The ABMI employs a cumulative-effects monitoring approach that is targeted at detecting the ecological effects of a diverse set of environmental stresses on broad suites of indicators (Manley et al. 2004). Cumulative-effects monitoring exposes correlative relationships between stressors in a system and the many indicators that are monitored (Thornton et al. 1994, Noon et al. 1999). As such, the ABMI assesses the performance toward management objectives such as “regional sustainability” or “ecological integrity” (Mulder et al. 1999). This monitoring approach remains relevant over long timeframes as new human activities and environmental stresses are introduced to landscapes (Watson and Novelly 2004). Caution, however, is required when interpreting ABMI information because strong causative relationships can rarely be determined from this correlative information; manipulative research is necessary to fill this function.
The ABMI is a provincial program that measures biodiversity throughout Alberta, Canada (latitude: 49°–60°, longitude 110°– 20°). Spanning 1,223 km north to south and 660 km east to west, Alberta is 661,000 km2 and makes up 6.6% of Canada. Comparatively, Alberta is about twice the size of Japan or Germany, and half the size of South Africa. Average temperatures range from -8°C in the south to -24°C in the north during January and from 20°C in the south to 16°C in the north during July. Elevation ranges from 3,747 m asl in the southwestern mountains to 152 m asl in the northeastern boreal forest. Annual precipitation ranges from 30 cm in the southeast to 60 cm in the west-central.
Alberta has 6 major Natural Regions (Natural Regions Committee 2006). The Rocky Mountain Natural Region makes up 7% of Alberta and is dominated by rock, icefields, and coniferous forest. The Foothills Natural Region makes up 10% of Alberta and is dominated by rolling topography with deciduous, mixedwood, and coniferous forests. The Grassland Natural Region makes up 15% of Alberta and is dominated by grasses and shrublands. The Parkland Natural Region makes up 9% of Alberta and is dominated by deciduous forests and willow shrublands. The Boreal Forest Natural Region makes up 58% of Alberta and is dominated by deciduous, mixedwood, and coniferous forests. Finally, the Canadian Shield Natural Region makes up 1% of Alberta and is dominated by exposed bedrock, and open deciduous and coniferous forests.