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Scientific Framework

One of the core goals of Alberta's parks system is to preserve, in perpetuity, a network of areas that represents the natural diversity of the province. We use a coarse filter/fine filter approach to conservation planning for parks.

The coarse filter uses a classification of Alberta's landscapes as a tool to:

Our landscape-level conservation strategy is based on sound conservation science. Broad landscape types in each of Alberta's 6 natural regions and 21 subregions are used to develop conservation targets. Completing these conservation targets would achieve representation of 85-90% of species, features and many ecological processes. Under our approach, this can be done without having to inventory and manage each species individually.

Find more information in our booklet Natural Regional & Subregions of Alberta: A Framework for Alberta's Parks. It's an overview of the land classification system used to describe our natural landscapes and as a tool to help measure our progress towards completing a network of protected areas.  

All parks play a role in the conservation of Alberta's natural diversity, whether through education, nature-based recreation or  ecosystem protection. However, not every park contributes to the coarse filter natural landscape type representation targets.

Parks that do not meet the International Union for Conservation of Nature's definition of a "protected area" (with a primary goal of protecting biodiversity) are not analyzed against coarse filter representation targets. This typically includes provincial recreation areas or facility-centred provincial parks with a primary goal of recreation. Additionally, if a site is smaller than 10 square kilometres it may not be included in the analysis, depending on the significance or rarity of the features the site is protecting.   

This ecosystem approach cannot be relied on to maintain and protect all natural diversity. Some species and landforms, especially the rarest, might fall through the screen of this "coarse filter." We apply a fine filter to capture missing special features to complement the coarse filter approach. The fine filter approach focuses on specific species and natural features that may not be predictably associated with a landscape type or are localized. These may include unique geologic features, rare or localized species or communities, or critical habitat for wide-ranging species like grizzly bear and caribou.

The Coarse Filter Approach - Natural Regions and Natural History Themes

The landscape classification system of Alberta provides the scientific basis for conservation planning for the parks system.

Natural history themes provide a practical scale for describing the full range of Alberta's diversity. They are employed as the key working levels of the classification system.

There are three levels of natural history themes in each of Alberta's 21 subregions. Together with natural regions and subregions, natural history themes make up a five-level hierarchical classification system.

Natural landscape types:

Natural landscape components:

Natural features:

Natural History Theme Targets and Progress 

Natural Landscape Types

Natural landscape types portray the natural diversity in natural regions and subregions. They are important for park planning because they are closely linked to landforms and the variety of life associated with these landforms.

Coarse filter conservation targets have been set for all identified Natural Landscape Types in Alberta.  They provide the basis for completing the parks system. 

Progress toward achieving natural landscape type conservation targets helps identify gaps and deficiencies in the parks system. Existing protected areas, including national parks, have been evaluated to determine the extent to which each natural landscape type is represented. Natural landscape types that are missing or under-represented indicate gaps in the system that need to be filled by establishing new parks or expanding existing ones. For a general description of the progress to date by natural region, please see the Current Parks System.

Natural Landscape Components and Natural Features

The Fine Filter Approach

The fine filter approach is used to identify gaps for species, communities and features that are not captured in a coarse filter approach. Targets include adequate representation for:

Management & Land-use