Strategic environmental assessment design for wetland assessment and conservation policy development in an urban planning context
This research advances Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) design and methodology for wetland assessment and policy development within an urban planning context. The thesis is a ‘manuscript-style’ and consists of three manuscripts, which collectively contribute to the overarching research purpose. The first manuscript presents and demonstrates a spatial framework for the application of SEA in the context of land use change analysis for urban wetland environment. The study aims to meet the needs for a proactive framework to assess and protect wetland areas more efficiently, and advance urban planning and development design. The proposed framework, adopting Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing approaches, presents a temporal evaluation of wetland change and sustainability assessment based on landscape indicator analysis. The results show that despite the recent extremely wet period in the Canadian prairie region, land use change contributed to increasing threats to wetland sustainability in the developing urban environment of the city of Saskatoon from 1985 to 2011. The second manuscript presents a scenario-based approach to SEA for wetland trends analysis and land use and land cover (LUC) modeling. Alternative future LUC was simulated using remote sensing data and city planning documentation using a Markov chain technique. Two alternatives were developed for LUC change and threats to urban wetland sustainability: a zero alternative that simulated trends in urban development and wetland conservation under a business as usual scenario, in the absence of prescribed planning and zoning actions; and an alternative focused on implementation of current urban development plans, which simulated future LUC to account for prescribed wetland conservation strategies. Results show no improvement in future wetland conditions under Saskatoon’s planned growth and wetland conservation scenario versus the business as usual scenario. Results also indicate that a blanket wetland conservation strategy for the city may not be sufficient to overcome the historic trend of urban wetland loss; and that spatially distributed conservation rates, based on individual wetland water catchment LUC differences, may be more effective in terms of wetland conservation. The results also demonstrate the challenges to applied SEA in a rapidly changing urban context, where data are often sparse and inconsistent across the urban region, and provides potential solutions through LUC classification and prediction tools to help overcome data limitations to support land use planning decisions for wetland conservation. The third manuscript presents an analytical approach to SEA, bridging strategic level assessment with operational planning and implementation. An expert-based strategic assessment framework was developed and applied to assess the potential implications of alternative wetland conservation policy targets on urban planning goals, and to identify a preferred conservation policy target. Site-specific algorithms, based on wetland area and wetland sustainability, were used to prioritize wetlands for conservation to meet policy targets within urban planning units. Results indicate a preferred wetland conservation policy target beyond which higher targets provided no additional benefit to urban development goals. The use of different implementation strategies, based on wetland area versus wetland sustainability, provides operational guidance and choice for planners to meet policy objectives within neighborhood planning units, but those choices have implications for local land use and wetland sustainability. Overall, the research contributes to the following aspects of SEA design and methodology: i) scoping processes to define the spatial and temporal context for SEA; ii) baseline assessment for analysis of environmental conditions and changes across space and/or over time; iii) methods to support the identification and evaluation of potential impacts of strategic alternatives; and iv) structured and systematic, quantitative assessment and decision-support tools for SEA that bridge strategic-level assessment with operational planning and implementation.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentGeography and Planning
SupervisorNoble, Bram; Bell, Scott
CommitteeHill, Michael; Westbrook, Cherie; Patrick, Robert; Guo, Xulin; Belcher, Ken
Copyright DateJune 2015
strategic environmental assessment