North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance

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The Headwaters Alliance

The Headwaters Alliance partners are working on their first major project: a health assessment of the tributaries of the Modeste subwatershed. Riparian health is a keystone of watershed health, because of the significant ecological goods and services provided. These include: nutrient filtering, flood and drought mitigation and biodiversity habitat. Having access to data on riparian health will help the team identify areas of priority concern and chose those that can be restored through their respective municipal environmental programs (ALUS, and LandCare).

The data also helps all those involved decide how best to conserve these areas through zoning, bylaws and through partnerships with other conservation groups (e.g. land trusts, Cows & Fish, AWES).

To ensure that this tool will be practical for municipal partners, consultation sessions were held with the Technical Advisory Committees of the Headwaters Alliance and Sturgeon River Alliance to help design the approach.

This project is a first of its kind, in terms of magnitude. The tools used in the past to assess riparian health are prohibitive when scaled-up to the watershed level. The NSWA is currently working with Fiera Biological Consulting to develop and apply a new GIS methodology to rapidly map and assess riparian health. Over 2,000 km of riparian area have been assessed in this pilot project in the Modeste Subwatershed.

This new tool includes a 2-part assessment protocol that evaluates the intactness of the riparian area, as well as pressures on riparian health from adjacent upland areas.The combination of these two scores will provide practical advice for prioritizing conservation and restoration efforts.

This new GIS-based approach was validated against videography-based assessments and performed well (Fiera Biological 2018b); however, Alberta Environment and Parks wanted to increase their confidence in the results of this work, and further validation of both the land cover inputs and model were required. You can find the results of that study HERE

Headwaters Alliance Management Plan 2020

Update coming soon.