Ecosystem Goods + Services Assessment: Southern Alberta

Client Alberta Environment
Location Alberta | Canada

In 2006, an assessment of ecosystem goods and services (EGS) in southern Alberta was initiated by Alberta Environment (AENV). Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from nature, including:

  • clean air and water
  • flood control
  • greenhouse gas regulation
  • pollination of crops
  • fulfillment of cultural, spiritual, and recreational needs

The EGS assessment was intended to provide background information to support the Southern Alberta Landscapes (SAL) regional strategy and to identify areas of further investigation and study. The geographical scope of the EGS assessment was the southern portion of Alberta, the northern limit of which corresponds with the boundary of the South Saskatchewan River watershed. 

The research project developed methodologies to assess how the condition of natural ecosystems can be linked to ecosystem services in southern Alberta. To identify suitable indicators of ecosystem services at multiple scales, O2 conducted a detailed review of both scientific and institutional literature. At regional, landscape, and watershed scales, approaches to mapping and modelling ecosystem services were identified. At finer scales, site-specific indicators of ecosystem services were identified within grassland, forest, riparian, and aquatic habitat types. Potential quantitative thresholds for indicators were also researched and discussed in detail. The multi-scale approach was linked to an assessment framework structured to provide immediate input to land use planning. In addition, O2 identified timelines, research priorities, and adaptive management approaches. By explicitly considering the values ecosystems provide to society, this research provides useful tools for sustainable land use planning aiming to balance competing economic, environmental, and social demands.