Boreal Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Sites (BERMS), White Gull Creek, SK

Location and Physical Characteristics

  • Located in the southern Boreal Forest within mid-Boreal upland and Boreal Transition ecoregions; 
    • Gently rolling topography with sites in a variety of dominant vegetation types;
  • Main sites within mature Jack Pine, Black Spruce, and Aspen stands, as well as Fen, and reference stations in nearby burned and cleared forest stands;
  • Area covers a number of watersheds in the southern Boreal Forest, including White Gull Creek, Torch River (basin area from WSC gauge near Love = 4650 km2) , Garden River (basin area from WSC gauge near Henribourg = 903 km2), and White Fox Creek.


  • BERMS project began in 1996 following the end of the BOREAS (BOReal Ecosystem and Atmosphere Study), which took place from 1994 – 1996;
    • Operated and funded by Environment Canada (EC), NRCan, and Parks Canada, with collaboration from University of British Columbia and Queen's University;
  • Project initiated to study the carbon, water, and energy cycles of the Boreal Forest, and with later support from Fluxnet Canada, focus also included role of forest disturbance.

Current Science Focus and Instrumentation

  • The BERMS programme is largely overseen by Dr. Alan Barr of Environment Canada, with operational costs supported by the Global Institute for Water Security;
  • BERMS primary science goal is to understand the carbon and water balance of the Canadian Boreal Forest; Specific investigations include:
    • Characterization of ecosystem resilience of southern boreal forests in relation to variation in climate averages and extremes, with particular emphasis on the effects of hydrology and soil properties;
    • Analysis of the climatic, hydrologic and biophysical processes that govern water, energy and carbon balances at the stand level;
    • Synthesis, integration and upscaling of stand scale processes to watershed scales by developing improved hydrological models for application to the Boreal Plains ecozone and within the wider Saskatchewan River Basin;
    • Simulation of ecosystem responses of upland forest stands to environmental stressors such as climate change and air pollution using a dynamic coupled biogeochemical-vegetation model;
    • Engagement of local stakeholders in the application and dissemination of research results;
  • Instrumentation includes Scaffold flux towers (50' to 115' in height) at each of the primary sites (Jack Pine, Black Spruce, and Aspen stands);
    • Recent equipment upgrades include NASA soil water instrumentation; Soil moisture profiles, soil temperature, precipitation, profiles of air temperature/humidity and wind speed, 4-component radiation (within and above canopy), tree bole temperatures, eddy covariance instrumentation (carbon, water, energy);
    • Soil respiration measurements at forest covered sites;
  • Groundwater and surface water monitoring;
    • Piezometers and soil moisture monitoring at each site
    • Continuous streamflow gauging on White Gull Creek, Torch River, Garden River, and White Fox Creek; continuous lake levels for Waskesiu, Crean, and Candle Lakes;
    • Periodic lake and streamflow measurements at Sandy, White Gull, and Ispuchaw Lakes, and tributaries of White Gull Creek in fall.