Investigating landscape change and ecological restoration: an integrated approach using historical ecology and GIS in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta




Levesque, Lisa Marie

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This thesis examines landscape change from 1889 to the present within the foothills-parkland ecoregion of Waterton Lakes National Park (WLNP) in southwestern Alberta, Canada. Land cover dynamics are explored qualitatively and quantitatively using Geographical Information Systems and a combination of historical and contemporary data sources including: (1) Dominion Land Survey (DLS) transect records (1889), (2) repeat oblique photographs (1914 and 2004) and repeat aerial photography (1939 and 1999). Results indicate a consistent increase in woody vegetation cover, particularly aspen forest cover, within the foothills-parkland since 1889, largely at the expense of native grasslands. The primary drivers of these changes likely include: climatic influences, changes to the historical grazing regime, the suppression of natural fire cycles and the cessation of First Nations’ land management practices. This research illustrates the value of integrating multiple historical data sources for studying landscape change in the Canadian Rockies, and explores the implications of this change for ecological restoration in the foothills-parkland of WLNP.



landscape change, repeat photography, GIS, historical ecology, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, aspen, Populus tremuloides (Michx.), vegetation dynamics, Rocky Mountains, bison, fire ecology, land survey records, foothills-parkland, fescue prairie