Alberta

TOTAL AREA:
662,581 km2

TOTAL Human Footprint:
194,600 km2

Region Overview

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 the human footprint in central and southern Alberta 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 the needs of Alberta’s growing population, urban areas have grown to keep up with industrial growth. As these activities continue, understanding and managing the cumulative effects on Alberta's biodiversity are priorities.

Status

As of 2016, human footprint occupied 29.37% of Alberta. Agriculture was the dominant human footprint, covering 20.27%, an area five times larger than that of forestry footprint (4.38%), the second-largest human footprint category. The remaining footprint types, in decreasing order of provincial area covered, include: energy (2.03%), transportation (1.42%), urban/industrial (1.01%), and human-created waterbodies (0.25%).

Human Footprint Type Area (km2) Area (%)
Total Human Footprint 194,600 29.4
Agriculture 134,305 20.3
Energy 13,450 2.0
Forestry 29,021 4.4
Human-created Water Bodies 1,656 0.2
Transportation 9,409 1.4
Urban/Industrial 6,692 1.0

FIGURE: Summary of percentage cover of total human footprint broken down by human footprint category in Alberta, circa 2016.

Total Human Footprint 29.4%

Agriculture 20.3%

Energy 2.0%

Forestry 4.4%

Human-created Water Bodies 0.2%

Transportation 1.4%

Urban/Industrial 1.0%

Trend

Between 1999 and 2016, the total area of human footprint in Alberta increased by 3.76%, from 25.61% to 29.37%. This increase in human footprint was driven by the expansion of forestry footprint, which doubled in size in this time frame, increasing from 2.12% to 4.38%. Both agriculture and energy footprint increased by approximately 0.6%, and urban/industrial footprint increased by 0.28%.

Human Footprint Type 1999 (km2) 2016 (km2) Change (km2)
Total Human Footprint 169,687 194,600 + 24,913
Agriculture 130,330 134,305 + 3,975
Energy 9,409 13,450 + 4,042
Forestry 14,047 29,021 + 14,974
Human-created Water Bodies 1,391 1,656 + 265
Transportation 8,415 9,409 + 994
Urban/Industrial 4,837 6,692 + 1,855
Human Footprint Type 1999 (%) 2016 (%) Change (%)
Total Human Footprint 25.6 29.4 + 3.8
Agriculture 19.7 20.3 + 0.6
Energy 1.4 2.0 + 0.6
Forestry 2.1 4.4 + 2.3
Human-created Water Bodies 0.2 0.2 + 0.0
Transportation 1.3 1.4 + 0.1
Urban/Industrial 0.7 1.0 + 0.3

FIGURE: Trend in the percentage area of total human footprint, and by human footprint category in Alberta between 1999 and 2016. Click on the human footprint categories in the legend to turn categories on and off.