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Utikuma Region Study Area (URSA) – Part 1: Hydrogeological and ecohydrological studies (HEAD)

Publication: The Forestry Chronicle
18 March 2016


The Utikuma Region Study Area (URSA) was initiated to develop spatially explicit modelling tools to predict the cumulative impacts of land use and natural disturbance on the Boreal Plains (BP) ecozone of the Western Boreal Forest. Research comprised several multi-year projects, spanning wet and dry climate periods that combined intensive detailed process studies at seven watersheds with extensive long-term ecohydrological and hydrogeological studies conducted across a 60-km transect representing the range of glaciated landforms characteristic of the sub-humid boreal forest in Alberta. These studies have improved our conceptual understanding and capacity to numerically model how climate and geology influence water and energy flow, and the hydrologic linkages and natural variability of the key processes influencing BP ecosystems. Eco-hydrogeological frameworks have been developed for designing, conducting, interpreting, and extrapolating research results for watershed management and construction across the Boreal Plain ecozone.


Le site d’étude de la région d'Utikuma (URSA) a été créé dans le but de concevoir des outils de modélisation spatialement explicite permettant de prédire les effets cumulatifs de l'utilisation du territoire et des perturbations naturelles dans l’écozone des Plaines boréales (BP) de la forêt boréale de l'Ouest. Les travaux de recherche comportaient quelques projets s’étalant sur plusieurs années et couvrant des périodes de climat humide et sec, et combinaient des études intensives des processus détaillés de sept bassins hydrographiques, notamment des études éco-hydrologiques et hydrogéologiques exhaustives à long terme entreprises sur un transect de 60 km représentant l'ensemble des caractéristiques de la topographie glaciaire de la forêt boréale sub-humide de l'Alberta. Ces études ont amélioré notre compréhension conceptuelle et notre capacité de modéliser l'influence du climat et de la géologie sur l'eau et le flux d’énergie, de même que les relations hydrologiques et la variabilité naturelle des principaux processus qui affectent les écosystèmes des Plaines boréales. Des cadres éco-hydrologiques ont été élaborés afin de concevoir la cueillette, l'interprétation et l'extrapolation des résultats de recherche pour l'aménagement et la construction de bassins versants dans l'ensemble de l’écozone des Plaines boréales.

