Alberta Emerging as a Global Leader in Biodiversity Management
“Biodiversity is the human species’ most valuable but least appreciated resource. The perilous future facing nature is of our own making. But the solution is also within our grasp. Progress towards global conservation will pick up or falter depending on cooperation among government, science and technology, and the private sector.” – Edward O. Wilson, Ph.D. Pellegrino University Research Professor, Harvard University
Human activities of all kinds, from logging, agriculture and fishing to mining, energy development, infrastructure and urbanization, threaten the integrity and health of ecosystems around the world. However governments and industry are working hard to find a balance between economic development and the conservation of biodiversity.
The importance of biodiversity cannot be underestimated as it provides a vast array of benefits to humans, including food, medicines, natural resources and ecological services such as pest control, water purification and climate regulation. Healthy ecosystems help maintain a sufficient and diverse gene pool for both wild and domesticated species and allow species to more easily cope with climatic variations. Sadly some forms of biodiversity loss, such as species extinction, are irreversible.
“Developing countries recognize the importance of both oil and biodiversity. The challenge lies in achieving a balance in exploring the former without threatening the latter.” – Yolanda Kakabadse Navarro, President IUCN – The World Conservation Union
Many leading companies are finding strategic, operational, reputational and financial benefits to including biodiversity conservation in their decision-making, policies and operations. Additionally some conservation organizations are discovering by working collaboratively with energy companies, they are able to harness the influence, extensive expertise, as well as further funding for conservation.
“We recognize that we need unlikely allies to win the war to save the Earth’s most endangered biodiversity hotspots. Oil development can indeed co-exist with biodiversity conservation when it is thoughtfully planned, employs state-of-the-art practices, and is well coordinated with community interests.” – Russell Mittermeier, President Conservation International
The Canadian and Alberta government has in place strict regulations the energy industry must adhere to. Because of these mandates, in recent decades Alberta has emerged as a global leader in environmental science and monitoring. As an example, the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) has the largest ongoing biodiversity monitoring project in Canada. Their collective scientific information is used to make informed decisions about our environment, from wetlands to forests. Their information is objective and presented without bias and is designed to act as an early warning system by monitoring the cumulative effects of biodiversity change in regions throughout Alberta.
ABMI uses remote sensing and field sampling protocols to track more than 2,000 species and habitats on more than 1,650 sites throughout Alberta. The system is designed to detect, with at least 90 per cent certainty, a change of three percent a year within a region after three visits to a site. This information is processed at partner centres at the Royal Alberta Museum and the University of Alberta which document status and change over time in biodiversity, landscape composition and ecological integrity.
Wildlife use of upland and wetland habitat in Alberta has been extensively studied and all efforts are being made to minimize Impacts by:
- Maximizing shared land access.
- Minimizing road building.
- Drilling multiple wells from a single site.
- Scheduling work to avoid mating, nesting or migration seasons.
- Maintaining animal and bird deterrents to keep wildlife away from active operations.
- Participating in multi-stakeholder land use strategies and environmental monitoring programs.
- Improving operational performance.
- Investing in research.
In Alberta, environmental protection planning begins at the project planning stage. Energy companies must avoid sensitive habitats, minimize surface areas for development and monitor and report on biodiversity and wildlife impacts. Finally they must have resources set aside for restoration and reclamation once the project has come to an end. While there is no expectation that reclaimed habitats will resemble or function identically to naturally land, it is expected to have comparable ecological functionality.
Wildlife Habitat Sensitivity Map – Developed by the Alberta Government
- Critical Wildlife Zone: Designated as protected areas or identified as critical importance for one or more wildlife species of conservation concern. These areas must be avoided by renewable energy projects.
- High Risk: These areas are likely used by one or mores species at risk or priority management species. The Directives recommend avoiding areas ranked as high risk.
- Moderate Risk: These areas are considered to be a moderate risk since species at risk o priority management species can likely inhabit these areas due to proximity to native grasslands and the potential of habitat values for multiple specide in these areas.
- Lower Risk: The remaining area of wildlife habitat of the province are considered to be at lower risk since the change of species at risk or priority management species occurring in the area is less likely than the other ranked area. The lower risk area are typically between 5-1000 meters of from native grassland.
To learn more about how to interpret the Wildlife Habitat Sensitivity Map click HERE
In the Athabasca Oil Sands Region for example, an early successional wildlife study is showing that species that typically live in mature boreal forests are returning to and re-establishing on older reclaimed sites (greater than 20 years), including insects, small mammals, amphibians and birds.
The global demand for Alberta’s resources, from forest products to oil and gas, along with its associated population growth, continue to transform Alberta’s land and wildlife ecosystem. However with strategic planning and regulations in place to protect endangered species, Alberta continues to set the standard around the world for managing oil and gas activities while working hard to minimize long-term disturbance of our valuable ecosystems on which all people depend.
“Protecting and sustaining the vitality of the earth is an obligation shared by all that live on this planet. Natural resource based companies, so closely linked to the earth and her bounty, have the opportunity and the obligation to continuously reduce their impact on the earth. Those companies that lead the way by both employing good practices and investing in targeted conservation actions will be rewarded by customer appreciation and increased operating efficiencies.” – Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO Conservation International
To lean how AiM’s expert team can assist your organization with:
- Environmental Site Assessments (Phase 1 and 2)
- Site Remediation Management
- Soil and Groundwater Monitoring
- Environmental Impact Assessments (EPEA, Federally Regulated Projects)
- Site specific Liability Assessments
- Environmental Regulatory Liaison and Application Preparation
- Timber Salvage Planning
We’re happy to meet with you to discuss your Biodiversity Project Management needs, reach out to connect: