Range Reference Areas

Range reference area grasslands with an open book and tape measure on grass

What are Range Reference Areas?

Environment and Parks maintains a network of long-term monitoring sites called Range Reference Areas that are used as decision support tools for allocating forage on grazing dispositions based on ecological classification. The knowledge gained through these reference areas allows the Department to adjust allocations based on measureable changes in ecosystem function and forage production related to drought, climate, rangeland health, and site potential.

Range reference areas consist of a small fenced area, known as an exclosure, and an immediate area surrounding that encompasses some form of grazing disposition. Forage productivity and plant community species composition is assessed periodically, both inside and outside of the exclosure.

Why are Reference Areas Important?

Reference areas are valuable in many regards. Many were established in the early 1950’s, and each site has provided valuable insight into ecological succession, the recovery of altered plant communities, the impacts of climate events, and shifts in climatic regime on plant communities and production. These reference areas allow the Department to ensure that public lands are sustainably grazed and provide important ecological goods and services that benefit all Albertans.

Reference areas provided important plant community information that was used in the development of Alberta’s Range Plant Community Guides and plant community classification system. Reference areas are increasingly valuable in the future as a long-term record that provides us with information and perspective, allowing us to predict and plan for future conditions and variability.

For further information on Range Plant Community Guides visit:

Academic institutions and the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Agency recognize the long term value of these sites have utilized them and the long term data associated with them for numerous scientific research studies.

Range Reference Area Reports

Range reference area reports are summarized by natural region or individual reference area. See below for a selection of range reference area reports.

Castle Allotment Range Reference Area Reports


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Updated: Sep 27, 2018