Climate warming and human disturbance in the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada, has led to widespread permafrost thaw and land cover change that has disrupted the hydrological cycle and the ecosystems and human activities that depend on it.
There is a growing awareness in the Dehcho that permafrost thaw is negatively affecting the region's economy, and the health, well-being and livelihoods of its residents.
There is lack of information on permafrost distribution, evolution, and resultant landscape change trajectory in this region.
There is an urgent need to develop and mobilise knowledge on permafrost thaw in the Dehcho and elsewhere in the subarctic, develop new, practical and customised predictive tools and strategies to adapt to permafrost thaw, and to provide interactive training to decision makers and other users.
In direct response to this need, the Scotty Creek Research Station (SCRS) and the Dehcho First Nations (DFN), co-propose the Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost (DCoP), a Dehcho-wide initiative whose overall objective is to generate a fusion of leading-edge scientific and Indigenous knowledge on permafrost, and to use it as a basis to co-develop new predictive decision support tools and innovative risk management strategies to inventory and manage permafrost and adapt to permafrost thaw.
Close consultations with Indigenous communities throughout the Dehcho, identified the urgent need for sustained community engagement based on two-way knowledge exchange to guide specific needs for improved permafrost thaw monitoring, adaptation, process understanding, and prediction. These needs collectively form DCoP's “five themes”, each with specific objectives.
The ~150,000 km2 Dehcho region in the southern NWT is one of the most rapidly warming on Earth. It is also experiencing an increase in direct human disturbance due to expanding industrial activity. Permafrost thaw in the Dehcho is widespread and occurring at unprecedented rates, evidence that this region is particularly sensitive to climate warming and disturbance due to thaw.
Permafrost thaw is disrupting the Dehcho’s land, water and therefore human activities, the patterns, rates, controls and mechanisms of permafrost thaw, and associated feedbacks and land cover transformations across the region remain poorly understood. As a result, there is an urgent need to investigate thaw-induced changes to the Dehcho’s land and water, develop and mobilise knowledge on these changes, develop predictive modelling tools, and provide interactive training to decision makers and other stakeholders.
Although there is a growing awareness throughout the Dehcho that permafrost thaw is negatively affecting the region, regulatory authorities, resource management boards, and communities are ill-equipped to respond effectively to this new and growing challenge because there exists little or no permafrost thaw monitoring, adaptation or predictive capacity in the region, and therefore no appropriate basis for decision support.
In direct response, the Dehcho First Nations (DFN) and the Scotty Creek Research Station (SCRS) co-propose the Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost (DCoP) to improve the understanding of and ability to predict and adapt to permafrost thaw. Because livelihoods in the Dehcho are so tightly connected to “the land”, DCoP’s close collaborative approach that places Indigenous communities in leadership positions, is required to generate the new knowledge, predictive capacity and decision-support tools needed to manage the land and water resources that support Dene ways of life.
Close consultation with Indigenous communities throughout the Dehcho identified six broad research questions:
Q1: Where is permafrost located within the Dehcho and where is it thawing?
Q2: What is the rate and pattern of permafrost thaw?
Q3: How is permafrost thaw changing land?
Q4: What adaptation and mitigation measures can or should be taken?
Q5: How is permafrost thaw changing the flow and storage of water on the land?
Q6: What is the long-term trajectory of thaw-induced change to the land and water?
It is clear from these consultations that the concerns over permafrost thaw and its effect on the land, water and livelihoods are shared throughout the Dehcho.
Co-develop with Indigenous communities, new initiatives for improving the monitoring (Theme 2), adaptation (Theme 3), understanding (Theme 4), and prediction (Theme 5) of permafrost thaw and its impacts in the Dehcho.
Gather and synthesise the Indigenous Knowledge pertaining to permafrost and permafrost thaw in the Dehcho, and compile this information into the Permafrost Resources.
Gather and synthesise all new knowledge arising from Themes 2-5, and add it to the Permafrost Resources.
Mobilise throughout the Dehcho the Permafrost Resources assembled in O1 and O2 through community engagement in support of themes 2-5.
