Forest Carbon and Climate Change in Nova Scotia

My work with the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry is focused on both climate change mitigation and adaptation in the province's forest sector. Much of this work is focused on modelling and analysis to support management planning and decision making, but it also involves communication, outreach, and collaboration with other forest stakeholders. I also supervise students studying forests and climate change in Nova Scotia on research projects that both support their education and support the work of the Department.

Sustainable Urban Forest Management

Despite the growing awareness of urban forests and the beneficial ecosystem services they provide, there is a lack of discussion on the abundant threats to urban trees and forests. Chief among these is the looming threat of climate change. My research program has several topics and projects. One on-going project involves work to improve urban forest carbon assessment approaches in Canada's national greenhouse gas inventory, which is funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada. Another project has been a critical review of the concept of ecosystem-based management for urban forestry, which was recently published in Landscape and Urban Planning.

I continue to work on the development of new ecological model to forecast urban forest growth and disturbance. The model will also account for key social processes that influence the structure and function of urban forest ecosystems. Once developed, I will be investigating climate change impacts and management adaptation in cities. This research began during my Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship at Dalhousie University’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies (SRES) that was supervised Dr. Peter Duinker and I continue the research as an Adjunct Professor.

If you are a Dalhousie student (e.g., SRES or Environmental Science) and are seeking to undertake a thesis or course project on urban forests, please feel free to contact me as a potential supervisor.


Cumulative Effects

As the principal consultant of Ecotone Consulting, I have been involved in research and reporting on the assessment, monitoring, and management of cumulative environmental effects. Cumulative effects are becoming an issue of increasing concern for Canadian policy makers, resource managers, and communities. They refer to adverse impacts that arise from interacting and cumulative human interactions with the environment. They present a unique challenge for managers and policy makers because they are complex, difficult to predict, and often arise from smaller environmental impacts from multiple resource sectors. I was involved in a project for the Alberta Energy Regulator in collaboration with ESSA Technologies Ltd. with the purpose of reviewing Canadian and international approaches to cumulative effects management. Following this, I collaborated with ArborVitae Environmental Services Ltd. to conduct a jurisdictional review of cumulative effects modelling approaches for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Urban Forest Vulnerability


The topic of my doctoral research at Ryerson University in Toronto was the vulnerability of the urban forest resource, which was funded by NSERC and the Fulbright Foundation. I was supervised by Dr. Andrew Millward, leader of the Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group. I was also supervised by Dr. David Nowak during my research exchange at the USDA Forest Service's Northern Research Station in Syracuse, NY. My research involved developing a framework for the assessment of urban forest ecosystem vulnerability that integrates the vegetation, built environment, and human population components of urban forest ecosystems. I then applied this framework in subsequent studies, first to investigate urban forest vulnerability and ecosystem change in the field in a residential Toronto neighbourhood and second to conduct a long-term vulnerability assessment across the entire city using spatial analysis and ecological modelling.

See our paper in Environmental Reviews to learn about the conceptual framework of urban forest vulnerability.

See our paper in Environmental Management to learn about vulnerability assessment and ecosystem modelling.

See our paper in Arboriculture & Urban Forestry to learn about the field-based vulnerability assessment.

Scenario Analysis for Natural Resource Management and Climate Change

I was recently involved in a national, multi-sector natural resource initiative called the Boreal 2050 project, which was led by Dr. Irena Creed. The project uses
 a transdisciplinary, participatory tool called scenario analysis to consider alternative futures and associated policy implications for Canada’s boreal forests as we transition to a low-carbon economy. The project is now completed, with an open-access special issue in preparation for Environmental Reviews. You can view the papers I co-authored on future scenarios for the boreal zone, boreal governance and geopolitics, and an overview of the entire Boreal 2050 project.

I was also a researcher for the Great Lakes Future Project. The project explored potential futures in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin in four different theoretical scenarios to inform strategic policy formulation, frame research priorities, and help train the next generation of Great Lakes leaders. It was the inaugural project of the Transborder Research University Network (TRUN) for Water Stewardship – an international partnership of Canadian and American research institutions. special issue in the Journal of Great Lakes Research was dedicated to the Great Lakes Futures Project (including my paper describing the 'Living on the Edge' scenario).

The ultimate goal of scenario analysis to communicate current and robust science to decision makers and stakeholders using a creative but believable narrative. In addition to the written scenarios, our projects have enlisted artists to depict key scenario themes. Artist Ellen Van Laar visualized the four boreal scenarios in the painting below (Artist website: Click to enlarge.

Artist Andrea Guzzetta visually portrayed the four different future scenarios of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin.  The following four images represent the four alternative futures for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin (Artist website: Click to enlarge.




Ecosystem Classification

My interest in ecosystem classification as a vital tool for ecosystem-based management began when I was a graduate student and relied on Nova Scotia's forest ecosystem classification system to guide my research. Most of my research on ecosystem classification is now focused on the urban landscape and classifying ecosystems using both social and ecological data. 
Urban forests are essential components of sustainable cities, but there is uncertainty around how to stratify and classify urban landscapes into units of ecological significance at spatial scales appropriate for management. Ecosystem classification is an approach that involves quantifying the processes that shape ecosystem conditions into logical and relatively homogeneous management units, making the potential for ecosystem-based decision support available to urban planners.

