Grand Challenges in Understanding the Interplay of Climate and Land Changes

2017 March 28

Liu, S., Bond-Lamberty, B., Boysen, L.R., Ford, J.D., Fox, A., Gallo, K., Hatfield, J., Henebry, G.M., Huntington, T.G., Liu, Z., Loveland, T.R., Norby, R.J., Sohl, T., Steiner, A.L., Yuan, W., Zhang, Z., Zhao, S. (2017) Grand Challenges in Understanding the Interplay of Climate and Land Changes. Earth Interactions. 21(2): 1-43. DOI: 10.1175/EI-D-16-0012.1


Half of Earth’s land surface has been altered by human activities, creating various consequences on the climate and weather systems at local to global scales, which in turn affect a myriad of land surface processes and the adaptation behaviors. This study reviews the status and major knowledge gaps in the interactions of land and atmospheric changes and present 11 grand challenge areas for the scientific research and adaptation community in the coming decade. These land-cover and land-use change (LCLUC)-related areas include 1) impacts on weather and climate, 2) carbon and other biogeochemical cycles, 3) biospheric emissions, 4) the water cycle, 5) agriculture, 6) urbanization, 7) acclimation of biogeochemical processes to climate change, 8) plant migration, 9) land-use projections, 10) model and data uncertainties, and, finally, 11) adaptation strategies. Numerous studies have demonstrated the effects of LCLUC on local to global climate and weather systems, but these putative effects vary greatly in magnitude and even sign across space, time, and scale and thus remain highly uncertain. At the same time, many challenges exist toward improved understanding of the consequences of atmospheric and climate change on land process dynamics and services. Future effort must improve the understanding of the scale-dependent, multifaceted perturbations and feedbacks between land and climate changes in both reality and models. To this end, one critical cross-disciplinary need is to systematically quantify and better understand measurement and model uncertainties. Finally, LCLUC mitigation and adaptation assessments must be strengthened to identify implementation barriers, evaluate and prioritize opportunities, and examine how decision-making processes work in specific contexts.

How does the media portray drinking water security in Indigenous communities in Canada? An analysis of Canadian newspaper coverage from 2000-2015

2017 March 28

Lam, S., Cunsolo, A., Sawatzky, A., Ford, J., Harper, S.L. (2017). How does the media portray drinking water security in Indigenous communities in Canada? An analysis of Canadian newspaper coverage from 2000-2015. BMC Public Health . 17:282 DOI 10.1186/s12889-017-4164-4.


Background: Drinking water insecurity and related health outcomes often disproportionately impact Indigenous communities internationally. Understanding media coverage of these water-related issues can provide insight into the ways in which public perceptions are shaped, with potential implications for decision-making and action. This study aimed to examine the extent, range, and nature of newspaper coverage of drinking water security in Canadian Indigenous communities.

Methods: Using ProQuest database, we systematically searched for and screened newspaper articles published from 2000 to 2015 from Canadian newspapers: Wind speaker , Toronto Star , The Globe and Mail, and National Post. We conducted descriptive quantitative analysis and thematic qualitative analysis on relevant articles to characterize framing and trends in coverage.

Results: A total of 1382 articles were returned in the search, of which 256 articles were identified as relevant. There was limited coverage of water challenges for Canadian Indigenous communities, especially for Métis (5%) and Inuit(3%) communities. Most stories focused on government responses to water-related issues, and less often covered preventative measures such as source water protection. Overall, Indigenous peoples were quoted the most often.Double-standards of water quality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, along with conflict and cooperation efforts between stakeholders were emphasized in many articles.

Conclusion: Limited media coverage could undermine public and stakeholder interest in addressing water-related issues faced by many Canadian Indigenous communities.

Keywords: Canada, Drinking water, Water security, First Nation, Indigenous, Inuit, Métis, Media, Newspaper,Systematic review

@ccadapt article included in the exclusive ‘Highlights of 2016’ collection of Environmental Research Letters

2017 March 19

@ccadapt article entitled “Community-level climate change vulnerability research: trends, progress, and future directions” by Graham McDowell, James Ford and Julie Jones has been selected by the editors of Environmental Research Letters for inclusion in the exclusive ‘Highlights of 2016’ collection.

Papers are chosen on the basis of referee endorsement, originality, scientific impact and breadth of appeal.

Read the ERL 2016 Highlight here.

