Team B: Aquatic Ecosystem Health

Climate change and land management are two important stressors on aquatic ecosystems of the Prairie landscape. Strong natural climatic variability in the region, typified by regular multi-year periods of drought and deluge, presents both challenges and opportunities for understanding how aquatic health may be impacted by these stressors. A highly managed landscape and the interface with agriculture also poses a challenge to balancing the health of these systems with that of industry needs.

Our users have strong interests in understanding the diverse suite of risks to aquatic ecosystem health in the region. In particular, there is concern with the management and fate of Prairie wetlands, owing both to their prominent role on the landscape in this region, and to the ecosystem services they confer.

Building on our progress investigating wetland nutrient retention, aquatic and avian biodiversity, agrochemical exposure, and the economic drivers of agricultural landscapes, we will address these and other important topics, with a focus on answering the overarching question “Which wetlands must we keep and how should they be managed?”. This approach seeks to identify the numbers and types of wetlands in complexes necessary to maintain a balance between the provision of ecosystem services and agricultural productivity.

Co-management for these goals is a critical challenge in the region. Our aquatic ecosystem health research will be linked to the virtual basin modelling framework that underpins our water availability research (Team A). This approach will allow us to explore long-term variability in conjunction with our efforts to characterize system behaviour through field surveys and biogeochemical process measurements. Moreover, our research will emphasize integrative activities across the Teams of Prairie Water and the creation or co-creation of interactive decision-support tools.

Explore Team B

Nandita Basu, Helen Baulch, Angela Bedard-Haughn, Ken Belcher, Robert Clark, Diogo Costa, Andrew Ireson, Karsten Liber, Patrick Lloyd-Smith, Christy Morrissey, Colin Whitfield

  • Regulators and governments
  • Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Watershed managers
  • Producers and agricultural groups

Objective B1: Identify broad-scale land-use and climate impacts on water quality

Objective B2: Assess wetland drainage impacts through linked modelling

Objective B3: Assess tradeoffs in ecosystem services provision and agricultural production using an
integrated framework

Objective B4: Develop interactive decision-support tools (integrated watershed platform)


Salinity and salt transport modelling for Prairie Potholes

Prairie Wetland Survey: Investigating broad-scale patterns of water quality in prairie wetlands

Evaluating pesticide concentrations in Prairie Potholes, transport, and risk of exposure to wildlife

Modelling pond nutrient concentrations and processes under future scenarios of climate and land-use change

Development of an integrated ecosystems services framework for prairie wetlands

Integrated Watershed Platform for understanding diverse changes to prairie watersheds on future scenarios

Evaluate the influence of Beneficial Management Practices in mitigating water quality impacts in the context of drainage projects


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Evaluate nitrogen cycling in wetlands and drivers of nutrient retention

Where's the P in Potholes? Investigating drivers of phosphorus concentrations and partitioning in wetland ponds and soil

Assess the dynamics of carbon cycling and effflux from prairie wetlands

Linking hydrological and biogeochemical models to investigate watershed changes in water quality and nutrient export in response to environmental change

Developing a first generation model evaluating pesticide concentrations, transport, and fate in wetland pond in the Prairies

Investigate the influence of vegetative buffers in mitigating impacts of pesticies to wetland macroinvertabrate communities

Assess the interactive effects of climate change and land use on wetland macroinvertebrate and avian communities

Assess the Net Present Value of wetlands to producers in the Vermilion River Watershed

Costa, D., H. Baulch, J. Elliott, J. Pomeroy, and H. Wheater. (2019) Modelling nutrient dynamics in cold agricultural catchments: A review. Environmental Modelling and Software. 124: 1-16, DOI: 10.1016/ j.envsoft.2019.104586.

Costa, D., J. Pomeroy, H. Baulch, J. Elliott, and H. Wheater. (2019) Using an inverse modelling approach with equifinality control to investigate the dominant controls on snowmelt nutrient export. Hydrological Processes. 33: 2958-2977, DOI: 10.1002/hyp.13463.

Malaj, E., K. Liber, and C. Morrissey. (2019) Spatial distribution of agricultural pesticide use and predicted wetland exposure in the Canadian Prairie Pothole Region. Science of the Total Environment. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.134765.

Mantyka-Pringle C, L. Leston, D. Messmer, E. Asong, L. Bortolotti, E. Bayne, G. Sekulic, H. Wheater, D. Howerter, and R. Clark. (2019) Antagonistic, Synergistic and Direct Effects of Land Use and Climate on Aquatic and Avian Communities: Ghosts of the Past or Present? Diversity & Distributions. 00:1-17. DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12990.

Whitfield, C., N. Casson, R. North, J. Venkiteswaran, O. Ahmed, J. Leathers, K. Nugent, T. Prentice, and H. Baulch. (2019) The effects of freeze-thaw cycles on phosphorus release from riparian macrophytes in cold regions. Canadian Water Resources Journal. 44: 160-173. DOI: 10.1080/07011784.2018.1558115.