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Land restoration in Alberta is expected to play a key role in a number of upcoming policies and government initiatives. The Land-use Framework’s regional plans, the Biodiversity Management Framework, Conservation Offsets and Integrated Resource Management are a few of the initiatives in Alberta that are expected to be drivers for land restoration.

The Landscape Ecological Assessment and Planning (LEAP) Algar Caribou Habitat Restoration Project was a multi-year Canada Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) funded program, aimed at reclaiming approximately 390 kilometres of legacy seismic lines in Northeast Alberta. By restoring previously disturbed areas, programs like LEAP are contributing to improved ecological functions (e.g. wildlife habitat, water quality regulation and carbon sequestration), which provides benefits to the province in the form of Ecosystem Services (ES). The Algar restoration program was one of the largest active linear restoration projects in the province, meaning this area was the perfect choice to use as a case study to assess ES.

THE PILOT PHASE

Phase 1 of ‘Assessing the ES Benefits of the Algar LEAP Project’ (ES Phase 1) was a pilot project that attempted to answer a few important land restoration questions, including:

  • What are the outcomes for ES associated with land restoration?
  • What are the benefits and costs?
  • Will land restoration play a key role in Alberta’s conservation offsets market?

During ES Phase 1, a proof of concept to create a repeatable framework was designed to estimate the net benefit from restoration efforts undertaken in the boreal forest like the LEAP Algar Caribou Habitat Restoration project. The findings revealed that there are significant ecosystem service gains to be realized from undertaking land restoration and conservation, which are sufficient to justify the cost.

Ecosystem services that were looked at during ES Phase 1 included:

  • Water Quality;
  • Timber Supply;
  • Caribou Intactness;
  • Biodiversity Intactness; and
  • Carbon.

DOWN TO BUSINESS

This month we will kick-off Phase 2 of the Algar ES Project (ES Phase 2) which will:

  • Identify the appropriate ES to measure. This could possibly mean adding or removing from the current list.
  • Redefine and improve the existing assessment.
  • Test the framework to see if it can be transferred to other areas of interest within the province.
  • Help gain a deeper understanding of the value Albertans place on the ES we are measuring.
  • Identify how this assessment can be used in Conservation Offset Policy.

ES Phase 2 is a three year project that will include input from multiple stakeholders, including Alberta Innovates-Bio Solutions, Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI), Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures, The Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development and Silvacom. The goal of the project is to further the development of a repeatable, transferable and implementable approach to evaluate the net benefit of restoration activities in the boreal forest. The results of ES Phase 2 will help to make policy recommendations related to ES assessment methodologies, cost-benefit analysis and environmental offset principles.

For more information on Algar ES Phase 1 check out our blog post from 2014: http://leap.silvacom.com/accounting-for-natures-benefits-in-alberta-the-algar-case-study/

For more information on the Ecosystem Service Assessment (ESA) in Alberta check out the ABMI website: http://ecosystemservices.abmi.ca/

For more information on what ecosystem services are and why they’re important, watch our award winning video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Jw9dPYVT_Y