@ccadapt involved in IPCC special report on the impacts of 1.5C of warming

2017 March 9

Dr James Ford was in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, last week participating in the first lead author meeting for the IPCC SR on 1.5C. The assessment responds to a request by Parties to the UNFCCC to examine what 1.5C means globally and examine policy options, costs, and feasibility. The aim of the meeting was to develop a zero order draft outline for the assessment, with Dr Ford involved as a lead author on the chapter for strengthening the response to climate change.

It’s now official …… @ccadapt’s Dr James Ford is moving to the University of Leeds

2017 March 9

After 11 years at McGill, @ccadapt lead Dr James Ford is leaving McGill to take up a positon as professor and Chair in Climate Adaptation at the new Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds. @ccadapt will continue, albeit in a different form from Leeds, and the during the transition many team members will remain at McGill, where Dr Ford will maintain an adjunct status. The move is an exciting opportunity for @ccadapt to plug into new research networks, and further advance our work on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. For more info click here.

Dr. Epule at the 6th World Sustainability Forum

2017 March 3




capetown2From January 27 to 28th 2017, Dr. Epule traveled to Cape Town South Africa to attend and present a new paper titled: ‘’Vulnerability of maize yields to droughts in Uganda’’. The conference was a great networking and knowledge sharing opportunity. The paper that was presented has just recently been published in (Water 2017, 9(3), 181; Doi: 10.3390/w903018) and has as co-authors Dr. Epule, Prof. Ford, Prof. Lwasa and Prof. Lepage.

Vulnerability of Maize Yields to Droughts in Uganda

2017 March 3

Epule, T.E., Ford, J.D., Lwasa, S., Lepage, L. (2017). Vulnerability of maize yields to droughts in Uganda. Water 2017, 9(3), 181; Doi: 10.3390/w9030181.


Climate projections in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) forecast an increase in the intensity and frequency of droughts with implications for maize production. While studies have examined how maize might be affected at the continental level, there have been few national or sub-national studies of vulnerability. We develop a vulnerability index that combines sensitivity, exposure and adaptive capacity and that integrates agroecological, climatic and socio-economic variables to evaluate the national and spatial pattern of maize yield vulnerability to droughts in Uganda. The results show that maize yields in the north of Uganda are more vulnerable to droughts than in the south and nationally. Adaptive capacity is higher in the south of the country than in the north. Maize yields also record higher levels of sensitivity and exposure in the north of Uganda than in the south. Latitudinally, it is observed that maize yields in Uganda tend to record higher levels of vulnerability, exposure and sensitivity towards higher latitudes, while in contrast, the adaptive capacity of maize yields is higher towards the lower latitudes. In addition to lower precipitation levels in the north of the country, these observations can also be explained by poor soil quality in most of the north and socio-economic proxies, such as, higher poverty and lower literacy rates in the north of Uganda.

Dr. Epule was in Uganda to organize workshops in Karamoja, North East Uganda (Moroto and Rupa) and a research partnership meeting at Makerere University

2017 March 3



Between January 11th and 19th 2017, Dr. Epule traveled to Uganda. His first stop was at Makerere University Kampala where on the 12th and 13th of January he met with members of the ‘’Research Innovations Lab’’ led by Dr. Shuaib Lwasa. Worship topics discussed included: techniques of conduction research among native people in Karamoja and logistics. From the 14th to the 16th of January, Dr. Epule was accompanied by two members of the ‘’Research Innovations Lab’’ to Karamoja (Moroto and Rupa) where three workshops and a plenary were organized. The workshops that were very successful in Rupa sub-county had the following parallel sessions: a group of 10 agro-pastoralists women, a group of 10 agro-pastoralists men and a mixed group of 5 men and 5 women. The themes discussed included: 1.) Indigenous climate change adaptation options 2.) Barriers to climate change adaptations 3.) Reactive and proactive climate change adaptations and 4.) Perceptions of current and past climate change as revealed by temperature and precipitation changes.

@ccadapt work featured in Environmental Research Web

2017 February 22

Read more about the article entitled “Vulnerability to climate change: what’s happening at the community level?” here.

Social–ecological network analysis of scale mismatches in estuary watershed restoration

2017 February 22

Sayles, S.J., Baggio, A.J.(2017) Social–ecological network analysis of scale mismatches in estuary watershed restoration. PNAS.


