Alberta's Living Laboratory Wetlands Project

Overview

The Alberta’s Living Laboratory wetlands project is a multi-year, interdisciplinary research project examining the science and economics of wetland restoration in Alberta. This is a timely subject, because a new Wetland Policy is coming into force in the province, changing the replacement requirements for wetlands lost to development.

In the scientific sphere, the project is using some of the most advanced techniques available to create tools to predict the functions a wetland might provide if it is restored. Once wetlands are restored as part of the project, they will be studied on an ongoing basis, so that the accuracy of these tools’ predictions can be assessed. Both the tools and the improved understanding that accompanies them will help inform policymakers and developers as they work with Alberta’s new Wetland Policy.

At the same time, an economic study is being undertaken, examining the true cost of restoring wetlands on private land – including the cost of land owner compensation. Using a ‘market-based instrument’, the research team will engage with land owners to set the price for restoration. By partnering with land owners, the project will develop a deeper understanding of the factors that influence the cost of wetland restoration, while also testing a system that might allow for more efficient use of wetland restoration budgets. This knowledge will be useful both for policymakers, and for those seeking to meet their restoration obligations under the new policy.

The Alberta's Living Laboratory wetland project is complex, and involves numerous partner organizations. For a more thorough discussion of its elements, please refer to this backgrounder.

Research Team

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS
Dr. Peter Boxall, Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta

Dr. Irena Creed, Department of Biology with cross-appointments to the Departments of Earth Sciences and Geography, Western University


CO-INVESTIGATOR

Dr. Shari Clare
, Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta

STUDENTS & POST DOCTORAL FELLOWS
Francesco Accatino, Post Doctoral Fellow, Western University
Kaitlyn Cyr, MSc student, University of Alberta
Lucas Novak, MSc Student, University of Alberta
Anna Waz, MSc student, Western University
Alex Cebulski, Honours BSc student, Western University

PROJECT STAFF
Stacey O'Malley, Alberta Land Institute, Project Manager
David Aldred, Western University, Technician
Jacqueline Serran, Western University, Technician

Research Questions

This interdisciplinary project assembles scientists and economists for collaborative work in the field. Thanks to this diversity of expertise, our team is investigating a wide array of research questions. Below is a summary of some of the primary ones:

  1. Where are the existing wetlands in Alberta, where are the wetlands that have been lost, and where are the wetlands that could be restored?
  2. How do we assign value to current wetlands, and ones that could be potentially restored, under the guidelines of the new Alberta Wetlands Policy?
  3. What is the true cost of restoring wetlands, including the compensation of land owners and the process of site selection?
  4. Can the use of a Market-Based Instrument maximize the efficiency of a restoration project’s budget?
  5. What sorts of Market-Based Instruments might be most effective in promoting ongoing restoration of wetlands in Alberta?