Biodiversity and Disturbance

One of the key concerns related to the development of the oil sands is that of habitat disturbance and its impacts on terrestrial biodiversity. Under the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for the Oil Sands, monitoring is designed to identify cause-effect relationships between stressors and targets; assess the efficacy of mitigation efforts; and make the necessary information available to decision makers to inform land-use planning, environmental assessment, conservation and recovery planning.

Building on current monitoring activities, the Joint Plan will enhance terrestrial biodiversity monitoring in an expanded geographic area, and monitoring sensitivity will be increased, particularly for Species at Risk. The additional monitoring will provide an improved understanding of the status and trends of species occurring in the oil sands area, as well as the cumulative and individual effects of land disturbance by oil sands on terrestrial biodiversity.

Terrestrial biodiversity and habitat disturbance monitoring is jointly delivered by Environment Canada, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, and the Ecological Monitoring Committee for the Lower Athabasca.

The activities underway or planned that are moving towards full implementation by 2015 include:

Terrestrial biodiversity monitoring

Enhance monitoring of population trends for furbearers, ungulates (mammals with hooves), waterfowl (duck species), birds, plants, lichens and invertebrates across the Athabasca, Peace and Cold Lake oil sands areas within the Lower Athabasca Regional Planning Region.

Cause-effect monitoring

Conduct monitoring to attribute mechanisms for population change for key species and to understand the response by biodiversity to habitat disturbance from oil sands and other human activity through time.

Measurement harmonization

Develop an approach for the coordination and standardization of biodiversity monitoring efforts in the oil sands areas by industry and other stakeholders.

Species at Risk rare/difficult species monitoring

Enhance monitoring for Species at Risk, such as Woodland Caribou, Whooping Crane and Canada Warbler, and other rare and/or difficult-to-monitor species.

Human disturbance footprint monitoring

Improve mapping of habitat disturbance (footprint) resulting from human activity.

Habitat monitoring

Improve habitat monitoring to provide a more complete coverage.

The biodiversity monitoring program will provide an improved understanding of the status and trends of species in the oil sands area (how species and habitats are changing) and the effects of land disturbance on terrestrial biodiversity (why species are changing). It will provide a foundation of rigorous science necessary to detect potential problems in the region and provide the information necessary to understand the potential impacts of oil sands development on biodiversity.

To ensure transparency and accountability, the program will be subject to scientific peer review.

Monitoring of terrestrial biodiversity and the impacts of habitat disturbance within the oil sands region is delivered jointly byEnvironment CanadaAlberta Environment and Parks, the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, and the Ecological Monitoring Committee for the Lower Athabasca. The data currently residing on this portal reflect those collected by Environment Canada. Further information regarding the activities of partner agencies can be found at the links provided above.

Terrestrial Biodiversity and Land Disturbance Monitoring Implementation Plan Activities

The table below demonstrates how the terrestrial biodiversity and land disturbance monitoring data sets relate to the implementation activities shown in Table 4 of the Appendix of the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for the Oil Sands.

Table 4: Biodiversity and Land Disturbance

Core Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring
Sub-ElementLink to Data
Core Terrestrial Biodiversity MonitoringAlberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute
Alberta Environment and Parks
Cause-Effect Monitoring
Sub-ElementLink to Data
Migratory LandbirdsCause-Effect Biodiversity Monitoring Landbirds
Measurement Harmonization
Sub-ElementLink to Data
Measurement HarmonizationEcological Monitoring Committee for the Lower Athabasca
Species at Risk and Rare/Difficult Species Monitoring
Sub-ElementLink to Data
Migratory LandbirdsStatus and Trend Monitoring of Listed, Rare, and Difficult-to-Monitor Landbirds
Whooping CraneData will be released in 2019
Human Disturbance Footprint Monitoring
Sub-ElementLink to Data
Human Disturbance Footprint MonitoringAlberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute
Habitat Monitoring
Sub-ElementLink to Data
Habitat MonitoringAlberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute