An Assessment of the Health and Integrity of Riparian Management Zones of Moose Lake and Lac La Biche, Alberta


Blake Mills


Dramatic expansions in the number of lake-front cottages in Alberta since the 1970s have raised serious concerns about the effect human activities are having on lake fish communities in Alberta. The lack of current and comprehensive information on the status of ripariam and littoral areas on entire lakes, and the extent of human disturbance is a formidable obstacle hampering the sustainable management of Alberta lakes.

The Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) developed and implemented the Riparian Habitat Assessment Project (RHAP) in an effort to quantify the status of riparian habitat at select locations. I applied a novel approach described by Mills and Scrimgeour (2003) that used aerial videography to capture digital video of riparian zones at Moose Lake and Lac La Biche in July-August 2005, and then used a scorecard assessment to rank habitat quality (healthy, moderately impaired, highly impaired). This information was used as a pilot study to stimulate the development of a community-based riparian conservation group in the region.

The majority of the Riparian Management Area (hereafter riparian zone) at Moose Lake was classified as healthy (63% of the total length of the shoreline) with lesser proportions identified as moderately impaired (13%) or highly impaired (24%). At Lac La Biche, the majority of riparian zones were healthy (i.e., 70% of the shoreline) with lower proportions of riparian zones classified as either moderately imparied (10%) or highly impaired (20%). These findings were communicated to stakeholders representing each lake at meetings held between April and July, 2004 to support their activities in shoreline conservation. Toward that end, ACA has initiated a community developmental pilot program that provides facilitation to grass-root groups in order to improve shoreline health (i.e., the Lentic Riparian Recovery Project.)

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