DCoP will produce permafrost probability maps as a first step toward defining the current distribution of permafrost in the Dehcho, and establish an Indigenous community-led network to monitor changes to permafrost using both conventional temperature-based and new (DCoP-developed) ice-content monitoring probes.
DCoP will use 2018 imagery to map the current spatial distribution of permafrost, and archived photos (1970) to assess the change in permafrost distribution over the intervening 48 year period.
DCoP will develop and test new knowledge-based permafrost thaw adaptation strategies designed to lessen the impacts of such thaw, improve safety on the land and in communities, and safeguard infrastructure.
Improved Process Understanding.
Develop new knowledge on the permafrost thaw processes, rates and patterns causing the changes observed in Theme 2 with a focus on critical lateral thaw of discontinuous permafrost.
Share, apply and interpret new methods for predicting the rate, pattern and impact of permafrost thaw customised for specific conditions within the Dehcho.
The Government of NWT announced support (through CIMP funding) for a new DCoP-led project examining permafrost thaw induced changes to groundwater resources in the Dehcho. DCoP initiated the “Permafrost Open Data System” (PODS) with Indigenous community and Government of NWT partners. PODS aims to maximise the quality, quantity, availability and utility of permafrost-relevant data by co-developing standardised data templates and formats, and tools to query, visualise, analyse and share critical, readily-usable datasets. DCoP also hosted planning meetings for a community engagement event scheduled for 1-3 June, 2022.
The Scotty Creek Research Station was opened for the year by Guardians, researchers and students. The annual snow surveys were conducted, all data was recovered from the automated stations. Data was also recovered from all other road-accessible stations elsewhere in the Dehcho. New field studies were initiated to examine how climate warming and wildfire are changing surface water and groundwater resources by causing permafrost thaw.
Scotty Afternoon Gathering with community members, students and researchers. A new project was proposed that will examine how permafrost thaw is changing the interaction between groundwater and surface water in the Dehcho. DCoP members collaborate with the Future Skills Centre to develop on-line resources to assist the Dehcho Guardians with their research/monitoring activities.
Scotty Afternoon Gathering with community members, students and researchers. A new LKFN Science License application was developed and approved by Chief and Council. The new licence complements the existing licence system of the Aurora Research institute. DCoP contributed to the planning of NASA/ABoVE airborne missions over the Dehcho for 2022.
DCoP researchers, students, community members, and other research partners participate in the Annual Scientific Meeting of ArcticNet (ASM2021). In the Dehcho, DCoP researchers worked with high school principals and teachers to create “Dehcho Pods” so that high school students, band office staff and other community members could participate in the meeting. DCoP also worked with ArcticNet in the following week on a pilot project that brought the ASM2021 to high schools. This focussed on dialogue between high school students and researchers and on bringing high school classes across Canada (including in the Dehcho) together for discussions on research in the North and research careers.
Scotty Afternoon Gathering with community members, students and researchers. New DCoP “Coder” appointed and based in Yellowknife.
DCoP produced a new short film on the research and community engagement initiatives of the collaborative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Niy7R0sXeZg. The DCoP team completed a report for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (GNWT) on the state of permafrost in the southern NWT border region. New project initiated at Sambaa K’e on mapping permafrost thaw-induced changes to the land which will involve DCoP students based in the community and working closely with community members and the band office.
Scotty Creek hosts the training of technicians for the new “Future Skills” programme for community members. Ground thermal measurements conducted across the Dehcho in support of permafrost probability mapping for the region. DCoP students initiate new study in Samba K’e region on climate warming-induced changes to the land based on traditional place names and Dene Zhatie. Harvesters and community mappers share information needed for local permafrost mapping. Virtual meetings with “Community Mappers”, and with researchers, students, community members at the “Scotty Afternoon”.
