Natural Systems Mapping

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What is it?

A Natural System Inventory catalogues a municipality’s natural assets, and records characteristics and parameters that can be used to assess health of a natural asset. An important complement to natural system mapping, Natural System Inventories may contain more detailed, non-spatial information regarding the status and trajectory of natural infrastructure assets, their functions or their benefits.

How can municipalities use it?

In order to make effective policies that protect, maintain, or enhance the natural infrastructure system, it is imperative a municipality has a good understanding of their natural assets. Inventories provide information on which natural assets are within the municipality, and provide baseline health indicators. As well as establishing baseline conditions, they can be used to monitor altered conditions following changes in land use or management over time. Inventories can be created prior to major initiatives such as Area Structure Plans, be an on-going part of natural area monitoring and management, or form the basis for evaluations such as environmental assessments.

What are the advantages?

The advantages of Natural System Inventories include:

  • Creates a common baseline understanding of the health and characteristics of the features a municipality values

  • Provides a tangible, scientifically-defensible information base

  • Can support the assessment of a specific site or development

  • Can create a more robust knowledge base around specific natural infrastructure assets or features

  • Facilitates the ability to monitor change in a natural infrastructure asset system

  • Sets the standard for future monitoring expectations

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. When considering Natural System Inventories, municipalities should consider the following:

  • Inventories, and on-going monitoring, can be expensive

  • Inventories must occur at a detailed enough scale to match the decision being made

  • Inventories should be collected in a standard format to ensure a municipality is able to use the data

  • May be a tendency to manage only those things for which data exists

  • Need to create inventories before development or land use activities occur or your baseline is invalid

  • Developer-created data may understate the prevalence or significance of natural infrastructure system elements

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

Natural System Inventories are the most detailed representation of the natural infrastructure system and its components. Monitoring the change in inventory elements helps municipalities understand how their systems – and the benefits they provide – are changing, and what actions will be needed to maintain them

Resources

Alberta Parks Data Sets – Downloadable data sets available from Alberta Parks.


Government of Alberta Open Data – Searchable listing of Government of Alberta open datasets.


Alberta Wildlife Sensitivity Maps – These maps provide information on the locations of sensitive wildlife populations in the Province of Alberta.


Environmentally Significant Areas in Alberta – The Government of Alberta’s 2014 report and datasets representing areas important to the long-term maintenance of biological diversity, soil, water, or other natural processes, at multiple spatial scales.


Bow River Basin State of the Watershed – The Bow River Basin Council developed an online tool to help water managers and users better understand the state of the Bow River Basin Watershed by assessing current conditions and identifying existing and emerging challenges and trends. The tool combines information on the basin’s water quality and quantity, its landscape and biological community, and land use activities.

Did we miss something?

If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!

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