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Publications by MEnv Students


The time is now to improve the treatment of biodiversity in Canadian environmental impact statements

 Gannon, P. (2021). The time is now to improve the treatment of biodiversity in Canadian environmental impact statements. Environmental Impact Assessment Review.

Global biodiversity loss is among the pressing environmental challenges facing the planet in the 21st century. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) offers one possible means to address some of the drivers of biodiversity loss, yet research over the past 20 years has shown that the treatment of biodiversity within EIA is often insufficient. This review addresses how well biodiversity has been treated in the environmental impact statements (EISs) for 14 projects conducted under the federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Act or its 2012 successor (CEAA2012). The selected projects commenced between 2005 and 2014, cover most Canadian provinces, and include a range of project types. A biodiversity assessment index (BAI) is calculated to assess the information quality of EISs with respect to biodiversity, scoring projects from zero to one based on 49 review criteria. Results are discussed for each stage of the EIA process. Average BAI for the 14 projects was just below 0.5, indicating many substantial deficiencies regarding the inclusion of biodiversity. The BAI between projects conducted under the two Acts did not differ significantly, while project footprint, EIS page-length, and the page-length of biodiversity-related chapters were all positively related with BAI. Some common problems in these EISs included not defining ecologically relevant study areas, poor consideration of alternatives with respect to biodiversity impacts, limited description of the methods for comparing alternatives, impact assessments and analysis, mitigation and monitoring, and a lack of information on the likely success of mitigation, among others. Recommendations for improving the poor treatment of biodiversity in EISs are provided and include, inter alia, setting clear requirements regarding minimum survey efforts, implementing measurable targets or thresholds for important biodiversity features, and adopting regional-EIA to improve the treatment of cumulative effects. Improving the quality of biodiversity considerations in EISs will be important if EIA is to play a role in meeting the measurable outcome-based conservation targets envisioned for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.


Consideration of climate change mitigation in Canadian environmental assessment: Intention and implementation 

Hetmanchuk, K. (2019). Consideration of climate change mitigation in Canadian environmental assessment: Intention and implementation. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 38(3), 181-193.

Quantifying a proposed project’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and scrutinizing their effect on climate change are increasingly required in Canadian environmental assessment (EA) processes. This paper investigates to what degree an EA authority’s intention for the inclusion of GHG considerations has resulted in implementation into environmental impact statements (EISs) by proponents and how these considerations influence the achievement of GHG reduction targets. Fifteen projects across five Canadian jurisdictions were reviewed. The examination revealed that well-developed intentions by EA authorities did not necessarily result in proponents following guidelines for GHG consideration in their EISs due to the absence of regulation or clearly defined policies. Conversely, even though intentions by an EA authority are underdeveloped in some jurisdictions, EISs sometimes exhibited thorough GHG assessments due to mechanisms in the EA process through which GHG consideration by the proponent could be compelled. The examination did not reveal how GHG consideration in EA currently assists in meeting reduction targets. A GHG emissions limit imposed during the EA process could link EA to success in meeting these targets. 


Spatial decision support system: Controlled tile drainage – Calculate your benefits

Kaur, G.., Kross, A., Callegari, D., Sunohara, M., van Vliet, L., Rudy, H., Lapen, D., & McNairn, H. (2018, June). Spatial decision support system: Controlled tile drainage – calculate your benefits. Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Precision Agriculture. Paper presented at the 14th International Conference on Precision Agriculture.

