Land Access

Surveying Alberta's biodiversity on your land.

What is a Biodiversity Survey?

The ABMI surveys randomly selected land and wetland locations at each of our 1656 monitoring sites. Surveys are conducted by two to three field technologists who identify species, take habitat measurements, and observe human land use. 

Each site is re-visited once every five to seven years to measure changes in biodiversity over time.

Terrestrial (Land) Surveys

ABMI terrestrial survey sites are visited two to three times throughout the field season. ABMI crews start field work in the fall and continue through to mid-summer.

Visit 1 (September-March)
Up to four pairs of motion-sensitive trail cameras and autonomous recording units (ARUs) are set-up on rebar or installed on trees or fence posts at each site. The cameras and ARUs record images of wildlife and birdsongs, which allow us to monitor the distribution of Alberta’s mammals and birds. Any photos of humans, vehicles, or potentially identifiable features are permanently removed from our data set to ensure privacy for participating landholders. 

Visit 2 (May-June)
During this visit, the field staff will determine their best access path and prepare forested sites to be surveyed by marking out the area with flagging tape. Additionally, field technologists will collect moss and lichen for identification at the Royal Alberta Museum, take soil samples and site photographs, and note the composition of the trees and woody material. A complete list of information collected during our spring visit can be viewed below

Visit 3 (June-July)
The second survey visit takes place in June or July. Field technologists collect the cameras and ARUs, perform a vascular plant survey, and identify the ecosite type and physical site characteristics. The ABMI is also interested in rangeland grasses. For pasture sites, an additional half-hour Rangeland Site Assessment may also be completed. A complete list of information collected during our summer visit can be viewed below.

Terrestrial Protocols

These protocols are performed at each terrestrial site during the spring and summer visits. Each protocol is repeated in every quadrant (northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest) of the 100 x 100 m (1 ha) terrestrial site. Sightings of birds, mammals and amphibians are also noted during each site visit.

Fall & Winter Protocols (September-March)

  • Wildlife camera and ARU deployment

Spring Protocols (May-June)

  • Moss and lichen samples
  • Trees, snags and stump observations
  • Downed woody material measurements
  • Soil arthropod (mite) and mineral soil samples
  • Site photographs

Summer Protocols (June-July)

  • Ecological and physical site characteristics (topography, elevation, and slope)
  • Surface substrate and soil depth measurements
  • Shrub and herbaceous ground cover estimates
  • Tree cores (to determine age)
  • Forest canopy cover estimates
  • Vascular plant identification
  • Camera and ARU retrieval 

Wetland Surveys

The ABMI visits wetland survey sites once or twice throughout the field season.

Visit 1 (September–March) 
At previously visited sites, technicians may install one trail camera and one ARU to monitor birds, mammals, and amphibians. 

Visit 1 (May–June)
During the first visit to a new wetland site, field technologists will determine their best access path and ensure the wetland site meets ABMI survey requirements for depth and size. Sightings of birds, mammals, and amphibians are also noted.

Visit 2 (June–July) 
Wetland surveys occur during the second site visit in June or July. During this visit, field technologists will survey plants around the perimeter of the water. Technicians will also use an inflatable kayak to collect water samples, take depth measurements, and collect aquatic insects. Sightings of birds, mammals, and amphibians are also noted. See a complete list of information collected during our summer visit below.

Each wetland survey site is randomly selected within 10km of a terrestrial site. Wetlands must be permanent which means they must have existed for at least 10 years and be at least 1m deep.

Wetland Protocols

Wetland protocols are performed during spring and summer visits. Each protocol is repeated in every quadrant. Sighting of birds, mammals and amphibians are also noted during each visit.

Spring Protocols (May-June)

  • Depth estimates (from shore)
  • Wetland vegetation zone maps (from shore)

Summer Protocols (June-July)

  • Depth measurements (from boat)
  • Shoreline characteristics and site photos
  • Vertebrate (birds and mammals) search
  • Water chemistry and nutrients
  • Plant and ecosite identification
  • Aquatic insect collection

Land Access

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