In 2008, Parks Canada initiated the development of PADEMP – a collaboration between Aboriginal, federal, provincial and territorial governments and non-governmental organizations. The mandate of PADEMP is to measure, evaluate and communicate the state of the Peace-Athabasca Delta using both western science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Over the past year, the group has been working hard in each of these areas.
PADEMP has identified muskrat as one valuable measure of the delta’s health. Muskrat are an important species both ecologically and culturally. The abundance of muskrat is a good indication of the extent and quality of wetland habitat in the delta. Culturally, muskrat play an important role in sustaining traditional values, spirituality, culture and economy. PADEMP has been monitoring muskrat abundance in collaboration with local knowledge holders since February 2012 and just completed its second survey this spring. Results are confirming that muskrat abundance in the delta is very low, likely due to the loss of wetland habitat since the last large flood in 1997.
PADEMP is also working to complete the PAD Vulnerability Assessment. This report evaluates the current or potential impact of various stressors on the delta. The key human-caused stressors identified by PADEMP include climate change, industrial and municipal discharges, water withdrawals, flow regulation, landscape change and invasive species. The results of the assessment will allow PADEMP to focus monitoring program development on key areas of concern.
Improving communication is another major objective of PADEMP. In November, 2012, the first PADEMP Forum in Fort Chipewyan brought scientists engaged in monitoring together with local knowledge holders and community members. Together, they discussed areas of common concern and identified opportunities for collaboration, cooperation and communication. The Forum is one way that PADEMP can help build trust, promote understanding, and improve the design and implementation of monitoring programs. In the near future, look for the launch of two new communication tools – the PADEMP public website and newsletter.
Sheldon Birnie grew up in Dawson Creek, BC, and received a bachelor of environmental studies from the University of Manitoba in 2011. He lives in Winnipeg, MB, where he is a freelance writer, and the editor of the Manitoba Eco-Journal.