Browse through the status and trend of human footprint in Alberta at the provincial scale, and broken down by administrative and ecological units.
We transform natural landscapes for a variety of purposes—to grow food, to extract timber and fossil fuels, to make way for new housing developments, or to build roads and rail systems to transport people and goods, to name just a few. The extent of human land use in any given area is collectively defined as human footprint.[1,2] Measuring human footprint information is increasingly being used as a land use planning tool to monitor the status of landscapes.
During the past century, the availability of natural resources in Alberta has defined human land use patterns, in both time and space. The province was considered a farming frontier in the late 1800s, and most of Alberta’s human footprint in the central and southern parts of the province is the result of this farming legacy. While agriculture remains important, other human land uses, particularly forestry and oil and gas development, have expanded in recent decades into previously undisturbed areas in the Foothills and Boreal Forest Natural Regions. To meet Alberta’s growing population needs, urban areas have expanded to keep up with industrial growth. As these activities continue, understanding and managing their cumulative effects on biodiversity are priorities in Alberta.
In this report, we summarize the status and trend of human footprint throughout Alberta. We provide an overview of human footprint at the provincial scale but also break down the information on status and trend of human footprint by natural regions, Land use Framework planning region, and by oil sands regions. These results will be updated annually.
Areas of annual or perennial cultivation, including crops and tame pasture, as well as confined feeding operations and other high-density livestock areas.
Areas in forested landscapes where timber resource extraction has occurred for industrial purposes, including clear-cut and partial-cut logging methods.
Railways, roadways and trails with hard surfaces such as concrete, asphalt, or gravel; roads or trails without gravel or pavement; and the vegetation strips alongside transportation features.
The ABMI monitors the status of Alberta’s human footprint using satellite imagery at two spatial scales:
The ABMI uses human footprint data measured annually at a 1:5,000 scale to track changes in human footprint over time. Detailed annual samples of human footprint are measured in a 3 × 7-km rectangular area centred near each of the ABMI’s 1,656 sites, which when summed across all sites amounts to about 5% of the province’s land surface. ABMI human footprint trend data are available from 1999 to 2015, except for 2000. Trend data and the metadata associated with these data can be accessed here.
At the provincial scale, the ABMI merges 21 human footprint sub-layers (based on 115 feature types) into a single integrated layer by applying a specific order of precedence to create the ABMI Human Footprint Inventory (HFI), circa 2014. To view the distribution of each of the sub-layers in Alberta, hover over each of the layers in the table below. Some of these 21 sub-layers are created by the ABMI and Government of Alberta as part of the Alberta Human Footprint Monitoring Program. We use the HFI 2014 for three purposes in this report: to generate maps of human footprint; to standardize the 3 × 7-km trend estimates before reporting; and, to calculate total footprint in regions where there are insufficient sample sites to estimate trend using the 3 × 7-km data. This product is updated approximately every two years; these data and the metadata associated with this product are available here.
|2||Borrow Pits, Sumps, Dugouts and Lagoons|
|3||Non-vegetated Impermeable Surfaces (Roads)|
|4||Rail Lines Hard Surface|
|6||Vegetated Surfaces of Roads, Trails and Railways|
|9||Well Sites (Energy) ACTIVE|
|11||Other Vegetated Facilities and Recreation|
|12||Wind Generation Facility|
|14||CFO and other High Density Livestock|
|15||Urban and Rural Residential|
|16||Well Sites (Energy) ABANDONED|
To report on the status of human footprint, the ABMI presents the percentage of land directly altered by human activities, ranging from 0% (no visible human footprint) to 100% (completely modified by human footprint). All 2015 trend estimates of human footprint are standardized to the 2014 human footprint value from the Human Footprint Inventory before reporting. The ABMI Human Footprint Inventory, circa 2014, was used to generate the maps of human footprint presented in this report. It is also used to calculate total footprint in regions where there are insufficient sample sites to estimate trend using the 3 × 7-km samples (e.g., the Surface Mineable Region).