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Report update on the Status of Land Cover and Biodiversity in the Al-Pac FMA Area Released

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Today, we are releasing the third report in a series on the state of land cover and biodiversity for the Al-Pac Forest Management Agreement (FMA) area.

The report—Status of Land Cover and Biodiversity in the Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac) Forest Management Agreement Area (FMA) is part of a series, now the longest of its kind for Alberta spanning over a decade. Readers can see how biodiversity indicators for the region have changed over time—the original publication was released in 2009 and the second report was released in 2015.

The ABMI examines the status of wildlife and habitat within the 63,000 km2 Al-Pac FMA area in northern Alberta. The current report shows that both native habitat and total biodiversity in the area are largely intact: native habitat represents 91.5% of the land base, and the overall Biodiversity Intactness Index is 94.6%. Despite these relatively high values, the report highlights indicators that require continued attention to secure the status of species such as old-forest birds and the boreal woodland caribou. 

Key findings of the report include:

  • Overall, 91.5% of the Al-Pac FMA area is composed of native habitat. Different species have different levels of tolerance for various human footprint types and will avoid them to lesser or greater degrees accordingly. Humans also have a perception of “wilderness”—or native habitat a certain distance from human activity—that isn’t effectively communicated by the percentage of native habitat. For these reasons, the report shows how the magnitude of interior native habitat declines as various “edges” or buffer widths are added to all human footprint: applying a 500 m buffer shrinks the percentage of native habitat in the Al-Pac FMA to 23.8%.
  • As of 2017, the total human footprint across the Al-Pac FMA area was 8.5%—a 4.8 percentage point increase from 1999. Covering 5.5% of the Al-Pac FMA area, forestry was the largest human footprint type, followed by energy footprint at 2.1%. For the first time, the ABMI is now reporting on “effective total footprint” and “effective forestry footprint” to account for forest regeneration and biodiversity responses after harvesting. After accounting for forest regeneration, “total forestry footprint” dropped from 5.5% to an “effective forestry footprint” of 4.0%.
  • As a measure of the status of overall biodiversity, the ABMI’s Biodiversity Intactness Index for all species monitored in the Al-Pac FMA area is 94.6%. Both overall Biodiversity Intactness, as well as the Biodiversity Intactness Index for each group of species monitored by the ABMI (e.g. birds and mammals) declined between 2010 and 2016.
  • The Biodiversity Intactness Index for species associated with old deciduous/mixed wood forest (the preferred forest type for forestry activities) is high, ranging from 90.3% intact for old-forest birds to 93.3% intact for vascular plants and mosses. For some individual species, however, the intactness index was lower. For example, the intactness index for the Black-throated Green Warbler, a bird that prefers old-forest habitat and is a “Species of Special Concern” in Alberta, is 75%.
  • Opportunities for maintaining the overall status of biodiversity in the Al-Pac FMA area include: minimization of human footprint, effective management of old forest stands, and management and restoration of boreal woodland caribou habitat.

About the Report:

The ABMI prepared this report at Al-Pac’s request to support its Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) (FSC-C022642) certification process. To be awarded FSC certification, a forestry company must undergo an independent audit of its operations every five years. FSC recognizes environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable forest management practices. Al-Pac first became FSC certified in 2005 and is the largest contiguous FSC certified forest in the world.

When requested, the ABMI produces reports such as these on behalf of third parties with the proviso that the ABMI maintains full editorial control over report content and messaging. The ABMI reports on the same indicators for all of its reports, which are publicly available on its website.

The release of this report marks the ABMI’s shift from print reports to reporting within an online-environment. The online reports offer additional functionality, including interactive maps, links to other tools, and content tailored to both the broader public, as well as technical audiences.

Status of Landcover and Biodiversity in the Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries (Al-Pac) Forest Management Area is available at http://alpacreport.abmi.ca/

1 According to alberta.ca a “Forest Management Agreement Area is a long-term (20 year), renewable, area-based form of forest tenure and is the most secure tenure type in Alberta. Through the FMA, a company is given certain rights, including the right to establish, grow, harvest and remove Crown timber, in exchange for various responsibilities such as forest management planning and creation and maintenance of the forest inventory within the boundary of the FMA.”

2 The ABMI defines “native habitat” to be areas in the province that have not been visibly disturbed by humans, although natural disturbances (e.g. wildfire, insect outbreaks) and invisible effects of humans (e.g. pollution) still occur.

3 The Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII) is a measure of the degree to which human disturbance on the landscape has affected a species’ relative abundance due to changes to the suitability of its habitat. Any decrease in the BII from 100% indicates a change in a species’ habitat suitability from reference or undisturbed conditions.

Media Contact

For ABMI:
Sydney Toni, Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator
stoni@ualberta.ca

For Al-Pac: 
Gordon Giles, Business Unit Leader, Business Development and Public & Government Affairs
Gordon.Giles@alpac.ca


About Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, Inc.
Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, Inc. (Al-Pac) Is an industry-leading kraft pulp and power producer that values innovative technology and sustainable forest practices. Al-Pac is proud to operate and comply with the highest social and environmental standards on the market. 

About the ABMI
The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) is an arm’s-length, not-for-profit scientific organization. The ABMI’s core business is to monitor and report on the status and trends of Alberta’s species, habitat, and human footprint. The ABMI provides relevant, timely, and credible scientific information to support natural resource and land-use decision-making in Alberta.

Photo: John Sutton

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