Assessing Community Resilience to Mountain Pine
Beetle Outbreaks in Alberta

Overview

The recent outbreak of mountain pine beetle in British Columbia resulted in significant negative effects in many communities, harming both their social and economic fabrics. As the infestation expands eastward, forest dependant communities in Alberta will be affected as well, to a degree that will depend on their level of resilience. This research responds to these concerns.

Community Resilience

Community resilience is the capacity of communities to adapt, function, and flourish through difficult and unexpected circumstances. The resources that communities have make them resilient.

These include:

  • natural and economic resources
  • human resources such as social, cultural, and political capital
  • local knowledge

An assessment of community resilience involves understanding what resources are available, and how they might be mobilized in response to change. Doing this can help communities be more prepared and therefore less vulnerable.

Objectives

While it is well accepted that the diversity of local economies and the capacity of people, institutions, and communities to learn, innovate and adapt, play a central role in community resilience, the specific ways in which this applies to Albertan communities is still an open question. To answer it, we propose to analyse the level of vulnerability and resilience of three forest-dependent communities in Alberta. Final locations will be announced in a forthcoming study update.

Community selection is being made with consideration to the vulnerability of nearby forests to beetle outbreak, the degree of local dependence on the forest for livelihoods and well-being, input from TRIANet and fRI Research collaborators, and variety in community size and location. The selection of these locations does not mean that they are in a particularly vulnerable position as compared to other Albertan communities that will potentially be affected by the beetle.

Objective 1

To identify the combination of factors which contributes to community resilience in the specific contexts of our case studies.

Objective 2

To outline practical strategies through which Albertan communities can prepare for, and respond to mountain pine beetle outbreaks, and other disturbances.

Methods Summary and Anticipated Outcomes

Our research is built around two complementary approaches:

Approach 1

The first approach is qualitative in essence. Pending research ethics approval this approach will involve conducting document reviews, as well as interviews and focus groups with community, industry, and institutional stakeholders in varied roles linked to the resilience of our case study communities. The collected information will be analyzed through the lens of community resilience theories, and will help provide insights on social and ecological features that are relevant to fostering resilience in an Albertan context.

Approach 2

The second approach takes a more quantitative route. It will require collecting, through questionnaires, anonymous data about how people anticipate and cope with mountain pine beetle in their community. This will lead to the creation and analysis of a social map of collaborations regarding the issue, which will provide insights on how prepared the social and institutional structure is to foster innovation and adaptiveness, which are two important aspects of resilience.

This two step methodology will improve our understanding of what “resilience" means to an Albertan resource dependant community, and will lead to the identification of steps which may be taken to enhance this resilience not only in the case study communities, but also in many comparable communities across Alberta.

Giving Back to Albertan Communities

It’s important to us that this research provides meaningful and practical results for Albertan communities. Therefore, in addition to involving communities directly in the research process, key results including a framework for assessing resilience in Albertan communities and strategies for fostering resilience will be made available directly to communities and research partners in the form of user friendly reports and summaries, as well as presentations to interested community members.