Arguably, city neighbourhoods represent a logical scale and unit for the classification and analysis of urban ecosystems. Neighbourhoods have a storied history in community and urban planning initiatives while also drawing some parallels with the ecosystem concept. As part of my doctoral research, I developed a framework for urban forest ecosystem classification (UFEC) at the neighbourhood scale. The framework integrates a number of ecosystem components that characterize the biophysical landscape, built environment, and human population. I have since continued this research using a variety of approaches in Toronto, Halifax, and London. To learn more, see my publications in the Journal of Environmental Management, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, and Urban Ecosystems.

Also check out my article in the Summer 2016 issue of Spacing Magazine:

Open Data and Environmental Management

I have conducted research on the intersections of government open data and environmental management. This work was funded by the Canadian Geospatial and Open Data Research Partnership ( under the supervision of Dr. Pamela Robinson and was also part of my research program as a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at Dalhousie University. I undertook this research from two approaches. The first was using spatial analysis and multivariate statistics with municipal datasets that offer novel insight into urban ecosystems, such as 311 data and building permit data. To learn more see my papers in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management and in Environment and Planning BThe second approach was interview-based research with with municipal enviornmental practitioners to discuss the concept of open data and government-driven citizen science programs, such as crowdsourcing tree inventories. The value of government open data for understanding and managing the environment is a less prominent theme in the open data discourse and can provide insight into urban ecosystems that would not be feasible with traditional research methods.


Halifax's Urban Forest Master Plan

The Halifax
 Regional Municipality (HRM) recently developed their Urban Forest Master Plan, which was completed in 2012 and implemented in 2013. The plan was developed using a novel neighbourhood-based spatial assessment and approach to sustainable urban forest management. My involvement in the project included conducting the neighbourhood scale spatial analysis o
f HRM's urban forest structure and function (using a diverse set of tools, including LiDAR tree canopy data and the i-Tree models), authoring sections of the plan, and organizing stakeholder and community engagement. You can find the Plan and the Appendix of individual neighbourhoods on the HRM website. Also, see our paper published in Landscape and Urban Planning that details the neighbourhood approach to urban forest management. 
The Halifax Urban Forest Master Plan was awarded the Canadian Institute Planners' Planning Excellence Merit Award for New and Emerging Planning Initiatives in 2014.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity the collaborate on several urban forest projects with HRM and Dalhousie, including an urban forest naturalization project that experiments with different naturalization treatments in under-utilized urban green spaces, including highway-right-of-ways and on-ramps. This project was profiled by the CBC in a recent story.

Climate Change and Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management

The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) developed a set of Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management in Canada, which are a national tool for monitoring and assessing our progress towards sustainable forest management. The CCFM and British Columbia's Future Forest Ecosystem Scientific Council (FFESC) began an initiative to address potential influence of climate change on the effectiveness of the Criteria and Indicators framework. Our Dalhousie-based research team was charged with this task, and completed the project in 2011. The final reports were reviewed the CCFM Climate Change Task Force and include a main synthesis report and the individual indicator evaluations. Also, see the paper published in the Journal of Sustainable Development.
In 2014, the CCFM released their own report on climate change and Criteria and Indicators based, in part, on our research.

Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations in Halifax's Source Waters

My Master's research at Dalhousie University's School for Resource and Environmental Studies involved modelling climate change impacts and adaptations in the forests of central Nova Scotia. The watersheds where the research was conducted are the water supply for the urban core of Halifax. Halifax Water (the municipal water utility) actively manages the forests of the 14,000 ha watersheds, and expressed a desire to address climate change in their forest management. My research was part of a partnership between the utility and Dalhousie, with joint funding from NSERC's Industrial Postgraduate Scholarship and Halifax Water, under the supervision of Dr. Peter Duinker. I published two papers based on this research in Forest Ecology and Management and the Annals of Forest Science. In continue to be involved in research on forest management and climate change in these watersheds through my membership on the supervisory committee of PhD student David Foster, who is researching the movement of carbon through the watershed.

Point Pleasant Park and Hurricane Juan in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Point Pleasant Park is a 75 ha forested park in Halifax. In September, 2003, the category-two Hurricane Juan decimated the forests of the park, blowing down around 75,000 trees (around 80% of the trees in the park). There was public outcry from the citizens of Halifax to recover the forests of the park and a restoration initiative began almost immediately. My research consisted of a survey and analysis of forest regeneration in the most disturbed areas of the park to inform park restoration. We were able to assess the adequacy of natural regeneration and designate areas for planting, target certain invasive tree species for removal, and identify the extent of favourable, shade tolerant Acadian tree species. This work is published in the Proceedings of the Nova Scotian Institute of Science and was used to inform decision-making in the Point Pleasant Park Comprehensive Plan. I continue to conduct small research projects and teach Dalhousie University field course sessions in the Park with the hopes of monitoring its forest growth and succession.