New Online Resource on Alberta’s Plants & Animals
For the first time, Albertans now have a resource at their fingertips that provides detailed information on hundreds of Alberta’s plant and animal species.
The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI)—a global leader in biodiversity monitoring—released its online Data & Analytics Portal to provide easy access to the Institute’s extensive biodiversity-related data, reports, and maps.
A key part of the ABMI Data & Analytics Portal is the ABMI Biodiversity Browser (BB), which presents more than 350 (and counting) full profiles of various bird, mammal, and vascular plant species. The goal is to have species profiles for the 2000+ species the ABMI collects data on. Each profile includes information on the species’ habitat preferences and how human activities, such as agriculture and forestry, affect its abundance. It also includes maps predicting where in the province the species is likely to be found.
For example, if a user wants Alberta-specific information on the Gray Jay—recently named Canada’s National Bird by Canadian Geographic—the BB shows the Gray Jay prefers mid-aged to old black spruce and larch stands; it uses these conifer trees for nesting and food storage. This habitat preference likely explains other BB data that shows the effect of various industrial activities, including forestry and energy development, on Gray Jay relative abundance in the forested region of the province. A “Difference” map for the Gray Jay—also included in the BB—shows this bird species is estimated to have decreased across much of its range in Alberta.
On the mapping front, the ABMI Data & Analytics Portal takes users into new territory. In another Alberta first, the Portal includes a brand-new online mapping tool, where users can interact with and query a variety of biodiversity-related maps. For example, users can view the distribution of different types of human footprint across the provinces, such as agriculture footprint. If interested in the intensity of agriculture in a particular area, the user can zoom in or select from various pre-determined administrative units, such as land-use regions, to obtain summary statistics for that area. And, they can launch another map, for example provincial energy footprint, for a side-by-side comparison of two maps.
For over 10 years, the ABMI has been collecting data and reporting on the health of Alberta’s biodiversity. Through its Data & Analytics Portal, the ABMI aims to bring the wealth of data and information gathered through its monitoring efforts to all parties involved in natural resource management and land-use decision-making, as well as anybody interested in the state of Alberta’s natural heritage.
“As Albertans continue to demand that environmental values be considered alongside economic ones, it’s critical that decision-makers have high quality data and information available to them,” said ABMI Executive Director Kirk Andries. “The new ABMI Data & Analytics Portal provides a one-stop shop for the biodiversity and land surface information gathered by the ABMI, and ensures its easy access and use.”
The development of the ABMI Data & Analytics Portal received funding from Alberta Environment and Parks and the Oil Sands Monitoring Program.