Range reference areas

The province maintains a network of range reference areas to monitor rangeland ecosystem changes.


Information about rangeland ecosystems is gathered at range reference areas, or exclosures, which are fenced sites and the area immediately surrounding them. These sites are located invarious natural subregions and plant communities and are periodically assessed to learn about forage productivity and plant species composition across the province.

Changes in plant species composition and forage production are a reflection of many different factors including:

  • rangeland health
  • climate
  • disturbance
  • site potential

What range reference areas tell us

Many range reference areas were established in the early 1950’s and have provided valuable insight into:

  • ecological succession
  • the recovery of altered plant communities
  • the impact of climate on plant communities and forage production

Information collected from reference areas has led to the development of Alberta’s plant community classification system and associated Range Plant Community Guides. For information on the guides, see: Range classification and survey tools.