Climate projection studies suggest that extreme heat waves and floods will become more frequent, affecting future crop yields by 20%-30%, globally. Managing vulnerability and risk begins at the farm level where best management practices can reduce the impacts associated with extreme weather events. A practice that can assist in mitigating the impact of some extreme events is controlled tile drainage (CTD). With CTD, producers use water flow control structures to manage the drainage of water from their fields, which allows producers to maintain soil water on their fields during periods of crop demand or allows free drainage to facilitate field trafficking and earlier spring seeding. The result is a dampening of the negative impact of extreme events on crop yields. In this study, a spatial decision support system was developed that will 1) allow farmers and other stakeholders to explore potential sites for implementation of tile drainage systems; 2) show predicted yield benefits of crops (corn and soybean) from CTD fields compared to crops associated with uncontrolled tile drainage (UCTD) systems, during varying growing season precipitation. A Multi-Criteria Suitability Analysis was performed to determine potential sites for the implementation of tile drainage systems. Crop yield was characterized by ground yield measurements and satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Yield benefits from CTD fields were determined as the difference between ground yield measurements or NDVI values from CTD compared to UCTD fields. Yield benefits were finally related to precipitation data to enable the creation of yield benefit prediction scenarios under varying precipitation. The results of the suitability analysis and yield difference prediction were combined in the tool, along with additional slope, soil drainage and precipitation layers. The tool development is ongoing and functional on


Evaluation of an artificial neural network approach for prediction of corn and soybean yield

Kross, A., Znoj, E., Callegari, D., Kaur, G., Sunohara, M., van Vliet., Rudy, H., Lapen, D., & McNairn, H. (2018, June). Evaluation of an Artificial Neural Network Approach for Prediction of Corn and Soybean Yield. Paper presented at the 14thInternational Conference on Precision Agriculture.

The ability to predict crop yield during the growing season is important for crop income, insurance projections and for evaluating food security. Yet, modeling crop yield is challenging because of the complexity of the relationships between crop growth and the interrelated predictor variables. Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are useful for such complex systems as they can capture non-linear relationships of data without explicitly knowing the underlying processes. In this study, an ANN-based method (Advangeo® Prediction Software) was used to evaluate: 1) the relative importance of predictor variables for corn and soybean yield prediction, and 2) the potential of ANNs for predicting corn and soybean yield. Several satellite derived vegetation indices (e.g. normalized difference vegetation index - NDVI, red edge NDVI, simple ratio - SR, and the land surface water index - LSWI) and slope data were used as crop yield predictor variables, hypothesizing that different vegetation indices reflect different crop and site conditions. The study identified the SR index and the slope as the most important predictor variables for both crop types during both years. The number and dates of the images however were different for the two crop types (earlier dates for corn) and for the wetter (2011) and drier (2012) years. The relative mean absolute errors (RMAEs) were overall smaller for corn compared to soybean and 100% of the corn study sites had errors below 20% in both years. The errors were more variable for soybean. The results are promising and can provide yield estimates at the farm level, unlike current county level approaches.


Mapping cumulative impacts on Hong Kong's pink dolphin population 

Marcotte D., Hung D.K., & Caquard S. (2015). Mapping cumulative impacts on Hong Kong's pink dolphin population. Ocean & Coastal Management, 109 (2015), 51-63.

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins have historically inhabited the northern waters off Lantau Island, Hong Kong; however their numbers have significantly decreased over the past decade, while human pressure has simultaneously increased. Based on a spatio-temporal analysis using a Geographic Information System (GIS), this study aims to assess the cumulative human impacts of local activities on this dolphin population since 1996. After introducing and discussing the multiple approaches, difficulties, and limitations to cumulative effects assessments (CEA), this paper outlines our proposed CEA methodology. Our methodology involves mapping and analysis of anthropogenic marine impacts in relation with historical dolphin distributions in the area. Local scale results show evidence of a relationship between the addition of new high-speed ferry (HSF) routes into the cumulative environment and the decrease in dolphins in a specific region known as the Brothers Islands. These results coincide with past research showing that whales and dolphins are significantly disrupted in the presence of high vessel traffic, which continues to grow in the northern waters off Lantau Island, Hong Kong and in many other places around the world.


Using compliance analysis for PPP to bridge the gap between SEA and EIA: Lessons from the Turcot Interchange reconstruction in Montréal, Québec

Thompson, U.-C., Marsan, J.-F., Fournier-Peyresblanques, B., Forgues, C., Ogaa, A., and Jaeger, J.A.G. (2013). Using compliance analysis for PPP to bridge the gap between SEA and EIA: Lessons from the Turcot Interchange reconstruction in Montréal, Québec. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 42, 74-86.         

