Overview

Information gathered at the range reference areas supports rangeland classification and forage allocation for public lands. This allows Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) to ensure that public lands are sustainably grazed and provide important ecological goods and services to all Albertans.

What do range reference areas look like?

Each reference area consists of a small fenced site, called an exclosure, and the area immediately surrounding it. We periodically assess forage productivity and plant species composition both inside and outside the exclosure.

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

  • site potential
  • rangeland health
  • climate
  • disturbance

Why are they important?

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 events
  • how shifts in climatic regime affect plant communities and forage production

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

Scientific studies

Long-term data from the range reference areas has been used in research studies by:

  • academic institutions
  • Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Agency

Range reference area reports

These reports are summarized by natural region or individual range reference area. See below for a selection of reports: