Cariboo

CAI works with partners in the Cariboo to deliver projects that equip producers to adapt to climate change.

Many projects flow from the 2014 Cariboo Adaptation Strategies plan that outlines:

  • 5 climate issues of top concern to producers
  • 12 strategies for responding to the issues

CAI developed the regional adaptation plan over 12 months.

Map of the Cariboo region, with Agricultural Land Reserve shown in green.
Map of the Cariboo region, with Agricultural Land Reserve shown in green.

Climate projections & top issues

This section highlights a subset of climate projections important to agriculture in the Cariboo. The projections are for the 2050s and also help illustrate climate change trends.

Temperature

  • 2.1°C to 4.1°C increase in annual average temperatures
  • 35 to 64 more frost free days annually

Precipitation

  • 5.1% increase in annual average precipitation (+0.62% to +13%)
  • 27% decrease in precipitation falling as snow (-33% to -24%)
  • Increase in likelihood of drier summer conditions

Extremes

  • Increase in frequency and magnitude of extreme rainfall events
  • Increase in average number of days over 30°C annually

These projections, provided by the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, are in comparison to the baseline historical period of 1961-1990.

The full set of projections was shared during the regional planning process where producers discussed how the anticipated changes would likely affect their operations. Then they identified five climate issues as their top concerns.

1. Increasing wildfire risk

Climate change is contributing to an increase in the number and severity of wildfires in the Cariboo region. The region has experienced many significant wildfire seasons in the past decade, including 2009, 2010 and 2012. These were followed by the record-breaking wildfire seasons of 2017 and 2018, during which about 1.1 million hectares of land in the region were burned.

2. Changing hydrology

Producers in the Cariboo are experiencing warmer and drier summers that are reducing water supply while increasing the water requirements for crops and livestock. Additionally, increased precipitation in the winter and spring may lead to flooding, runoff and erosion. A number of agricultural properties in the region were impacted by flooding in both summer of 2019 and spring of 2020.

3. Increasing variability

Producers in the Cariboo ranked increasing variability as one of the biggest challenges they face. Of particular concern for producers are increasingly unpredictable storm events, freeze/thaw cycles and temperature/precipitation fluctuations or extremes.

4. Changing pests, diseases and invasive species

As the climate changes, pest populations are also shifting. During 2014 planning workshops, Cariboo producers identified a number of emerging agricultural pests of concern, including fireants, cutworms and the grey tortrix moth. The Cariboo region landscape has also been significantly affected by mountain pine beetle outbreaks. This is partly due to a reduction in extremely cold winter temperatures.

5. Changes to wildlife and ecological systems

The ecological communities and water resources on Cariboo rangelands are shifting, which is altering forage productivity. Producers are also noticing changes in wildlife populations and distribution.

Projects

Many of these projects are a direct response to the adaptation strategies and top issues outlined in the Cariboo Adaptation Strategies plan. The projects are developed by CAI with oversight and input from a regional working group.

Other projects deliver applied research that supports climate change adaptation at the farm level. These 2-4 year projects fall under the Farm Adaptation Innovator Program.

Regional climate & production systems

Historical climate & production capacity

This region includes the Cariboo Regional District, much of which is high, rolling plateau with mountain ranges on its east and west boundaries. Due to the size and diverse topography of the region, it has many microclimates. The climate is generally warm and dry in the summer. Winters are cold, with low to moderate precipitation, ranging from 250-630 millimetres annually

Both soils and a lack of moisture are limiting factors for agriculture in much of the region. Areas with better river bench soils can produce high quality forage, as well as root vegetables and potatoes. Some valley soils have high clay content but, with careful management, can produce a range of forage and field crops.

Most agricultural land is located along Highway 97, following the Fraser River, and along Highway 20 East, following the Chilcotin River, to Alexis Creek. In 2017, about 936,000 hectares were included in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Agricultural production

In 2016, the Cariboo region had 919 farms – 5% of the farms in BC. Farms range in size from a few acres to more than 3,000 acres.

Beef cattle operations make up about one-quarter of the agricultural sector in the region. Forage crops make up almost all of the total cropped area. Crown range provides about 40% of the annual forage needs of the ranching industry.

Livestock production in the region includes dairy, sheep, horses and poultry. A diversity of horticultural crops, including berries and vegetables, are also grown in the region.

For a complete regional overview, read the plan:

Cariboo Adaptation Strategies plan