Range Plant Community Guides & Stocking Rates

About range plant community types

In order to manage vegetation for range, timber, wildlife and recreation, the ecology of the plant communities in the presence and absence of disturbance must be understood. Community types are defined not only by their vegetation composition but also by the environmental conditions under which they occur.

After the community types are defined they can be linked to ecosites and ecodistricts within a Natural Subregion. There are 6 Natural Regions and 20 Natural Subregions described for the Province of Alberta.

Range Plant Community Type Guides

To view a guide for a particular plant community, select from the list of links below:

Boreal Forest Natural Region

Dry Mixedwood and Central Mixedwood

Rocky Mountain Natural Region

Subalpine and Alpine


Foothills Natural Region

Lower Foothills

Upper Foothills

Parkland Natural Region

Peace River Parkland

Central Parkland

Foothills Parkland

Grassland Natural Region

Dry Mixedgrass

Foothills Fescue


Northern Fescue

What are stocking rates?

When range managers determine the number of head of cattle that can be supported by a given site for a given period of time, they are setting the stocking rate.

This stocking rate is the balance between the livestock's monthly forage utilization requirements, the plant production and the ecology of the site.

Ecologically Sustainable Stocking Rates (ESSR)

The ESSR reflects the maximum number of livestock [e.g. hectares (ha)/animal unit month (AUM)] that can be supported by the plant community given inherent biophysical constraints and the ecological goal of sustainable health and proper functioning of the plant community.

When the ESSR is expressed for the area [e.g. ha] of a plant community polygon, the result is termed carrying capacity [CC], and is written in AUMs.

Ecologically sustainable stocking rates are suggested for each plant community described within Range Plant Community Type Guides.

Range Survey Manual

The various survey methods used by Rangeland managers to collect the information needed to calculate carrying and grazing capacities to manage public rangelands in Alberta is outlined in the Range Survey Manual below. See:

For more information, contact your local Rangeland Management Branch Office:


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Updated: Feb 2, 2017