Natural Regions:

TOTAL AREA:
95,566 km2

TOTAL Human Footprint:
54,587 km2

Region Overview

The Grassland Natural Region occupies almost 96,000 km2 (14% of the province) of southern Alberta stretching from the Rocky Mountain foothills in the west to the Saskatchewan border to the east. In the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains, the Grassland Natural Region receives too little precipitation to support forests but too much precipitation to be considered a desert—hence the predominance of grasses and forbs that characterize the landscape. The region has been extensively cultivated, particularly to the north and west, areas that receive more precipitation. Large areas of semi-arid native prairie remain in the southeast. While grasses predominate, there are a diversity of other vegetation types depending on soil and climatic conditions. For example, trees and shrubs, such as the Narrow-leaf Cottonwood, Silver Sagebrush and Prickly Rose are commonly found in depressions, along creeks, and in coulees and ravines where there is enough moisture to support their growth. Bird species like the Chestnut-collared Longspur, Baird’s Sparrow, and Sprague’s Pipit rely on native prairie habitat for nesting and foraging. Human footprint status and trend are presented for the Grassland Natural Region.

Status

As of 2016, human footprint occupied 57.12% of the Grassland Natural Region. Agriculture was the predominant human footprint, covering 49.59% of the landscape. Transportation (2.66%), energy (2.47%), and urban/industrial (1.47%) footprint all covered similar areas.

Human Footprint Type Area (km2) Area (%)
Total Human Footprint 54,587 57.1
Agriculture 47,391 49.6
Energy 2,360 2.5
Forestry 0 0.0
Human-created Water Bodies 889 0.9
Transportation 2,542 2.7
Urban/Industrial 1,405 1.5

FIGURE: Summary of percentage cover of total human footprint broken down by human footprint category in the Grassland Natural Region, circa 2016.

Total Human Footprint 57.1%

Agriculture 49.6%

Energy 2.5%

Forestry 0.0%

Human-created Water Bodies 0.9%

Transportation 2.7%

Urban/Industrial 1.5%

Trend

Between 1999 and 2016, the total area of human footprint in the Grassland Natural Region increased by 2.54%, from 54.58% to 57.12%. Agriculture and energy footprint demonstrated the largest expansion during this time frame, increasing by 1.42% and 1.19%, respectively. The remaining footprint types had smaller increases totaling 0.59% combined.  

Human Footprint Type 1999 (km2) 2016 (km2) Change (km2)
Total Human Footprint 52,160 54,587 + 2,427
Agriculture 46,034 47,391 + 1,357
Energy 1,223 2,360 + 1,137
Forestry 0 0 0
Human-created Water Bodies 774 889 + 115
Transportation 2,303 2,542 + 239
Urban/Industrial 1,195 1,405 + 210
Human Footprint Type 1999 (%) 2016 (%) Change (%)
Total Human Footprint 54.6 57.1 + 2.5
Agriculture 48.2 49.6 + 1.4
Energy 1.3 2.5 + 1.2
Forestry 0.0 0.0 0.0
Human-created Water Bodies 0.8 0.9 + 0.1
Transportation 2.4 2.7 + 0.2
Urban/Industrial 1.2 1.5 + 0.2

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