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 (%)

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

Legend
Figure: Map of Human Footprint. Status of human footprint by sector in the Grassland Natural Region (circa 2016). Click on sectors in the Legend to turn different footprint types on and off. Zoom into map for a detailed view of the distribution of human footprint. Heat map of total human footprint showing footprint distribution in 1 km2 polygons is also available to view in the Legend. This map can be explored in more detail in the ABMI Mapping Portal.

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)
Human Footprint Type 1999 (%) 2016 (%) Change (%)

Figure: Trend in Human Footprint. 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.

Status of Linear Human Footprint

Type Density (km/km2)

Figure: Status of Linear Human Footprint. Density (km/km2) of linear features in the Grassland Natural Region, circa 2016, overall and broken down by linear feature type. Hover over bar or legend to view density of specific linear feature type. Please note low impact seismic lines are not included in the summary of linear footprint density.

Legend
Figure: Map of Linear Human Footprint. Status of linear features, by line type, in the Grassland Natural Region, circa 2016. Click on line types in the Legend to turn on and off. Zoom into map for a detailed view of the distribution of linear features. This map can be explored in more detail in the ABMI Mapping Portal.