A baseline and planning study of the summer environment of the Sunshine area, Canadian Rocky Mountains

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Summer recreational use levels in the Sunshine area are likely to increase substantially, from current low levels, because of improved access, made possible by the installation of a gondola-lift in 1979. This study was undertaken in order to provide information required to plan future summer use of the area, and to develop a monitoring strategy to assess environmental changes resulting from changing patterns of summer use. The basis of the research program was the mapping of vegetation and human impacts from colour and false-colour infra-red (FCIR) aerial photographs, at scales of 1:4,000 and 1:8,000, obtained in 1979 and 1980. Black-and-white aerial photography, at a scale of 1:36,000, was also obtained in 1979, and used in the production of an orthophoto mosaic. This mosaic was used to identify sampling sites for a vegetation survey, and also as the base for a map of vegetation and human impacts. In summer 1979, air temperature and rainfall data were collected at five sites, in a variety of topographic situations. In 1980, vegetation was sampled at 49 sites; 102 transects, along three segments of the trail system, were measured and photographed. In both 1979 and 1980, snowmelt patterns were recorded from four fixed sites. Eight vegetation types were identified using both aerial photography and field-based vegetational analysis. An additional nine community types, differentiated only by vegetational composition, were described from data collected in 1969 and 1970 by members of the Canadian Wildlife Service . The seventeen types were ordered along continua relating to snowcover and topographic site. The vegetation data were used as the ground verification component for a map of the vegetation of the area, based on colour and FCIR photography obtained in 1973, 1979 and 1980. The map was overlain on a 1:10,000 scale orthophoto mosic, prepared from the black-and-white photography obtained in 1979. The three trail segments chosen for sampling were situated along the Assiniboine, Egypt Lake and Rock Isle trails. Each of these segments canoe assumed to have received a single level of use along its length. The sets of measured transects from the three trail segments differed markedly, in numbers of braids, widths of braids and widths of the tratl complex, rn general, as slope angles at transects increased, bratd wtdt~s tncreased and numBers of Braids decreased, Trail development was generally greatest on southeast and west slopes and flat areas. No definite relationships between trail characteristics and the adjacent vegetation were found. Both absolute temperatures and temperature ranges varied considerably between the five meteorological stations. Diurnal and seasonal cycles were significantly different between all stations with the exception of the two stations where the vegetation was dominated by Dryas hookeriana. Rainfall was similar at all stations, though some rainstorms appear to be limited in areal extent. Snowmelt patterns were similar in 1979 and 1980, although the sequence was advanced by approximately two and a half weeks in 1980. A correspondence was demonstrated between the location of late-lying snowbanks, and the location of some vegetation types, from the sequential photography obtained in 1979. The results of the research program were used as the basis for recommendations concerning the development of optimal management practices for the area, in order to keep environmental change to a minimum.
Bibliography: p. 238-252.
Price, M. F. (1981). A baseline and planning study of the summer environment of the Sunshine area, Canadian Rocky Mountains (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca. doi:10.11575/PRISM/20634