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
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.
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:
- Long-term Trends in Rangeland Health of the Rough Fescue Ecological Site in the Montane
- Rangeland Health for Native and Modified Plant Communities in the Rough Fescue Ecological Site of the Montane Subregion
- History and Description of the Castle River Range Reference Area
- Carbondale Range Reference Area
- Castle River Range Reference Area
- Lynx Bench Range Reference Area
- Lynx Slope Range Reference Area
- South Castle Bench Range Reference Area
- South Castle Slope Range Reference Area