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Issue 49 | July 2020

Alberta Wetland Field Guide - Call for photo submissions

Ducks Unlimited Canada is looking for photographs of Alberta's wetlands and common wetland indicator plants to contribute to the development of an Alberta Wetland Field Guide. Follow the link below to learn more about the guide and how to submit your photos!
Submit Photos Here

Looking for more wetlands resources? Check out the Canadian Conservation and Land Management Wetlands Knowledge Portal! New resourses are continually being made available: 
Explore the portal now!

Monthly Webinar Series

Are you interested in giving a webinar on a wetland-related topic? We are always looking for presenters and would love for you to contact us.

We will be taking a break from hosting webinars over the summer months and will resume in September. In the meantime, check out recordings of our past webinars here.

Climate Change Refugia; What, Where, and for How Long?

The North American boreal biome is experiencing an increase in frequency of disturbance including drought, flooding and wildfires, in part, due to climate-induced warming. To understand what habitats may persist or be more resistant to climate change, Stalberg et al. (2020) developed a framework to describe regions of climate change refugia or, areas that may be relatively buffered from modern climate change. The framework considers boreal ecosystem features and processes, spatial scales, geographic distribution and landscape features. 

The mountainous regions of the boreal forest have complex terrain which may provide microclimactic shelters to a variety of species. Beyond the landscape scale, forest elements such as peatlands may form climate change refugia. Stalberg et al. identified peatlands as having a high refugia potential as they exhibit a certain level of resistance to external climatic fluctuations and can retain water. These features allow peatlands to act as a buffer in upland forests making the forest more resilient to drought and wildfire disturbances. This information can be used to guide conservation and management in boreal ecosystems and to work towards the protection of key climate change refugia areas. Learn more here

Seismic lines as analogs for wildfire fuel modification 

Boreal peatlands make up 21% of western Canada’s land base yet are left out of wildfire management. Wildfire management and FireSmart treatments aim to reduce fire danger by decreasing fire intensity and spread. Above-ground vegetation in treed peatlands can burn similar to upland stands and once ignited, below-ground peat can smolder. Smoldering is a slow, underground combustion process that can become self-propagating and reignite above-ground fires months later.  

To develop effective wildfire management techniques for treed peatlands, Deane et al. (2020) examined seismic line disturbances in northern Alberta as an analog for fuel modification treatment in peatlands to reduce wildfire potential. As a result of clearing, seismic lines tend to have higher moisture content and peat bulk density compared to undisturbed sites, these features may reduce their susceptibility to burning. Additionally, Sphagnum mosses are more common on seismic lines compared to treed peatlands which may also reduce their susceptibility to burning compared to feather moss dominated peatlands. Deane et al. found that under drought conditions, feathered moss have approximately four times more smoldering potential than Sphagnum due to Sphagnum’s water retention properties. These findings provide insight into the development of fuel modification treatments and wildfire management of treed peatlands and suggest that a strategy informed by seismic line analogs could help reduce smoldering. Learn more here.  

Decreased carbon accumulation driven by climate-induced drying 

Boreal peatlands play an important role in global biogeochemical cycling and sequestering large amounts of carbon. As global-scale warming is predicted to continue, researchers are trying to predict how peatlands will respond to these climatic changes. An experimental study had shown that vegetation in bogs tends to be slower to respond to a 15-year long water table drawdown than in fens however, no studies have examined this response over a longer period.  

To better understand the link between vegetation, moisture and climate and to improve future modelling, Zhang et al. (2020) examined the biological communities of two peatlands in southern Finland over a 200-year period. Zhang et al. found that a peatland's carbon storage potential is strongly influenced by vegetation, water table position and temperature. Due to the complexity of these interactions, they were unable to pinpoint a single factor responsible for changes in carbon accumulation potential. Plant species may have an impact on decomposition rates, but the most apparent relationship is linked to temperature and moisture availability. Zhang et al. concluded that drier conditions would result in a decrease in carbon accumulation, thus endangering the carbon sinks of northern boreal peatlands. Learn more here

About the Knowledge Exchange
This is a venue for sharing boreal wetland best management practices information with the goal of raising awareness, increasing information transfer, and fostering collaboration amongst industry, government, academic, consulting, and other interested stakeholders.

For more information, visit our website. For past issues visit our archive

Join the conversation

Please contact us if you have upcoming events, new and ongoing research, opportunities for collaboration, new publications, or any other wetlands BMP related work that you are interested in sharing. Your participation strengthens the Knowledge Exchange and helps promote information sharing among our many user groups. So please, get in touch

Participate in the Wetland BMP Knowledge Exchange by writing an article, giving a webinar, or sharing an interesting project and be entered to WIN a Ducks Unlimited Canada crossing sign. The draw will take place at the end of the year (December 2020)! 

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Upcoming events

For a full list of upcoming events, check out our Events Calendar!

Canadian Geographical Union Online Research Seminars
Ongoing – Weekly on Fridays

Global Water Futures Virtual Poster Session 

Call for Participation – Protecting Canada’s Fresh Water

Society of Wetland Scientists Quarterly Webinar – Open to non-Members
July 16, 2020

Take a look through our archive of past Wetland BMP Knowledge Exchange webinars

Interested in land-use planning? Check out a selection of online courses available here

In the News

Indigenous-led conservation, natural law and a different future

Saving the peatlands: water loss in northern peatlands can accelerate global warming

Carbon emission from permafrost soils underestimated by 14%

Agreement to protect subsurface of N.W.T.'s Edéhzhié Protected Area achieved

Why the Arctic is warming so fast, and why that’s so alarming

Extracted peatland contaminated by seawater may be better restored as salt marshes

Did you know?

There are 380 species of Sphagnum moss? Sphagnum is often one of the most predominant species in boreal peatlands, is the key bryophyte responsible for forming peat, and can hold up to 40 times its weight in water! 

Sphagnum is made up of stems and leaves that are only one cell thick, which are made up of dead hyaline cells and living chlorophyl cells. While hyaline cells hold large amounts of water, the storage and transport of water in Sphagnum moss is external. 



In fact, 90% of Sphagnum’s water content is held between branches and leaves. The closer together these are, the greater water retention there is. Underneath the layer of living Sphagnum are layers of dead Sphagnum (which form peat!). The amount of water that can be drawn from the water table is highly dependent on how close together the branches and leaves are held together and the inter-connectivity between living and dead layers of Sphagnum.

To learn more about the relationship between Sphagnum and water check out this tweet and this article.


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