The Sturgeon River Riparian Health Assessment Report 2001
A problem faced by conservation organizations wishing to conduct conservation, enhancement and protection programs in a geographical area is to determine the current state of habitat in the study area. The development of a riparian protection and enhancement program in the Alberta Conservation Association's Northeast Slopes (NES) region has resulted in the need to conduct assessments on priority streams. The Sturgeon River is one watercourse in the NES that was identified as a high priority. Results from a field assessment in the summer of 2001 will help prioritize habitat that needs to be protected, and habitat where enhancement techniques could be used.
The Sturgeon River is currently being affected by agricultural land use practices throughout most of the drainage. Agricultural land use will likely continue to be a major factor for years to come along the Sturgeon River due to the areas capability to support such practices.
Overall the banks were in good condition in the areas assessed along the Sturgeon River, however the riparian area was cleared of mature vegetation in many places and there was little recruitment of new trees to stabilize the banks as older trees die or are harvested. The areas of bank instability found along the Sturgeon River are largely associated with intensive livestock operations. The areas being impacted by cattle activity on the Sturgeon River. however there is still a lack of recruitment of rooted vegetation such as grasses and shrubs, which are primary successors. Improvement in grazing management practices and a reduction of other land-use activities along the river should result in greater biodiversity in affected areas and a healthier riparian area.
Results from the riparian health assessment identified some relatively intact habitat that should be protected, and also degraded habitat that could be enhanced. The first step that needs to occur in order to improve the health of the riparian area along the Sturgeon River are information and education initiatives aimed at promoting good stewardship practicecs and natural stream processes and function.