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Integrated Watershed Research In The Nechako River Basin (Phase 3)

NEEF Funding: $400,000

Total Project Budget: $800,000

Start Date: July 2023

End Date: June 2025


The Integrated Watershed Research Group (IWRG) of UNBC was initiated in response to the growing awareness of the environmental, socio-economic and health implications of watershed dynamics (Owens 2008, Parkes et al. 2010, Parkes 2022). This third phase of research will leverage its experience and expertise, a broad and expanded network of collaborators, colleagues and stakeholders across the watershed to address key outstanding and emerging issues in the Nechako Watershed. This will include expanded, long-term monitoring of hydrometeorological and aquatic conditions and sediment fluxes, key fish populations, and evaluation frameworks that integrate a range of relevant information, knowledge and perspectives to better understand and respond to interrelated issues in the Nechako Watershed, and contribute to enhanced decision-making at the basin scale.

Informed by the insights and outcomes from Phases 1 and 2 research, this project will pursue research in four interrelated themes: 1) Network of Experimental Watersheds for Integrated Research; 2) Effects of Landscape Disturbances on Sediment and Contaminant Fluxes; 3) Fish Responses to Environmental Change; and 4) Amplifying Co-benefits for Climate, Catchments (Watersheds) and Communities.

Theme 1: Network of Experimental Watersheds for Integrated Research 

Goal: To develop a network of experimental watersheds to improve monitoring and understanding of the impacts of the climate crisis and land cover changes on terrestrial water fluxes. This is to enhance the scientific basis for managing the Nechako’s ecosystems and understanding of the water supply by identifying challenges in the resiliency of existing water infrastructure and management systems under the increasing risks of future water shortages and floods. 

Theme 2: Effects of Landscape Disturbances on Sediment and Contaminant Fluxes

Goal: To determine how land-falling atmospheric rivers and severe wildfires modify erosion of the landscape and the delivery of fine-grained sediment and associated chemicals to river channels in the NRB. This information will provide the scientific basis for improved understanding of sediment sources and transfers due to the climate crisis, thereby helping to protect sensitive aquatic habitats and ecosystems from sediment and its associated contaminants. 

Theme 3: Fish Responses to Environmental Change

Goal: To establish a framework for investigating short- and long-term responses of fish to environmental changes including climate change in the Nechako Watershed. The framework will be developed by integrating data collection using telemetry and data logging with modelling of existing organism and population-level datasets. Study species include: burbot, rainbow trout, sockeye salmon, Chinook salmon, and white sturgeon. 

Theme 4: Amplifying Co-benefits for Climate, Catchments (Watersheds) and Communities

Goal: To identify and amplify opportunities for co-benefits to contribute to a healthy, just and sustainable future in the Nechako. The focus of this theme is to identify, trial and refine watershed-based tools and processes that support the integration of climate, catchment (watershed) and community information, and to leverage these approaches to support knowledge exchange partnerships that are better equipped to move knowledge into action. The particular emphasis will be on tools and processes that (a) focus on the triple co-benefit criteria of being good for climate (and our planetary home), good for catchments (land and water living systems) and good for communities (protecting present and future generations); (b) prioritize and profile Indigenous, integrative and regenerative knowledges and practices, and (c) support and profile innovative approaches to knowledge visualisation, communication and exchange that amplify co-benefit designs and orientation. 



Proponent: University of Northern British Columbia