Environmental Sensitivity Methodology


The Environmental Sensitivity Project was initiated in 2015 and was designed to identify areas of significant ecological value (assets), threats to those valued resources and physical and cultural constraints to development. The resulting maps ranked those sensitivities and development constraints to identify areas that should be considered for protection, conservation or restoration, and zones in which development poses low risk to the ecological network.
The methodology was built on the methodology of the Ribbon of Green (1992), a master plan developed for management of Edmonton’s river valley and tributary systems, and the biophysical land management planning units it produced (i.e., preservation, conservation, intensive use). The addition of the restoration option within the Environmental Sensitivity Project recognizes the potential to enhance ecological conditions through management action.

To be effective, the environmental sensitivities analysis needed to be replicable, science‐based (i.e., founded on accepted standards and protocols) and readily communicated to a variety of stakeholders.
As such, it was developed in consultation with key stakeholders and was reviewed by experts familiar with environmental sensitivity mapping approaches and Edmonton’s ecological network. 

More details on model attributes and how they were generated are provided below. Please feel free to contact us for more information or to receive a copy of the project’s methodology.

Model Attributes

The environmental sensitivity model relied on both existing and new datasets created from remote sensing or existing paper resources. Below is a summary of the model attributes and their source and/or how they were created. More information on project methodology can be acquired by contacting us.

Assets

AFWMIS1: FWMIS Data (Provincial Wildlife Records - 2016)
AFishStur1: Provincial fish data (Code of Practice maps of sensitive aquatic habitats, supplemented with newer known locations of sensitive fish species (sturgeon) held by Alberta Environment and Parks - 2016).
AProLanER2: Legally Protected Lands (designated as Environmental Reserve - 2015)
AProLanPP3: Legally Protected Lands (Alberta Provincial Parks - 2015)
AProLanNA2: Legally Protected Lands (other City of Edmonton, University of Alberta and Province of Alberta Natural Areas - 2015)
AMicroCli1: Microclimate (modelled Microclimate identified as areas that contained a remotely sensed combination of steep slope and sunny/shaded aspect - 2012)
ASWMFNat1: Naturalized SWMF (Stormwater management facilities designed to mimic natural wetland processes - 2015)
ANonSense1: Non-Sensitive EOS (ACIMS Non-sensitive Element Occurrence data - 2016)
AAquHab1: Aquatic River and Bank Habitat (source: North Saskatchewan River Valley & Ravine System Biophysical Study, EPEC 1981)
AStream2: Remotely sensed stream mapping (source: hydrological analysis of 2012 LiDAR mapped using the Strahler ordering technique. Only ephemeral to permanent streams were used in analysis)
AVegNat2: Remotely sensed terrestrial natural vegetation (source: vegetation analysis of 2012 LiDAR and full‐spectrum remote sensing imagery intersected with Edmonton’s uPLVI to separate native from non-native vegetation)
AVegNoNat1: Remotely sensed terrestrial non-natural vegetation (source: vegetation analysis of 2012 LiDAR and full‐spectrum remote sensing imagery intersected with Edmonton’s uPLVI to separate native from non-native vegetation)
AWetland1: Desktop Derived Wetlands excluding anthropogenic water bodies and stormwater ponds (source: remotely sensed using a combination of depression analysis (2012 LiDAR (1 m) data) and wetland vegetation classification using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index measurement of spectral reluctance values captured in 2013 four band orthoimagery. Note: see data limitations page for more details).
AUniqLand1: Unique landscape level landforms including the Devon Dunes, Beaver Hills Moraine, and North Saskatchewan River Valley and Ravine System
AUniqVeg1: Unique Native Vegetation (source: unique veg communities/soil moistures/texture as identified and analyzed from Edmonton’s uPLVI and vegetation sample plot data)
AArborCor1: Areas modelled as important corridors for arboreal wildlife connectivity (source: CircuitScape analysis that assessed potential wildlife connectivity across the city for chickadees and other small songbirds)
ATerrCor1: Areas modelled as important corridors for terrestrial wildlife connectivity (source: CircuitScape analysis that assessed potential wildlife connectivity across the city for coyotes which are considered representative of large to medium‐sized ‘urbanadapted’ mammals also found in the natural areas of the City (e.g., fox, deer) and other medium - large terrestrial mammals)

Constraints

CFloodPla2: Floodplain - Areas at risk of periodic flooding, 1:100 year event (Alberta Environment and Parks flood risk mapping for the North Saskatchewan River Valley and parts of the Sturgeon River valley (2015). Note: floodplain mapping has not been completed for Edmonton’s ravines and along the shores of Big Lake)
CFloodway1: Floodway - Areas at risk of periodic flooding, 1:100 year event (Alberta Environment and Parks flood risk mapping for the North Saskatchewan River Valley and parts of the Sturgeon River valley (2015).  Note: floodway mapping has not been completed for Edmonton’s ravines and along the shores of Big Lake)
CSlopeMaj2: Remotely sensed major slopes (Slopes >30°)
CSlopeMod1: Remotely sensed major slopes (Slopes 15-30°)

Threats

TLandUseV0: Land Use Threat - Very Low
TLandUseL1: Land Use Threat - Low
TLanduseM2: Land Use Threat - Moderate
  • Determined through an analysis of potential influence of adjacent human land use that may pose a higher risk to the ecological integrity of surrounding natural areas. Analysis was based on a 2015 inventory of ecological conditions recorded at 305 naturally‐vegetated sites within the City
TOutfall1: Outfall location (2015)
TSWMF1: Traditional SWMF (Stormwater management facilities surrounded by maintained turf containing limited wetland vegetation)

Other
AssetSC: Total Asset Score
AssConEC: Total of Asset and Constraint Scores
ThreatSC: Total Threat Score
Score: Final Score (Asset + Constraint Score - Threat Score = Final Environmental Sensitivity Score)
  • Low Value = <0,
  • Moderate Value = 0-2,
  • High Value = 3-4,
  • Very High Value = 5-6,
  • Extremely High Value = 7-12

Data Gaps

It is important to note that not all desired data sets could be obtained for this model. Missing information noted by the analysis team and stakeholders consulted to review the model and resulting data included:
  • Groundwater recharge and discharge areas
  • Site specific cultural resource locations
  • Present day cultural sites (natural areas valued by citizens due to their current cultural connections, such as popular hiking areas)
  • Rare plant and wildlife data (not all data are submitted to the province, or held in ANHIC or FWMIS databases)
  • Documented use of identified wildlife corridors
  • Locally known unique vegetation sites (e.g., springs and seeps, calcareous wetlands)
  • Floodway and floodplain mapping in ravines and along shores of Big Lake

While the Environmental Sensitivities data set data provides important high-level information of the study areas assets, threats and constraints, the above data gaps should be further explored and confirmed through site survey when site-specific initiatives are being evaluated.

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