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Brown S.M., Petrone R.M., Mendoza C.A., and Devito K.J. Surface vegetation controls on evapotranspiration from a sub-humid Western Boreal Plain wetland Hydrol. Process. 2010 24 8 1072 -1085
Carrera-Hernandez J.J., Mendoza C.A., Devito K.J., Petrone R.M., and Smerdon B.D. Effects of aspen harvesting on groundwater recharge and water table dynamics in a subhumid climate Water Resour. Res. 2011 47 W05542
Carrera-Hernandez J.J., Mendoza C.A., Devito K.J., Petrone R.M., and Smerdon B.D. Reclamation for aspen revegetation: understanding soil moisture dynamics through unsaturated flow modelling Can. J. Soil Sci. 2012 92 1 103 -116
Chasmer L., Kljun N., Hopkinson C., Brown S., Milne T., Giroux K., Barr A., Devito K., Creed I., and Petrone R. Characterizing vegetation structural and topographic characteristics sampled by eddy covariance within two mature aspen stands using Lidar and a flux footprint model: Scaling to MODIS J. Geophys. Res.: Biogeosci. 2011 116 G02026
Devito, K., C. Mendoza and C. Qualizza. 2012. Conceptualizing water movement in the Boreal Plains: Implications for watershed reconstruction. Synthesis report prepared for the Canadian Oil Sands Network for Research and Development, Environmental and Reclamation Research Group. 164 p.
Devito K.J., Creed I., Gan T., Mendoza C., Petrone R., Silins U., and Smerdon B. A framework for broad scale classification of hydrologic response units on the Boreal Plain: Is topography the last thing to consider? Invited Commentaries, HP Today, Hydrol. Process. 2005 19 1705 -1714
Ferone J.-M. and Devito K.J. Shallow groundwater-surface water interactions in pond-peatland complexes along a Boreal Plain topographic gradient J. Hydrol. 2004 292 75 -95
Hokanson K.J., Lukenbach M.C., Devito K.J., Kettridge N., Petrone R.M., and Waddington J.M. Groundwater connectivity controls peat burn severity in the Boreal Plains Ecohydrology 2015
Kettridge N., Thompson D.K., and Waddington J.M. Impact of wildfire on the thermal behavior of northern peatlands: Observations and model simulations J. Geophys. Res. Biogeosci. 2012 117 G02014
Lukenbach M.C., Devito K.J., Kettridge N., Petrone R.M., and Waddington J.M. Hydrogeological controls on post-fire moss recovery in peatlands J. Hydrol. 2015
Mwale D., Gan T.Y., Devito K., Mendoza C., Silins U., and Petrone R. Precipitation variability and its relationship to hydrologic variability in Alberta Hydrol. Process. 2009 23 3040 -3056
Olefeldt D., Devito K.J., and Turetsky M.R. Sources and fate of terrestrial dissolved organic carbon in lakes of a Boreal Plains region recently affected by wildfire Biogeosciences 2013 10 6247 -6265
Petrone R., Silins U., and Devito K.J. Dynamics of evapotranspiration from a riparian pond complex in the Western Boreal Forest, Alberta, Canada Hydrol. Process. 2007 21 11 1391 -1401
Petrone, R.M., K.J. Devito, L.E. Chasmer, N. Kljun, C. Thackeray, M.D. Flannigan, D.T. Thompson and J.M. Waddington. 2014. Regional Scale CO2 Exchange in a Boreal forest during wildfire. (Submitted to – Forest Ecology and Management – 07/14).
Plach, J.M., J.M. Ferone, Z. Gibbons, B. Smerdon, A. Mertens, C. Mendoza, R. Petrone and K. Devito. 2016. Influence of glacial landform hydrology on phosphorus budgets of shallow lakes on the Boreal Plains. J. Hydrol. Accepted 19 Jan 2016 (In Press).
Redding T.E. and Devito K.J. Lateral flow thresholds for aspen forested hillslopes on the Western Boreal Plain, Alberta, Canada Hydrol. Process. 2008 22 4287 -4300
Redding T.E. and Devito K.J. Mechanism and pathways of lateral flow on aspen-forested, luvisolic soils, Western Boreal Plain, Alberta, Canada Hydrol Process. 2010 24 2995 -3010
Redding T.E. and Devito K.J. Aspect and soil texture control of snowmelt runoff on forested Boreal Plain hillslopes Hydrol. Res. 2011 42 4 250 -267
Smerdon B.D., Devito K.J., and Mendoza C.A. Interaction of groundwater and shallow lakes on outwash sediments in the subhumid Boreal Plains of Canada J. Hydrolog. 2005 314 246 -262
Smerdon B.D., Mendoza C.A., and Devito K.J. Influence of subhumid climate and water table depth on groundwater recharge in shallow outwash aquifers Water Resour. Res. 2008 44 W08427
Smerdon B., Mendoza C., and Devito K.J. The impact of gravel extraction on groundwater dependent wetlands and lakes in the Boreal Plains, Canada Environ. Earth Sci. 2012 67 1249 -1259
Spafford M. and K.J. Devito. 2005. Boreal Conservation Hydrology and Forestry in the Alberta-Pacific FMA area. Alberta Pacific White paper, Report. 22 p.
Thompson C., Mendoza C.A., Devito K.J., and Petrone R.M. Climatic controls on groundwater-surface water interactions within the Boreal Plains of Alberta: Field observations and numerical simulations J. Hydrol. 2015 527 734 -746
Thompson D.K. and Waddington J.M. Peat properties and water retention in boreal forested peatlands subject to wildfire Water Resour. Res. 2013 49 3651 -3658

Information & Authors


Published In

cover image The Forestry Chronicle
The Forestry Chronicle
Volume 92Number 01January 2016
Pages: 57 - 61


Version of record online: 18 March 2016



Kevin J. Devito [email protected]
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB
Carl Mendoza
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB
Richard M. Petrone
Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON
Nick Kettridge
School of Geography, Earth, and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK
James M. Waddington
School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON

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