Native Vegetation/Wetland Inventory and GIS Mapping: Parkland Natural

Ron Bjorge, Alberta Sustainable Development

Covering about 10 per cent of Alberta, the parkland is the most heavily impacted natural region in the province. Located between drier grasslands to the south and wetter, more heavily treed boreal areas to the north, Alberta’s parkland has lost most of its native vegetation to agriculture, infrastructure development and other industry.

Today, perhaps only 10 per cent of Alberta’s parkland remains as native land. Still, it provides important habitat for much of Alberta’s waterfowl and white-tailed deer as well as threatened species such as piping plover, peregrine falcon, northern leopard frog, Sprague’s pipit and loggerhead shrike.

This project will provide a scientific basis for indicating where the parkland region’s remaining native vegetation and wetlands are located, their size and distribution and whether they are privately or publicly held. The project’s major outcome will be a Geographical Information System (GIS) map, providing a comprehensive basis for planning and running conservation initiatives, agricultural and industrial activities and research projects.

This study is focusing on the central parkland sub-region, which covers the majority of land in the parkland natural region. Major centres within the study area include Edmonton, Red Deer, Camrose and Lloydminster.

Coordinated by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, the project is using a combination of available, reinterpreted and new data to answer questions such as:

  • How many native vegetation patches and wetlands remain and where and what size are they?
  • What proportion of these native areas is on public or private lands?
  • What is the dominant vegetation (grassland/shrub, deciduous/coniferous trees) in different patches?
  • How does the distribution of native parkland correlate to watersheds, wildlife management units and municipalities?

All data layers (land ownership, vegetation type and standing water) have been completed for the study area and placed in a GIS environment. A protocol has been established for summarizing key data components and has been applied to the Lacombe County area of the study.