Oil Sands Regions:

TOTAL AREA:
140,213 km2

TOTAL Human Footprint:
21,705 km2

Region Overview

The Oil Sands Region (OSR) is the aggregate of three recognized administrative units—the Athabasca, Cold Lake, and Peace River Oil Sands Areas—that together represent 21% (or approximately 140,000 km2) of the province’s land area. This region almost entirely overlays the Boreal Forest Natural Region which overlaps 97% of the landbase; the Parkland, Foothills, and Canadian Shield Natural Regions cover very small areas. The energy sector is a major economic driver in the region as it contains 95% of Canada’s proven oil reserves. But energy development is not the only land-use activity. This area also has a robust forest industry with much of the region managed for timber production. The conventional natural gas industry has also developed alongside the oil sands industry, while agriculture is the dominant land use in some parts. Managing the cumulative effects of all land-use activities is a key management challenge in the OSR. Human footprint status and trend is summarized for the OSR.

Status

As of 2016, human footprint occupied 15.48% of the Oil Sands Region. Agriculture was the dominant human footprint, covering 7.67% of the region, followed by forestry (3.75%) and energy (2.46%) footprints. 

Human Footprint Type Area (km2) Area (%)
Total Human Footprint 21,705 15.5
Agriculture 10,754 7.7
Energy 3,449 2.5
Forestry 5,258 3.8
Human-created Water Bodies 140 0.1
Transportation 1,024 0.7
Urban/Industrial 1,108 0.8

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

Total Human Footprint 15.5%

Agriculture 7.7%

Energy 2.5%

Forestry 3.8%

Human-created Water Bodies 0.1%

Transportation 0.7%

Urban/Industrial 0.8%

Trend

Between 1999 and 2016, the total area of human footprint in the Oil Sands Region increased by 3.38%, from 12.10% to 15.48%. This increase in human footprint was driven by the expansion of forestry footprint, which almost doubled in size, increasing from 1.91% to 3.75%. Energy and urban footprint increased by 0.87% and 0.37%, respectively, over the period.

Human Footprint Type 1999 (km2) 2016 (km2) Change (km2)
Total Human Footprint 16,966 21,705 + 4,739
Agriculture 10,390 10,754 + 365
Energy 2,229 3,449 + 1,220
Forestry 2,678 5,258 + 2,580
Human-created Water Bodies 98 140 + 42
Transportation 841 1,024 + 182
Urban/Industrial 589 1,108 + 519
Human Footprint Type 1999 (%) 2016 (%) Change (%)
Total Human Footprint 12.1 15.5 + 3.4
Agriculture 7.4 7.7 + 0.3
Energy 1.6 2.5 + 0.9
Forestry 1.9 3.8 + 1.8
Human-created Water Bodies 0.1 0.1 + 0.0
Transportation 0.6 0.7 + 0.1
Urban/Industrial 0.4 0.8 + 0.4

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