Northern Rivers Ecosystem Initiative: Context and Prevailing Legacy

The Northern River Ecosystem Initiative (NREI), 1997–2004, has provided new scientific knowledge in response to specific recommendations from its predecessor, the Northern River Basins Study (NRBS), 1990–1996. The two initiatives together provide a remarkable body of science which is, and will continue to be, used by resource managers responsible for economic and environmental sustainability in the northern watersheds of Alberta. The NREI focused its investigative efforts on improving our understanding related to ecological considerations of changes in river flow, effect of climate change on flow, ecological responses to pollution and cumulative effects, vulnerability of drinking water quality, and to a lesser degree, wildlife (birds) response to large scale changes within the watersheds. Key findings are briefly presented in this paper and discussed in greater detail in the other NREI papers included in this. Commensurate with the undertakings of NREI, provincial and territorial governments, First Nation and Métis communities, and other administrative organizations such as the Mackenzie River Basin Board, undertook policy, regulatory, and watershed initiatives towards achieving sustainability and providing reliable drinking water quality.

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