Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park Climate Change Assessment
In 2006, the Climate Change Section of the British Columbia (BC) Ministry of Environment provided funding to help Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park incorporate the impacts of climate change into the update of its Master Management Plan. Climate scenarios were created for the park using downscaled global climate models. Key variables assessed included changes in temperature, precipitation, snowpack, wind speeds, and soil moisture. The results were used to prioritize and develop potential adaptation strategies for the park.
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is located near the British Columbia-Alberta border, 28 km southwest of Banff. It was established in 1922. The park is comprised of 39,050 hectares and has lakes, glaciers, alpine meadows and mountains within its area. There are no roads within the park but trails provide access for camping, hiking, mountain climbing, fishing, horseback riding, and skiing. Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is listed as part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 2006, the Climate Change Section of the BC Ministry of Environment provided funding to help Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park incorporate the impacts of climate change into its update of the Master Management Plan. Recognizing that the Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park may be affected by climate change, managers endeavored to use scenarios to assess potential climate-related impacts and adaptation strategies. Climate change may alter mean temperatures, precipitation patterns, soil moisture, wind speeds, and annual snowpack in Mount Assiniboine Park.
Managers created future scenarios for the park using data from global circulation models and tools provided by the Canadian Climate Impacts and Scenarios project website. The resulting scenarios provided a range of climate-related impacts in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park; they included:
- an increase in annual mean temperature of 2.1-7.9°C;
- an increase of annual precipitation by 1-7%;
- a decrease in soil moisture by 0-5%;
- an unknown effect on mean wind speed; and
- a decrease in annual snowpack.
Based upon a literature review on regional climate change impacts, previous concerns of park management, and stakeholder workshops, the potential impacts of climate change to Mount Assiniboine Park were assessed. Three impact areas were identified as priorities within the park: ecosystem shifts, increases in natural disturbances such as wildfires or insect outbreaks, and altered hydrology including glacial retreat, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring peak flows.
Prior to using climate change scenarios, park managers employed a “hands off” approach to management; however, climate change may require a more interventionist method to moderate future impacts. Some suggestions for combating the effects of climate change in the park included:
- Collaborate with adjacent parks and landowners to address impacts;
- Integrate adaptation strategies at a large scale;
- Collect data to assess long-term trends;
- Limit access to vulnerable ecosystems;
- Employ fire management to mimic historical burn rates;
- Develop strategies to respond to major insect outbreaks;
- Research climate change related impacts to animal populations; and
- Increase public awareness of climate change related risks and impacts.
Outcomes and Conclusions
The Mount Assiniboine Management Plan draft includes results from the Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park Climate Change Assessment. Key priorities include education, long-term monitoring, and options for managing risks. Park managers are working on developing methodologies to protect lands from climate change impacts while allowing for flexible and appropriate adaptation strategies.
Project File (s)
Kershner, J. (2011). Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park Climate Change Assessment [Case study on a project of the British Columbia Ministry of Environment]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/mount-assiniboine-provincial-park-clim... (Last updated January 2011)