There is increasing concern about the disjunct between the intent of higher level government goals and actual projects “on the ground” in Canada. Although strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and a wide variety of plans, policies and programmes (PPP) contain and promote goals that envision a movement towards social, economic and environmental sustainability, these goals are not necessarily upheld by large-scale projects and their environmental impact assessments (EIAs). This disconnect is often illustrated through anecdotal observations. However, to be able to overcome this disjunct it is imperative to come to a clearer understanding of the degree of sustainability or unsustainability of large-scale developments and the way in which they “measure up” in terms of the goals when compared to alternative options. This article proposes a Compliance Analysis method for investigating the level of harmonization between SEA, PPP and proposed projects and their possible alternatives (CAPPP). This method is quantified through a Likert scale which allows for comparison of alternatives for decision making and analytical purposes. The 2009 proposal for the Turcot Exchange redevelopment in Montréal, Québec, put forward by the Ministry of Transport of Québec (MTQ), as well as two alternative proposals, were utilized as a case study to clearly demonstrate the CAPPP methodology and its applicability. The approved plan for the Turcot redevelopment proposed by MTQ was found to be in poor compliance with the majority of the 178 goals in the six sectors that were examined (air quality, climate change, health, noise, socioeconomic, transport), while alternative proposals were found to be in greater accordance with the intentions of governmental SEA and PPP. Synthesis and applications: The CAPPP methodology is a versatile “watchdog” tool for the examination of the level of compliance between stated goals for regions, industrial sectors, or governments and the EIAs of concrete projects “on the ground”. CAPPP can be used as a tool for comparative analysis in decision-making situations at various scales. CAPPP is a fairly straight-forward method that can be used by policy makers, EIA experts, and members of the general public alike.


Compiling a geographic database to study environmental injustice in Montréal: Process, results, and lessons

Thompson, U. and Caquard, S. (2011). Compiling a geographic database to study environmental injustice in Montréal: Process, results, and lessons. In Caquard S., Vaughan L., and Cartwright W. (eds.). Mapping Environmental Issues in the City: Cartography and Arts Cross-Perspectives. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 10-29.

Environmental injustice is a concept that emerged out of the social impacts of environmental degradation within the United States during the early 1980s. In the U.S., environmental injustice is frequently tied to race while in Canada and internationally, more attention has been paid to the correlations between income and environmental hazards. This chapter presents a pedagogical project that aimed to assess the degree and structure of environmental injustice in the city of Montréal, Canada. To reach this goal, a group of graduate students in a course entitled “GIS for Environmental Impact Assessment” (ENVS 663) at Concordia University, Montréal, gathered data on a large variety of socio-economic, health and environmental factors on the Island of Montréal and then attempted to spatially analyze whether there are local areas that suffer heightened risk for environmental injustices. Several neighbourhoods were noted as at risk in these studies, which points to a need for greater research and investigation into the levels of disparity in Montréal and the impacts that pollutants may have on the Island’s most at-risk residents. Through this process students were also exposed to the multiples problems associated with the development of a comprehensive and relevant database in order to study complex environmental issues. Students were able to overcome some of these problems and to collectively compile a database that served as a point of departure for organizing an international workshop entitled ‘Mapping’ Environmental Issues in the City: Arts and Cartography Cross-Perspectives.


A transit-oriented vision for the Turcot Interchange: Making highway reconstruction compatible with sustainability

Brisset, P., and Moorman, J. (2009). A transit-oriented vision for the Turcot Interchange: Making highway reconstruction compatible with sustainability. In Gauthier, P., Jaeger, J., Prince, J. (eds.). Montréal at the Crossroads: Superhighways, the Turcot and the Environment. Montreal: Black RoseBooks, 37-58.

