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The ecological classification of Alberta is a hierarchical classification structure starting at a broad scale of Natural Regions, subregions, and ecosections, and is used to classify rangeland ecosystems..
Alberta plant communities are classified (in descending scale (large to small)) under:
- natural regions
Forest natural regions are further subdivided by:
- ecological site
- ecological site phase
Grassland natural regions are further subdivided by:
- range site
- ecological range site
The plant community is the lowest level of classification hierarchy for both grassland and forested regions and it is the scale at which range management planning occurs.
More information on ecological site phases or range sites is available through spatial datasets, searchable on Open Government
- Derived Ecosite Phase (DEP): available on landscapes with Alberta Vegetation Inventory (AVI)
- Grassland Vegetation Inventory (GVI): covers the grassland natural region
- Primary Land and Vegetation Inventory: for landscapes without AVI or& GVI coverage
Range managers determine the number of livestock a site can support for a specific time period. This is called the stocking rate. It is a balance between:
- the livestock’s monthly forage needs
- plant production
- site ecology
The Ecologically Sustainable Stocking Rate is used to allocate grazing on Alberta's Crown rangelands. It represents the recommended number of livestock that can graze a given area for a specific time period, (expressed as an Animal Unit Month), while maintaining ecosystem health and function.
The range plant community guides describe each plant community’s unique Ecologically Sustainable Stocking Rate depending on site conditions and plant productivity. Carrying Capacity is the combined Ecologically Sustainable Stocking Rate for plant communities in a given area.
Range survey manuals
The Government of Alberta uses various survey methods to collect plant community information needed to allocate grazing on Crown rangelands. They are outlined in these documents:
- Guide to Completing the Range Management Form
- Methodology for Calculating Carrying and Grazing Capacity on Public Rangelands
- Range Inventory Manual
Range Inventory Manual for Forest Reserve Allotments and Grazing Leases within Rocky Mountain, Foothills, Parkland and Grassland Natural Regions.
Ecological sites and community guides
Alberta is divided into 6 natural regions and 21 natural sub-regions. Ecological site and range plant community guides are available for each sub-region.
Guide Resource Range plant community guides Ecological site guides Dry Mixed, Mixed, Foothills Fescue and Northern Fescue Hard copies available for purchase from Grassland Restoration Forum Montane, Subalpine, Foothills Parkland and Upper and Lower Foothills Hard copies available from Rocky Mountain Forest Range Association
Email: [email protected]
Guides for other natural subregions Hard copies available from Government of Alberta.
Craig Demaere – Phone: 403-627-1131
Contact the Agrologist responsible for a particular rangeland area, see:
Land Management Contacts
For general information about grazing and range management, contact:
Phone: 310-LAND (5263)
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