Biodiversity and ecosystem services for agriculture

Information, policies, decision support tools and projects relating to biodiversity and ecosystem services.


Biological diversity, or biodiversity, refers to ecosystem, genetic and species diversity, including the ecological processes that maintain them. Biodiverse areas are productive and more resilient to impacts and changes, which helps ensure long-term sustainability of natural systems and the people that depend on them.

Ecosystem services are the direct and indirect benefits of ecosystems to human well-being. They include:

  • provisioning services such as food and fibre production
  • regulating services such as carbon sequestration and water filtration
  • cultural services such as recreation, traditional areas and historic sites

Biodiversity guide

For many producers, caring for the land includes a special interest in wildlife and natural areas on their property. The Biodiversity Conservation Guide for Farmers and Ranchers in Alberta helps producers learn more about how biological diversity benefits farms and ranches and steps to take to further conserve this diversity.

Policies and frameworks

Frameworks and regional plans

Biodiversity management frameworks provide objectives and indicators of, and identify actions to support, the conservation and management of biodiversity affected by land-use activity in a region. See Biodiversity Management Frameworks and Regional Plans.

Biodiversity risk

Biodiversity risk refers to the loss of biological diversity, or the variety of plant and animal life in agricultural landscapes. The map on page 50 of the Agricultural Land Resource Atlas of Alberta displays an assessment of biodiversity risk for the agricultural area of Alberta.


Ecosystem services

The Alberta government supports research into quantifying the ecosystem service benefits of agricultural beneficial management practice adoption, and the costs associated with adoption. This research provides the knowledge that will lead to opportunities for agricultural producers to participate in ecosystem service markets as they develop.

Ecosystem service research projects include:

Indianfarm Creek Ecosystem Services Study

Agricultural Beneficial Management Practice Economic Cost Model for Alberta project

  • Development of a flexible and scalable farm economic model to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of agricultural beneficial management practices (BMPs) for water quality, water storage, biodiversity and carbon storage.
  • This information will link to a modelling system called the Integrated Modelling for Watershed Evaluation of BMPs, developed at the University of Guelph. This system evaluates the environmental benefits derived from BMP adoption. This model was used in the project in Indianfarm Creek.
  • Completion date: fall 2020

Alberta North American Waterfowl Management Plan Partnership

Since 1986, the Alberta North American Waterfowl Management Plan Partnership (AB NAWMP) has worked to conserve the province’s wetlands and associated upland habitat to help achieve the goals of the NAWMP Agreement. Partners include:

  • Alberta Environment and Protected Areas
  • Government of Alberta, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Ducks Unlimited Canada
  • Nature Conservancy of Canada

This partnership has established cooperative approaches to delivering direct conservation programs, coordinating extension programs, addressing policy challenges and building partnerships. These partnerships include municipal governments, non-governmental organizations, private companies and many individuals working for conserving Alberta’s rich biological diversity.

Southeast Alberta Conservation Offset Pilot

Conservation offsets are compensatory actions that address the unavoidable ecological losses arising from development. Offsets are the third step in the mitigation hierarchy to address any residual development impacts following avoidance and onsite mitigation.

While offsets are not new in Alberta, the Southeast Alberta Conservation Offset Pilot looked at a voluntary, market-based approach to address industrial growth impacts on southeast Alberta’s native grasslands. This was done by contracting with private landowners to convert marginal cultivated lands to native perennial species.

Conservation offsets in other jurisdictions have helped industry, landowners, and government to reduce the impacts of land development, in turn promoting biodiversity, species at risk habitat and healthy ecosystems.

Contact 310-FARM

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-FARM (3276) (in Alberta)
Phone: 403-742-7901 (outside Alberta)
Email: [email protected]

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