NAESI Habitat Based Biodiversity Standards for Agricultural Landscapes

Client Pilot in the Mixed Grass | Prairie of Alberta + Saskatchewan | Environment Canada
Location Alberta | Canada

The goal of the Environment Chapter, under the Federal Agricultural Policy Framework is to decrease the risks of agriculture while increasing the benefits to air, water, biodiversity and soil (environmental themes).  Environment Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to develop agri-environmental standards for these environmental themes.  The National Agri-Environmental Standards Initiative (NAESI) sets performance standards for agriculture that address air, water, biodiversity and pesticides, including soil issues. O2 was contracted to develop a set of habitat-based performance standards for the Mixed Grassland Ecoregion as well as methods that will serve as a “proof of concept” for other agricultural landscapes throughout the country.  

O2 developed biodiversity standards by identifying high priority areas from species richness mapping, landscape pattern analysis, and special landscape elements assessment. O2 also used habitat suitability indices modelling for a suite of surrogate species that represented species guilds, important habitats, ecological processes, and sensitivity to agricultural stressors in the pilot area. Additionally, the firm used optimization modelling to identify landscape scenarios that retain biodiversity in a manner that is compatible with agriculture and farmer and rancher livelihoods. The biodiversity standards will be used to inform land use planning at finer scales within the ecoregion.