Geoscience BC releases report on the effects of melting permafrost

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VANCOUVER, B.C. – Geoscience B.C. has released a new report that shows the effects melting permafrost has on the landscape and hydrology.

The research within this report examined how thawing permafrost affects the hydrology and land cover of sensitive environments.

In the report, the findings show that Northeastern B.C. is to experience what is called ‘Thaw-induced land-cover change’.

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This is when once frozen or trapped water in isolated wetlands begins to drain away.

William L. Quinton, Director of Wilfred Laurier University’s Cold Regions Research Centre, says this thawing of permafrost will change the ecosystem.

“Northeastern BC is the front lines of permafrost thaw. It is a place where permafrost thaw means permafrost disappears, and the ecosystems that were supported by permafrost change.”

Quinton also says these changes to the ecosystem also brings changes to the way water moves and is stored in the landscape.

“Permafrost-induced changes to ecosystems and land-covers bring about changes in the way that water moves and is stored on the landscape. We have found that permafrost can impound water like a dam, so when permafrost thaws, the landscape upslope can start to drain and generate runoff which can raise the flow in streams and rivers.”

Carlos Salas, Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer for GeoScience B.C., says permafrost thawing will lead to the drying of wetlands and says this research provides information to better manage the fragile landscape in a responsible way.

“Permafrost thaw ultimately results in drying of wetlands in this region. Understanding the water balance in this region of B.C. is critical to making decisions about water management by communities and industry. This research provides unbiased earth science information to inform responsible natural resource management in this fragile, changing landscape.”

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Geoscience B.C. funded the Cold Regions Research Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, as part of the Consortium for Permafrost Ecosystems in Transition.

For more information, you can visit Geoscience B.C.’s website.

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