DCoP participates in meetings of the Łı́ı́dlı̨́ı̨́ Kų́ę́ First Nation Climate Change Adaption Planning & Database Management Project (Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program). DCoP Mapper, Seamus Daly, presents his work to Ecology North. Scotty Creek tour and picnic hosted by DCoP researchers and students. DCoP post-doctoral fellow (Stephanie Wright) initiates a new groundwater study at selected sites throughout the Dehcho. Three part series on Scotty Creek and DCoP published by L'Aquilon .
DCoP students deploy to Scotty Creek from U. Alberta. One-week visit to Scotty Creek by Journalist from La Presse (Montreal). Team from U. Montreal deploy to Scotty Creek to upgrade the greenhouse gas flux station infrastructure. DCoP students present their results at the annual meeting of the Canadian Geophysical Union meeting. Virtual meetings with “Community Mappers”, and with researchers, students, community members at the “Scotty Afternoon” gathering.
DCoP researchers, students, community members lead intensive maintenance and upgrade campaign for all infrastructure at the Scotty Creek Research Station. DCoP students deploy to Scotty Creek. Communications Co-ordinator of Dehcho First Nations travels to Scotty Creek for planning meetings with other DCoP team members. LKFN hosts DCoP researchers for team meetings in Fort Simpson.
DCoP researchers present results at annual NASA/ABoVE meeting. New DCoP Mapper (Seamus Daly) appointed. New DCoP Coder (Nick Wilson) appointed.
Winter data downloaded from all DCoP automated stations (Thanks Guardians!). DCoP field studies commence throughout Dehcho.
Presentation on Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost by Dr. Miguel Sioui for World Water Day. Tristan Gingrass-Hill and Steve Kojkelj present combined work of DCoP and Thermokarst Collective to researchers/students of the Laurier-GNWT Partnership. Annual snow surveys conducted at Scotty Creek by Dehcho Guardians and Mason Dominico.
DCoP Research Associate Kristine Haynes presents an invited talk to the 9th Annual World Wetlands Day Research Symposium on how peatlands in the Dehcho is changing as a result of permafrost thaw. DCoP-affiliated project “Building local capacity for community-based micrometeorological monitoring” funded by Future Skills Centre: https://fsc-ccf.ca/projects/climate-change-nwt/.
Kick-off meeting with the Climate Change Adaptation Planning Committee for the new CIRNAC-funded project. DCoP graduate student Élise Devoie successfully defends her PhD dissertation. DCoP forms new collaboration with University of Laval so that DCoP contributes to understanding permafrost thaw over a greater geographical region including Nunavik and northern Ontario, with close linkages to Indigenous communities in both regions.
Arctic Change 2020 (ArcticNet) participation “Bubbles” set up at Dehcho hich schools for student participation. Future Skills Centre grant awarded for employment of Indigenous community members to run carbon flux towers in Dehcho. Application to CIRNAC’s Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program / Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program entitled “LKFN Climate Change Adaptation and Implementation Planning” also funded.
New postcast launched focussed on climate change adaptation in the Dehcho. DCoP researchers make virtual (Zoom) visits including presentations and discussions to Deh Gah (Fort Providence) and Dene Echo (Fort Liard) high school classes on climate warming and permafrost thaw in the Dehcho.
Guardians and LKFN community members provide an interpretive tour of the Scotty Creek Research Station for Radio Canada Crew. Scotty Creek Research Station closes for the season.
Dehcho Guardians deploy to Scotty Creek Research Station to collect end of season data and to winterise scientific sensors and winterise the station. NSERC Alliance grant application funded.
Dehcho Guardian teams deploy to Scotty Creek Research Station throughout August for data collection, assessment of maintenance needs for station and research infrastructure, maintenance and repairs. Film Crew from Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) deploys to the Scotty Creek Research Station guided by Dehcho Guardians for documentary on northern community response to COVID-19 pandemic.
Dehcho Guardians take lead in DCoP data collection at sites throughout Dehcho with emphasis on ground temperature monitoring sites in support of permafrost mapping. DCoP researchers and collaborators apply for supplementary funding from the NSERC Alliance programme to expand DCoP’s research and community engagement activities.