The Turcot Interchange was built to sustain car-oriented urban development. In urgent need of reconstruction, the Turcot Interchange should be redesigned in light of sustainable transit-oriented goals, such as those enunciated in the Montreal Transport Plan 2008. Implementation of major transit projects and adoption of car reduction policies would make possible a reduction in the interchange’s traffic capacity and physical size, and diminish its impact on adjacent neighbourhoods. Land use planning, transit planning and parking or tolling policies must be integrated to the infrastructure plan in order to help reduce car dependency and improve health and quality of life for Montrealers. The proposal presented here combines transit improvements and disincentives for car users in order to reduce the number of drivers commuting from the West Island to the center of Montreal. By reducing this number it is possible to redesign the interchange to sustain this new transportation approach. Most importantly, we propose to reduce the capacity of the Ville Marie Expressway in threephases, converting the Turcot Interchange into a three-way junction.

turcot header

The health effects of road traffic–A brief overview

Ferguson, N.M., Moriarity, R.J., Gagnon, F., and McCavour, M.J. (2009). The health effects of road traffic–A brief overview. In Gauthier, P., Jaeger, J., Prince, J. (eds.). Montréal at the Crossroads: Superhighways, the Turcot and the Environment. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 135-144.

Scientific research conducted over the last 30 years has accumulated evidence for the numerous impacts of road traffic on health. These include increased risk of heart attack, increased blood pressure, asthma, wheezing in infants, sleep deprivation, reduced birth weights, and psychological effects such as stress, anxiety, and diminished memory capacity. These health effects particularly impact people of lower socio-economic status because they are more likely to be exposed to the worst air quality, the highest noise levels, and overall poor environmental quality than those with higher socio-economic status. The effects are more pronounced with increasing proximity to highways, where a 200-metre buffer from the highway has been identified as a zone of elevated health risks. This has important implications for the environmental assessment of road projects. For example, air quality in the vicinity of Montreal’s Turcot Interchange cannot be predicted on the basis of air quality stations located several kilometres away, as was attempted in the Environmental Assessment report presented by the Ministère des Transports du Québec.

Turcot Exchange

Policy analysis for the Turcot Interchange reconstruction

Ghamoushi-Ramandi, E., Moorman. J., Brown. E., and Von Rudloff. M. (2009). Policy analysis for the Turcot Interchange reconstruction.  In Gauthier, P., Jaeger, J., Prince, J. (eds.).  Montréal at the Crossroads: Superhighways, the Turcot and the Environment.  Montreal: Black Rose Books, 107-133.

Modal shift—an approach that puts mass-transit at the heart of transportation planning—is a sustainability-oriented concept that is gaining world-wide acceptance and acclaim. At the time of writing, a debate is underway in Montreal that has this concept at its heart. The Turcot Interchange, a large inner-city highway junction, is in dire need of repair, replacement or removal. The course of action taken by transportation engineers and decision-makers will reflect either a commitment to sustainability or a step further away from it. If a plan which simply repairs or replaces the structure is implemented, as proposed by the Ministry of Transport of Quebec (MTQ), no modal shift away from auto dependence will occur and the negative effects associated with automobile and truck traffic volumes will continue or increase. If a modal shift-oriented plan is followed, the impacts of traffic in an urban context will decrease. The purpose of this chapter is to evaluate these two potential courses of action in light of the federal, provincial, and municipal policies that are intended to guide transport and environmental decisions. Three sectors of the environment—noise, transport, and socioeconomic conditions—were used to assess the two alternative plans, the MTQ’s repair/reconstruction plan versus a modal shift alternative. Projected impacts were then compared with 124 goals extracted from the relevant policies. The level of compliance between policy goals and environmental impacts was given a quantitative value. Finally, a scoring and weighting system was implemented which produced a numerical value for each alternative course of action. These numerical values represent a “policy score”; in other words, they measure which alternative is most consistent with environmental and transport policy. On a scale of –30 to +30, the Modal Shift alternative received a score of +14.01 (i.e., complies), whereas the current MTQ proposal received a score of –10.92 (i.e., detrimental). Thus, the Modal Shift, or transit-oriented alternative is far more compliant with existing policy goals than the current MTQ proposal.


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