Physical Land Classification (PLC) is a mapping system that was designed to describe
the landscape in terms of landform, soils, drainage and slope. It is a hierarchical
system that captures physiographic information at the following levels:
- Region - 1:3 000 000 or smaller,
- Section - 1:1 000 000 to 1:3 000 000,
- District - 1:500 000 to 1:1 000 000,
- Geomorphic System - 1:100 000
(can range from 1:50 000 to 1:250 000)
- Geomorphic Unit - 1:10 000 to 1:50 000
There are some variations in this hierarchy for individual study areas.
The Land Classification Group (Resource Inventory Section), Alberta Energy and Natural
Resources, adopted the initial physical land classification methodology in 1977
to meet the needs of resource planning and management agencies.
Many aspects of the methodology were developed from landform mapping schemes used
by the System of Soil Classification for Canada (1976). The PLC system is essentially
a geomorphic interpretation and classification system based on the principles of
the inherent properties of the land and its forms.
Physical Land Classification (PLC) maps have been created largely during the 1980s
and 1990s as part of a program to acquire background information for Integrated
Resource Plans along the eastern slopes and across northern Alberta.
The data were generally mapped at the geomorphic unit level using the 1:50 000 scale
National Topographic System maps as a base. The PLC hardcopy maps were scanned,
georeferenced, rectified, cleaned, vectorized, merged and attributed to form GIS
polygons. The polygons are attributed for:
- parent geologic material,
- landform / surface expression,
- modifying process,
- soil taxonomy, and
- soil drainage.
This classification system was designed to enhance and replace the Canada Land Inventory
(CLI) and Alberta Landform Inventory (ALI) Landform classification systems.
There is more attribution associated with PLC mapping than with ALI / CLI Landform
mapping. There is some overlap with the ALI / CLI Landform maps but much of the
PLC mapping was conducted in areas not covered by ALI / CLI Landform maps. PLC mapping
is considered to be more reliable than ALI / CLI Landform mapping as field checking
was more extensive.
The objective of the PLC mapping program is to delineate relatively homogeneous
land units, based on their physical characteristics and to describe these units
such that their suitability for various land uses could be assessed in a standardized
manner using a documented methodology. PLC information is input into;
- wildlife habitat suitability,
- terrain sensitivity,
- groundwater vulnerability,
- agricultural capability, and
- forest capability assessments.
It should be noted that the PLC landform mapping projects are broad reconnaissance
type inventories and are designed for planning rather than management. These maps
will not provide the detailed information required for intensive management of individual
parcels of land, nor for land use planning in small watersheds, local government
units, or other small areas.
GIS-ready data are not available for this complete map series, with the exception of a number of individual study areas that were converted into GIS-ready format.
Geo-referenced rectified images exist for some of this map series and are included in the product.
This data product is available as a fee free download under the Open Government Licence - Alberta.