Guardians deploy to Scotty Creek to conduct safety checks and provide maintenance. DCoP researchers and students begin collaboration with DFN on Dene-language based regional climate change adaptation strategy.
Dehcho Guardians take lead in DCoP data collection at sites throughout Dehcho. Planning meetings for application to Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program / Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program (CIRNAC). Partnership includes Łı́ı́dlı̨́ı̨́ Kų́ę́ First Nation, Prairie Climate Centre, Dehcho First Nations, Fort Simpson Métis, Village of Fort Simpson, Scotty Creek Research Station, Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost. Meeting of GNWT researchers with DCoP on transboundary (CC-NWT) water studies in the Dehcho.
Dehcho Guardians take lead in DCoP data collection at sites throughout Dehcho.
Field season begins (15 March) starting with annual late-winter snow surveys.
DCoP researchers participate in the annual Dehcho K’ehodi Gathering (18-19 Feb.). DCoP collaborated with the NWT Geological Survey to host the Permafrost Mapping Workshop in Fort Simpson (20 Feb.). DCoP organised and facilitated media coverage (CBC North) of on-the-land activities of Dehcho Guardians participating in DCoP (21 Feb.). DCoP hosts annual Scotty Creek field course on winter hydrology (23-29 Feb.) for Dehcho high school students.
DCoP meeting in Yellowknife (21 Jan.) with researchers and members of the Dehcho First Nations. DCoP members take part in meetings in Yellowknife (22 Jan.) to plan the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Remote Sensing to be held in Yellowknife in July, 2020. DCoP team members collaborate with NASA/ABoVE to secure remote sensing missions over Dehcho in 2020.
DCoP members provide update on DCoP initiatives at the annual meeting of ArcticNet in Halifax, 2-5 Dec., 2019. DCoP and the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, co-host the Indigenous Research Symposium (5 December). DCoP also hosts researcher from National Research Council (I. Egorov), who gave a presentation on recent advances to ground freezing systems.
DCoP members host Cold Regions Research Centre Days (21-22 November), and co-host with Office of Indigenous Initiatives the Indigenous Day of Learning (29 November).
Scotty Creek field course and on-the-land camp announced for 23-29 February, 2020.
Extensive field investigation conducted across the Dehcho in support of DCoP’s permafrost mapping initiative. NASA/ABoVE airborne remote sensing mission over Scotty Creek and over the transect north-to-south DCoP transect extending from Scotty Creek to the BC border. DCoP researchers provide ground-based measurement surveys in support of the NASA/ABoVE mission. Collaboration initiated with NWT GeoScience on permafrost mapping in the Dehcho.
Airborne Lidar missions and supporting ground-based surveys were conducted over selected areas of the Dehcho, led by DCoP collaborators (U. Lethbridge) with support of Dehcho Guardians and in collaboration with local Dehcho communities. DCoP hosts international Northern Research Basins Symposium and Workshop (https://conferences.wlu.ca/22ndnrb/) in Yellowknife, NWT. DCoP hosts a meeting and social event at the Scotty Creek Research Station that brought together scientists from across the circumpolar region and Indigenous community members from the Dehcho.
DCoP researchers go to Fort Providence (DGGFN), Wrigley (PKFN), Sambaa K’e (SKFN), Jean-Marie River (JMRFN) and Fort Simpson (LKFN) to visit local areas of permafrost thaw with community members.
DCoP researcher James Craig hosts training course on the Raven hydrological model. DCoP researchers take part in climate discussions at Annual Dehcho Assembly.
DCoP researchers take part in Dehcho Annual Assembly (Fort Simpson) to discuss climate change in the Dehcho.
DCoP researchers and DGGFN community members visit extensive flooded areas north of Fort Providence, discuss monitoring and research plans.
Meetings in Fort Simpson with DFN and Dehcho Divisional Education Council to plan the inclusion of Scotty Creek field courses into high school environmental science curriculum. DCoP site visit with Dehcho Guardians to the flooded forest north of Fort Providence.
