Friday, July 11, 2008

Fire, drought, disease in Alberta

Keith Gerein in the Edmonton Journal (Canada): More forest fires, unreliable water supplies, volatile farming conditions and the emergence of unfamiliar diseases -- these are among the impacts Albertans can expect from a warming climate, a new report to the provincial government says.

The three-year study, one of the first to assess the vulnerability of Alberta's communities and industries to climate change, suggests the province must act quickly with new infrastructure and planning if it hopes to successfully adapt to the changing conditions.

"The message is that we will still be able to enjoy a high quality of life, but we must move forward with adaptation and mitigation strategies starting today," said University of Alberta researcher Debra Davidson, one of the lead authors.

Though it has yet to be released to the public, Davidson provided The Journal with highlights of the study commissioned by Alberta Environment.

…Substantial changes to the province's water supply are also expected. Warmer winters will mean more rain instead of snow, but increased heat will evaporate much of this precipitation from the soil. "Basically, our water supply will become less reliable overall and that's even excluding the possibility of drought," Davidson said. "We are going to see greater variation in our water supply and, over time, probably a decline in supplies of water."

Such trends will have serious implications for Alberta's economy, and the forestry industry may be under the greatest threat, Davidson said. Tree stands already stressed due to low water levels will be at risk of collapsing, while the warmer winters will open the door to pests such as the mountain pine beetle. Then, as the woodlands dry out, more forest fires can be expected…..

The Athabasca River railroad track at the mouth of Brûlé Lake in Alberta, Canada. Image by "Alcazar Mountain," Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2

No comments: