Hydrological resilience of a Canadian Rockies headwaters basin subject to changing climate, extreme weather, and forest management

Xiao, J. F., 2015. Hydrological Processes

Original research (primary data)
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Marmot Creek Research Basin in the Canadian Rockies has been the site of intensive streamflow, groundwater, snow accumulation, precipitation, and air temperature observations at multiple elevations. The basin was instrumented in 1962, subjected to forestry experiments in the mid-1970s, and experienced extreme flooding in 2013. Climate change, forest cover change, and recent extreme weather make the basin an ideal laboratory for studying hydrological resilience. Observations show increases in low elevation air temperature, multiple day and spring precipitation, interannual variability of precipitation, and high elevation groundwater levels. Observations also show decreases in peak seasonal snow accumulation and low elevation groundwater levels. Despite these substantial hydrometeorological and groundwater changes, streamflow volume, timing of peak, and magnitude of the peak are not changing. Streamflow volumes are also insensitive to forest cover changes and teleconnections. The June 2013 flood was unprecedented in the period of record, and the basin significantly moderated the hydrological response to the extreme precipitation; the 2013 storm precipitation depth was 65% greater than the next highest storm total over 51 years; however, the 2013 peak streamflow was only 32% greater than the next highest peak flow recorded. The hydrology of Marmot Creek Research Basin displays remarkable resilience to changing climate, extreme weather, and forest cover change.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-170-1
  • Intervention type: Management
  • Intervention description:

    23% of the Cabin Creek sub-basin area was logged in six cut blocks ranging from 3 to 13 ha 17% of the Twin Creek sub- basin area was logged in a honeycomb pattern of 2103 15 to 20m diameter clearings

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: No
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Freshwater flooding  No effect WY and monthly runoff ratios of disturbed to control sub-basin for the mean, peak, and low flows as well as differences in timing of peak, lower, median, and upper streamflow quartiles (Figure 11). This quantifies the runoff response from harvesting by normal- izing it to the Middle Creek control sub-basin.
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Marmot Creek Research Basin, Alberta

  • Country: Canada
  • Habitat/Biome type: Temperate forests | Montane/Alpine |
  • Issue specific term: Not applicable


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: Effectiveness determined by comparing to unmanaged control sub-basins No effect because although there was a very local effect of one of the interventions, the aim was to look at the effect across the entire basin in which no net effect was seen and therefore code as no effect.
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: No
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Not reported
  • Ecosystem measures:
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: No
  • Impacts for people: Not reported
  • People measures:
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: Yes
  • Experimental evalution done: In-situ/field
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Study is systematic: