet such information is important for accurate demographic assessments. To address questions related to spatial distributions of shorebird nests and to evaluate factors that may affect nest distribution in these species, during 2017 and 2019, we studied a small population of semipalmated sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) breeding in the Central Canadian Arctic, near the Karrak Lake Research Station, in Nunavut. The spatial distribution of semipalmated sandpiper nests at this site suggested loose aggregation, with median nearest neighbour distances of 73.8 m and 92.0 m in 2017 and 2019, respectively. Evidence for an influence of nesting distribution on daily survival rate of nests, however, was mixed. Neither nearest neighbour distance nor local nest density had a significant effect on daily nest survival in 2017, but in 2019, the best approximating model included an effect of local nest density, which indicated that nests in areas of high density had reduced survival rates. Contrary to other studies assessing settlement and nest site selection in semipalmated sandpipers, the spatial distribution of nests in this population demonstrates a role for social attraction in an otherwise territorial species and suggests that aggregated nesting can impose a cost on nest survival under certain conditions.
Findings from the human biomonitoring project (2015–2019), which included Fort Good Hope as a participating community, showed that lead levels in blood and urine were elevated in Sahtú residents compared to people from the Dehcho and the general Canadian population. To address community concerns and to understand how people living in the North might be exposed to lead, this research took place between 2020 and 2022. We started a community-based research program in Fort Good Hope to collect harvested birds and analyze birds, water, and fish for levels of lead.
Polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs) are a geographically widespread group of hydrocarbon chemicals, present in the environment as complex mixtures. During the past 25 years, levels of PACs in some northern ecosystems have been increasing, particularly in water, sediments, and lower trophic level organisms. However, relatively little information is publicly available to evaluate PACs in aquatic systems in the Sahtú Settlement Area. To help fill this knowledge gap, this project has two purposes: (i) to evaluate levels, composition, and potential biological impacts of PACs in water bodies in the Northwest Territories and (ii) to help make associated data more accessible to Indigenous communities, as well as to regulators who make decisions about water permits. Preliminary findings suggest that levels of PACs in the Mackenzie basin are elevated near areas of industrial development, but that the composition of PACs mixtures is relatively homogenous across a broad spatial scale. There is also some indication that particular PACs are elevated in areas with natural hydrocarbon seepage, but these investigations are ongoing. Next steps will include using existing data and sediment cores to evaluate how forest fires and snowpack levels affect PACs in water. Together, these findings will help inform future research and long-term monitoring needs for the Sahtú and the Mackenzie basin.
The Ice Thickness Program Collection contains ice thickness and snow depth measurements for 11 sites. Measurements are taken at approximately the same location every year on a weekly basis, starting after freeze-up when the ice is safe to walk on, and continuing until break-up or when the ice becomes unsafe. The location is selected close to shore, but over a depth of water which will exceed the maximum ice thickness.
Genetic material found in environmental matrices – soil, water, or even fecal matter (i.e. environmental DNA, hereafter eDNA) – is increasingly being applied in a broad range of research and monitoring activities. Examples include using eDNA to monitor biodiversity and to delineate geographic distributions of endangered or invasive species. In dietary studies of wildlife, eDNA-based approaches are also becoming common, particularly with increasing use of Next Generation Sequencing platforms. To promote and validate the use of eDNA techniques in ECCC programs and activities, in this project we are addressing knowledge gaps concerning factors (biological and technical) that affect eDNA recovery.
This project aims to build community partnerships, identify field sites, and develop and implement sampling protocols for long term, community-based, monitoring of aquatic ecosystems near Fort Good Hope, NT. Together with partners, we are collecting data to evaluate environmental change. These data will help establish “baseline” conditions and will increase knowledge of the complex relationships between landscape-level environmental change and ecosystem characteristics - findings that will be critical for future research and long-term monitoring of aquatic ecosystem health in the Sahtú.
Predicted and actual counts of sandpipers utilizing the portion of Roberts Bank along “Brunswick dike” (the shoreline between the base of the Roberts Bank Coal Port causeway northwestwards to Brunswick Point at the mouth of Canoe Pass).
Sidney Island Shorebirds Survey peep counts.
Surveyor shorebird bird observations and counts for all years.