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Research Grants

2017 James W. Bourque Studentship in Northern Geography

Jean Holloway
Impacts of forest fires on discontinuous permafrost in the south-western Northwest Territories

Jean Holloway on site measuring the impact of fire on the permafrost. The work requires a lot of equipment and can be very physically demanding. (Photo: Brittany Main)

To effectively study the impact of forest fires on permafrost it is necessary to have good data from a range of environments where permafrost is undergoing changes­. In Canada, little work has been done studying the impacts of forest fire on permafrost, through severe fires have been shown to accelerate permafrost degradation in other regions. This is particularly pertinent in discontinuous permafrost zones where permafrost is protected by forest vegetation, and the destruction of this vegetation from fires can leave the permafrost vulnerable to warming air temperatures.

This type of permafrost covers millions of square kilometers in the subarctic and is particularly sensitive to climate change because it is thin, discontinuous, and close to 0 C. The goal of this research project is to examine transformations of discontinuous permafrost following forest fires over a range of environmental conditions, with the purpose of improving predictions for future permafrost change. This project is part of a greater research project looking into how the ecosystem changes following fire and much carbon will be released as the permafrost thaws.

The study will take place southwest of Yellowknife, between Yellowknife and Kakisa, N.W.T., from August to September, 2018. 

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