Saturday, December 7, 2013

Biodiversity Monitoring Takes a Step Forward (ABMI)

The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) released a comprehensive report entitled "The Status of Biodiversity in the Athabasca Oil Sands Area (PDF 2.4MB)".

The land area of the Province of Alberta covers 661,848 km2. The study area for this report is the Athabasca Oil Sands Area (AOSA), representing approx. 14% of the province. The human footprint in AOSA is 6.8% and primarily made up of forestry (3.1%).

The report also examines a further refinement in scale, and specifically the human footprint within the "Active In-Situ Region" and the "Mineable Region" which represents the areas of more intensive oil sands development.

In numbers further perspective is gained by viewing the following:

    Human Footprint in AOSA
Active In-Situ Region*
    Human Footprint in the Active In-Situ Region*
Mineable Region
    Human Footprint in the Mineable Region
*  estimated Active Area - not Potential In-Situ Area which is approx 80% of AOSA

The Human Footprint aspect is defined as any human related activity from transportation and infrastructure to agriculture, forestry, and energy development.  Within the Mineable Region, the urban centers (i.e., Ft. McMurray, Lac La Biche) and open pit mining activities comprise the majority of the overall average of 20% represented in the table above and depicted in the figure below.

The report continues with a discussion regarding core habitat and protected areas.  Caution is stated in interpreting these numbers since these regions/ecosystems are dynamic and do not account for these aspects (e.g., successional recovery of cut blocks, seismic line, and forest fires).  9% or 8,339 of the AOSA is under some form of protective notation.

Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII) was calculated for the status of species from five main taxonomic groups—native birds, winter active mammals, armoured mites, native plants, and mosses—which represent a diverse subset of all species in the region.  BII ranged from 80-96% across all assessed regions with lowest figures assigned to mined areas.  The areas of human footprint align directly with the lowest values of BII.  The report goes on to provide  details for the individual species groups.  Of the full suite of species assessed by the ABMI in the AOSA, old-forest birds, winter-active mammals, berry-producing shrubs, and armoured mites are profiled in this report. Non-native plants and species at risk are also profiled. To see the complete dataset on all the species assessed, please consult the supplemental material associated with this report (available at ABMI).

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