New ABMI Report: Latest Assessment of Biodiversity Health in an Alberta Forest Management Agreement Area Shows Intactness at 94%
A new ABMI report—The Status of Biodiversity in Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. Forest Management Agreement Area—examines how the current condition of biodiversity and human footprint changed in the Al-Pac Forest Management Agreement (Al-Pac FMA) area between 1999 and 2012. This new study represents the ABMI’s first-ever update on the status of biodiversity for an administrative unit; a preliminary assessment of the Al-Pac FMA area was completed in 2009.
Located in northeastern Alberta, the Al-Pac FMA area is predominantly forested and covers about 10% of Alberta’s land base. Between 1999 and 2013, ABMI’s monitoring efforts found that human footprint increased by 3.1%, such that 7.5% of the Al-Pac FMA area had been transformed by human activity as of 2013. Most of this increase in human footprint was the result of forestry, which increased from 2.5% to 4.8% over this time frame. However, habitat elements important to many components of biodiversity—such as large trees, snags (standing dead trees), and downed woody material (fallen dead trees)—were similar in abundance or were predicted to have increased slightly over this same time period. In addition, the report indicates biodiversity intactness (a measure of biodiversity health) was close to intact reference conditions for many components of biodiversity.
- Biodiversity intactness averaged 94% for 477 species in the Al-Pac FMA area, indicating a 6% deviation from what would be expected if the area were completely undisturbed.
- Biodiversity intactness was close to reference conditions for all groups of species assessed, ranging from 91% for vascular plants to 97% for winter-active mammals.
- Biodiversity intactness was also close to reference conditions for species associated with old deciduous and mixedwood forests—the species that are disproportionately impacted by forestry activities.
While overall biodiversity intactness was high in the Al-Pac FMA area, several species were less abundant than expected, and their intactness decreased between 1999 and 2012. This indicates that habitat suitability for these species declined over this time frame. These species, including the Brown Creeper (songbird), Greenish-flowered Wintergreen (vascular plant), and Heller’s Notchwort (moss species), were all disproportionately affected by forestry footprint compared to other types of footprint, such as agriculture and energy.
The report also presented data on the recovery of structural retention harvest areas in which trees and snags are retained after harvesting as part of Al-Pac’s natural disturbance model of forest management. Results indicate that bird and vascular plant communities in 15-year old aspen stands with structural retention are recovering rapidly toward older forest levels, as are trees, downed woody material, and shrubs and herbs. Further, these harvested aspen stands are recovering toward older forest conditions at a faster rate than stands naturally disturbed by fire. However, some habitat elements (i.e. snags, moss and lichen cover), and a few old-forest birds and plants remain rare in harvest areas. These species will be important to monitor as harvested areas age.
Al-Pac commissioned the ABMI to write and produce this report, under terms and conditions set by the ABMI. The report supports ABMI’s mission to provide relevant and credible scientific information on Alberta’s biodiversity to support natural resource and land use decision-making. Data collected by the ABMI can be used to monitor the status and trends of species living in the boreal forest and evaluate the effectiveness of forest management activities to maintain regional biodiversity.
A copy of the report is available on the ABMI’s website: abmi.ca/home/publications.
About the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI)
The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute is an arm’s-length, not-for-profit scientific organization. The ABMI’s business is to monitor and report on the status and trends of Alberta’s species, native habitat, and human footprint. ABMI provides relevant, timely, and credible scientific information to support natural resource and land use decision-making in Alberta. More on ABMI is available at abmi.ca
About the Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac)
Al-Pac manages the largest FMA area in Alberta using an ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach to maintain biodiversity. Al-Pac is committed to long-term monitoring of biodiversity to allow the company, the regulators, and the public to understand how biodiversity responds to its harvest planning and practices as well as other natural and human-caused disturbances. More on Al-Pac is available at alpac.ca.
Media inquiries can be directed to:
Northern Communication Advisor,
Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute,
Public Affairs Coordinator,
Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc.,