Resource management boundaries seldom align with environmental systems, which can lead to social and ecological problems. Mapping and analyzing how resource management organizations in different areas collaborate can provide vital information to help overcome such misalignment. Few quantitative approaches exist, however, to analyze social collaborations alongside environmental patterns, especially among local and regional organizations (i.e., in multilevel governance settings). This paper develops and applies such an approach using social–ecological network analysis (SENA), which considers relationships among and between social and ecological units. The framework and methods are shown using an estuary restoration case from Puget Sound, United States. Collaboration patterns and quality are analyzed among local and regional organizations working in hydrologically connected areas. These patterns are correlated with restoration practitioners’ assessments of the productivity of their collaborations to inform network theories for natural resource governance. The SENA is also combined with existing ecological data to jointly consider social and ecological restoration concerns. Results show potentially problematic areas in nearshore environments, where collaboration networks measured by density (percentage of possible network connections) and productivity are weakest. Many areas also have high centralization (a few nodes hold the network together), making network cohesion dependent on key organizations. Although centralization and productivity are inversely related, no clear relationship between density and productivity is observed. This research can help practitioners to identify where governance capacity needs strengthening and jointly consider social and ecological concerns. It advances SENA by developing a multilevel approach to assess social–ecological (or social–environmental) misalignments, also known as scale mismatches.

Camila Flórez at the 17th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment

2017 January 31

From January 24 to 26, 2017, Camila participated in the 17th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment of the U.S. National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) in Washington, DC. The conference had a special emphasis on water and healths issues across sectors and regions. The presentations provided theoretical and empirical insights on adaptive capacity of water systems and urban settings. In addition, broader socio-environmental topics were discussed such as promoting prosperity without growth, and dealing with the current political challenges to the environmental agenda.
See more on the conference website here.

Emergency response in a rapidly changing Arctic

2017 January 30

Clark, D.G., Ford, J.D. (2017) Emergency response in a rapidly changing Arctic. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 189(4): 135-136.

Some highlight from the article:

– Wide disparities in both rates of unintentional injury and access to search-and-rescue services and emergency medical care exist between southern and northern Canada.

– Recent high-profile events in the Northwest Passage have drawn attention to the potential for a large-scale disaster in the Canadian Arctic.

– In the emergency medical care available to Inuit communities living in the Canadian North, interventions to improve resilience — particularly in the face of the effects of climate change — andaccess to emergency medical response services are needed.

@ccadapt work featured on CTV News, iPolitics, Winnipeg Free Press, Time Colonists, and La Presse

2017 January 23

Read article entitled “‘Few examples of concrete action:’ Study says Nunavut climate adaptation slow” at CTV News, iPolitics, Winnipeg Free Press, Time Colonists, and La Presse.

Adaptation readiness and adaptive capacity of transboundary river basins

2016 December 6

Tilleard, S., Ford, J.D. (2016) Adaptation readiness and adaptive capacity of transboundary river basins. Climatic Change. 137:575-591.


Transboundary river basins face significant threats from climate change,with the need for adaptation widely noted. In this paper we develop a theoretically-rooted indicator-based evaluation framework to identify transboundary river basins where the need for adaptation support is pronounced and prioritize where attention is best placed. The framework combines indicators which capture the broad level potential to adapt (adaptive capacity) and the actual preparedness for adaptation (adaptation readiness) at the level of transboundary institutions.Adaptive capacity and adaptation readiness have not previously been evaluated and compared within a single framework, and by combining them we gain a more comprehensive and nuanced basis for characterising and evaluating the adaptation landscape and diagnosing opportunities and constraints for adaptation. We apply the framework to 42 transboundary basins in Mediterranean Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, which account for 15 % of global transboundary river basins, are home to over 550 million people, and cover 8 % of Earth’s total land area. We find: 1) There is widespread need for improving national and transboundary institutional support for adaptation spanning basins of various economic, physical, and demographic characteristics; 2) Many transboundary basins in Africa have low adaptive capacity, but were found to have high readiness to begin adapting if resources were available; and 3) Im-proved coverage of River Basin Organisations and treaties with mandates to recognise and respond actively to climate change would underpin adaptation efforts across basins.

CCARG at ArcticNet 2016 next week

2016 December 5

The Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) for Arctic scientists is December 5th to December 9th in Winnipeg, Manitoba. As usual, numerous students and researchers from the Climate Change Adaptation Research Group will be presenting their work at the ArcticNet conference. The conference also provides an opportunity for students just beginning their research to engage with the broader polar research community and meet Northern officials and leaders. This year we will also be holding a workshop for early-career researchers affiliated with the Inuit Knowledge for Adapting to the Health Effects of Climate Change project (IK-ADAPT) network. IK-ADAPT is a multi-year, transdisciplinary initiative that CCARG helps lead.

Find out more about CCARG at ArcticNet 2016 here.