DCoP researchers partner with Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, University of Waterloo and Laurentian University on new NSERC-ACCS study entitled "Modeling of the winter carbon losses in cold region wetland ecosystems under current and future climates"
DCoP links up with new project exploring winter carbon losses in wetlands, funded by NSERC’s Advancing Climate Change Science in Canada. Infrastructure upgrades to the Scotty Creek Research Station.
DCoP researchers host field course and on-the-land camp at the Scotty Creek Research Station for Dehcho-based senior high school students and undergraduate university students from southern Canada. Field research season begins at the Scotty Creek Research Station.
Deh Gáh Got'îê First Nation
Dehcho Divisional Education Council
Dehcho First Nations
Environmental Stewardship & Climate Change, Government of NWT
Forest Resources Division, Government of NWT
Fort Nelson First Nation
Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation
NWT Centre for Geomatics
NWT Geological Survey
Pehdzeh Ki First Nation
Sambaa K’e First Nation
Tthets’éhk’edélî First Nation
University of Alberta
University of Lethbridge
University of Waterloo
Water Management & Monitoring Division, Government of NWT
West Point First Nation
Benjamin Adams Líídlįį Kúę Regional High School
Jonathan Antoine Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Nimisha Bastedo Dehcho Divisional Education Council
Joachim Bonnetrouge Deh Gáh Got’îê First Nation
Philippe Brulot Dehcho Divisional Education Council
Dieter Cazon Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Gilbert Cazon Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Shannon Cazon Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Edward Cholo Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Lauren Corneille-Lafferty Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Angela Griffin Dehcho Divisional Education Council
Kim Hardisty Dehcho Divisional Education Council
Yvette Jean-Jacques Dehcho Divisional Education Council
Deanna Jumbo Sambaa K’e First Nation
Jessica Jumbo Sambaa K’e First Nation
Margaret Jumbo Sambaa K’e First Nation
Ruby Jumbo Sambaa K’e First Nation
Victor Jumbo Sambaa K’e First Nation
Mike Low Aboriginal Aquatic Resources & Ocean Management
Lynn McKay Checkpoint
Wayne McKay Checkpoint
Liza McPherson Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Steve Meek Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Ashley Menicoche Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Gladys Norwegian Tthets’éhk’edélî (Jean Marie River) First Nation
Ramona Pearson Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Arial Sanguez Tthets’éhk’edélî (Jean Marie River) First Nation
Stanley Sanguez Tthets’éhk’edélî (Jean Marie River) First Nation
William Alger Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Allan Bonnetrouge Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Nicholas de Pelham Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Garret Isiah Líídlįį Kúę First Nation
Rashaad Bhamjee Yellowknife
Isabelle de-Grandpre Environment and Natural Resources
Nanar Hakobyan NWT Centre for Geomatics
Bruce Hanna Environment and Natural Resources
Steve Kokelj NWT Geoscience
Tom Lakusta Environment and Natural Resources
David Livingstone Yellowknife
Lauren Nolan Yellowknife
Jakub Olesinski Environment and Natural Resources
Patrick Scott Yellowknife
Jurjen Van der Sluijs NWT Centre for Geomatics
Michael Braverman GHD Engineering
Sorina Ciucurita Wilfrid Laurier University
James Craig University of Waterloo
Mason Dominico Yellowknife
Tristan Gingras-Hill Laval University
Chris Hopkinson University of Lethbridge
Oliver Sonnentag University of Montreal
Josh Thienpont York University
Lorna Harris University of Alberta
Rachael Abulu York University
Mackenzie Bell Wilfrid Laurier University
Dustin Brooks University of Lethbridge
Linda Flade University of Lethbridge
Ian Frederick Wilfrid Laurier University
Larry Liu University of Waterloo
Mikhail Mack Wilfrid Laurier University
Ryan Planche Wilfrid Laurier University
William Quinton, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3C5, 519-884-0710, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ramona Pearson, Dehcho First Nations, Fort Simpson, NT, X0E 0N0, 867-695-2610, email@example.com
Dieter Cazon, Líídlįį Kúę First Nation, Fort Simpson, NT, X0E 0N0, 867-695-3131, firstname.lastname@example.org