Wood Buffalo National Park
Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP), located in northeastern Alberta and extending into the Northwest Territories, is the largest national park in Canada covering 44,807 km2 (Figure 1). WBNP was originally designated as a national park in 1922 to protect roaming bison herds, and is now an integral part of Parks Canada’s goal of connecting Canadians to the outdoors (Park Canada, 2010). In 1983, WBNP was designated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage site due to its cultural and ecological importance (Parks Canada, 2010).
Figure 1. Map of Wood Buffalo National Park
The majority (92%) of WBNP is within the northern boreal plains region (Parks Canada, 2015). The northern boreal plains are generally flat, with poor draining soils, and have many streams, lakes, and muskegs (Parks Canada, 2015). The Peace River is the largest river flowing though WBNP, it runs through the southern extent of the park, and flows from Lake Chipewyan and flows west (Parks Canada, 2015). WBNP is made up of mostly coniferous trees such as white and black spruce, jack pine, and balsam fir, which cover 45% of the park (Parks Canada, 2015). Deciduous trees such as aspen, and poplar cover 31% of the park, and various vegetation, lakes, streams, and muskegs cover the remaining 24% of the park (Parks Canada, 2015). Moreover, WBNP hosts one of the largest free roaming bison herds in North America, as well as the last remaining whooping crane nesting site in the world (Parks Canada, 2010).
Wildfire management within the WBNP is a major focus for the park management, as several large wildfires have occurred in WBNP within the last 55 years, as shown in Figure 2 below (Parks Canada, 2010). Currently, WBNP lacks a system to model and predict potential wildfire zones. A more localized fire predictability model would assist wildfire crews within the park to achieve the fire control management objectives outlined within the park’s management plan (Parks Canada, 2010).
Figure 2. Historical fires within Wood Buffalo National Park