Spectacular hike today! Larch trees are the perfect shade of yellow. 💛🌲 pic.twitter.com/6tzETw88EH Retweeted by Fiera Biological

Riparian Area Assessments

Riparian habitats are located along the shorelines of all water bodies, and are transition zones between aquatic and upland habitats. Riparian areas are widely recognized as being important because they support a diverse range of wildlife species, and because they supply important ecosystem services, such as soil stabilization and water quality improvement. As a result, riparian habitat restoration and conservation is increasingly becoming a high priority for land managers.

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Aerial view of a riparian area long the shoreline of Islet Lake, taken from our UAV during a riparian condition assessment.

At Fiera Biological, we have recognized that the first step in improving riparian management is to evaluate the extent to which these areas have been previously impacted, and to communicate the current status of these areas to land managers, such that this information can be used to target restoration or conservation activities.

To do this, we have developed a standardized method for assessing and mapping the status of riparian habitats across large areas using remote sensing and GIS (geographic information systems) methods. To date, we have assessed over 6,000 km of riparian area along the shorelines of lakes and streams in central Alberta.

As a part of the Modesté project, our team quantified riparian intactness using a newly created GIS model that was developed with input from stakeholders and was based upon established videography methodologies. In order to quantify riparian intactness, several remote sensing datasets were derived to create inputs for the GIS model, including a detailed land cover classification, a wetland inventory, and a variety of terrain products. Lands upslope of riparian management areas were also assessed to characterize existing pressure on riparian system function. The project resulted in a report that summarizes the results of the assessment, and includes recommendations for the development of a riparian management and conservation framework that will define management objectives, measures, targets, and actions. In addition, the report outlines a variety to tools available to municipalities for the management and conservation of riparian habitats.

To learn more about the Riparian Area Assessments, you may be interested in reading our Case Study. The following riparian assessment reports have been made available by the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance and the Agroforestry and Woodlot Extension Society:

Modeste Watershed Riparian Area Assessment

Sturgeon Watershed Riparian Area Assessment

Strawberry Watershed Riparian Area Assessment

Blindman River Riparian Assessment

If you would like to have us come and speak about this work at a conference, or at your municipality, or watershed management group, we would be happy to do so. Please contact us to make arrangements.

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Dr. Shari Clare (Fiera Biological) speaks to the Bow River Basin Council about emerging methods for riparian area management in Alberta.