Thesis Title: Streamflow is changing in rivers across Alberta: assessing regional variation in changing hydrologic indices.
Author: Kyle Hamilton
The flow regime is a crucial factor in the well-being of aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Many components of those ecosystems, ranging for nutrient transport to morphology, are impacted by various hydrologic parameters. The parameters help define and quantify five important hydrologic regime characteristics: magnitude, duration, timing, frequency, and rate of change. Our study utilized the Indicators of Hydrologic Alteration (IHA) indices to (1) determine how various ecologically relevant components of streamflow are changing across Alberta’s various biomes; and (2) examine the similarities and differences between streamflow trends and climate trends. The overarching goal of these objectives is to create a foundation upon which water management practices can be created or modified.
Region-specific water management is required to balance the residential, commercial, and industrial water needs of a particular region with ecological concerns and conservation initiatives. Understanding the trends in hydrologic parameters is an important step in recognizing the vulnerabilities of each region. Streamflow at Water Survey of Canada stations was assessed for linear trends using a Mann-Kendall Trend Analysis. Our approach of assessing overall trends on a regional basis was validated when looking at trends in magnitude. The average daily flow rate for spring and summer months was found to be decreasing in the boreal region but increasing in the grassland region. Other hydrologic indices were found to exhibit significant trends on a province-wide level. Annual minimum and maximum flow conditions over a variety of durations were observed to be merging across the province. Similarly, the rate of change of streamflow between consecutive days is decreasing across Alberta.
To determine whether these results were the function of climate oscillation patterns, a composite analysis was performed to determine the effect of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) on hydrologic indices. Only 8% of parameters were found to be significantly influenced by PDO patterns and 4% influenced by ENSO patterns.