Ducks Unlimited Canada
National Boreal Program
17504 111 Ave NW
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
T5S 0A2

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Human activities are changing the boreal forest at an ever-increasing pace. As we gain a better understanding of this change, we apply adaptive management to design our conservation programs. We use planning assumptions that combine the best available science with expert knowledge. Currently, we’re focusing on human activities that either alter wetland quality and quantity or fragment upland nesting habitats. Our science program ensures the planning assumptions are tested, adapted and built into our conservation programs.

For our programs to be most efficient, we target high priority landscapes. Our science program identifies habitats and landscapes for conservation based on importance to waterfowl, threats and other factors. We recognize that waterfowl and their habitat bring many benefits to society. Our research seeks to better understand these linkages and focuses on;

  • waterfowl distributions
  • population trends
  • habitat distribution
  • hydrology and wetland ecology
  • breeding ecology
  • climate change
  • effects of industry practices

DUC science staff are part of conservation delivery, providing support beyond research projects. They work with regional, national and international conservation committees to translate and share knowledge. Our scientists help complete the process of gathering, sharing and applying new information to conservation challenges.

See more information on boreal science projects completed by DUC since 2010.

Refining habitat objectives through spatial planning

DUC’s goal is to maintain waterfowl populations at levels identified in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. To do this in the boreal forest, we estimate we require at least 660 million acres of waterfowl habitat. But this is a large amount of land to cover so we need to determine where we get the best outcomes for our investments by prioritizing where we work. By developing a better understanding of how ducks, threats and opportunities are distributed across the landscape, we can more precisely apply conservation.


Waterfowl distribution and abundance models

Models to predict the distribution and abundance of breeding ducks in Canada. This project was a collaboration between DUC, University of Laval, and the Boreal Avian Modeling Project. The goal was to develop first generation pan-Canadian waterfowl distribution maps for use in conservation planning. We have used resulting maps for internal spatial planning and as input to external land use planning exercises. Next generation maps are being developed to build upon this initial product.

Strengthening the planning assumptions and evaluating our conservation work

DUC’s planning assumptions are the foundation for our conservation actions, particularly sustainable land use. The accuracy of these assumptions is another key to our conservation programs being successful. A core objective is to ensure we target the most important human activities limiting waterfowl. That means testing our key planning assumptions, including assessing relationships between human activities and both waterfowl populations and their habitats. We then incorporate information into planning tools that support informed decision-making.

Our scientists help distil and translate scientific information to assist program development. We then evaluate programs to ensure intended outcomes will be achieved. That is part of our dedication to ensuring activities we promote truly avoid or mitigate any negative effects of human activities.



Evaluating the sustainability of landscape change for waterfowl

Does duck settling and productivity decline with increasing linear feature density? This research is being undertaken in collaboration with the Government of Alberta, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Oil Sands Monitoring Program, Prairie Habitat Joint Venture, Alberta North American Waterfowl Management Plan and Alberta Conservation Association. This study is designed to test for negative relationships between roads/pipelines/seismic lines and waterfowl populations and to assess potential underlying mechanisms. Results from this ongoing research will be used to adapt our planning hypotheses and conservation programs.

Linking ecosystem services to waterfowl habitat conservation

Ecosystem services from boreal waterfowl habitats provide extensive benefits to society beyond supporting waterfowl populations. The objective of this priority is to better understand those linkages and thereby demonstrate the many ways that DUC goals and accomplishments benefit society. We want to highlight common ground for shared vision and action, helping achieve benefits for the environment and society.



The Canadian forest carbon assessment

Developing methodologies and estimates of carbon sequestration in upland forests and wetlands on Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)-certified boreal forest landscapes. This project is being undertaken with Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Saskatchewan Research Council, Louisiana Pacific, Spruce Products and University of Brandon. The goals include supporting efforts to improve our ability to quantify ecosystem services provided by boreal wetlands, integrating wetlands into ecosystem-based forest management efforts and improving Sustainable Forestry Initiative standards related to conservation of non-timber values on the land base.

Understand how climate change influences boreal waterfowl habitat conservation over the short and long term

Mounting evidence indicates that climate change is altering the boreal forest. We are in the early stages of understanding how boreal waterfowl habitat may be impacted under various climate change scenarios and what that impact might mean for targeting conservation delivery. Such knowledge better positions DUC and others to adapt, ensuring decisions today are still relevant tomorrow.



Population vulnerability to climate change

Population vulnerability to climate change linked to timing of breeding in boreal ducks. Undertaken with both university and government partners, this project assessed evidence for potential climate change impacts on population trends of scaup and scoter, which are of concern. Results were consistent with climate change vulnerability and affirmed our need to develop a better understanding of the role of climate change in boreal waterfowl conservation.