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Ecological Monitoring Programs


What is it?

Ecological Monitoring Programs include the collection of measurements that can identify the trends and relationships of the health and functionality of natural systems and their infrastructure assets. This can include the analysis of pollution discharges/accumulations, primary productivity, human use encroachment, wildlife habitat/movement, water storage/movement/quality/habitat, vegetation change, or other environmental facets. Establishing and implementing a monitoring plan is critical to determining if policy objectives are being met, and to make informed decisions on ecological management.

How can municipalities use it?

Municipalities can include policies for Monitoring and reporting on the progress made in achieving targets in high-level documents such as the Municipal Development Plan. Strategies (e.g., Biodiversity Strategies) and plans (e.g., Stormwater Management Plans) can further direct municipal staff to implement Ecological Monitoring Plans for various natural infrastructure assets, function, and benefits.

What are the advantages?

There are many advantages of Ecological Monitoring Programs, including:

  • Allows the tracking of ecological health over time to determine if management goals are being met

  • Provides understanding of existing and potential capacity of natural infrastructure assets

  • Ensures that potential contamination or other changes that could affect desired Benefits do not go unnoticed

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. There are issues for municipalities to watch out for with Ecological Monitoring Programs, including:

  • Such programs require inventories and mapping

  • Must identify the specific elements to monitor

  • Monitoring should be tied to management actions based on identified thresholds

  • Standardized and scientifically-defensible methodology should be used to gather high quality data

  • Resources are needed on an ongoing basis to perform monitoring, track results, and incorporate findings; this can require long time frames to identify real trends

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

By tracking health and function of natural systems, Ecological Monitoring Programs help to maintain the natural infrastructure system by identifying priority ecological health issues that need attention, and triggering necessary management actions. This can help a municipality efficiently protect and manage the natural infrastructure system.


Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute – The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) tracks changes in Alberta’s wildlife and their habitats from border to border, and provides ongoing, relevant, scientifically-credible information on Alberta’s living resources.

Alberta’s Environmental Monitoring and Science Program – The Environmental Monitoring and Science Division (EMSD) is responsible for monitoring, evaluating and reporting on key air, water, land and biodiversity indicators for the Government of Alberta. The division’s mandate is to provide open and transparent access to scientific data and information on the condition of Alberta’s environment.

Ducks Unlimited Canada – Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) implements, manages, and monitors over 2,000 wetland conservation projects in Alberta in collaboration with industry, landowners, the public, and local governments.

City of Calgary Wetland Conservation Plan – Calgary’s Wetland Conservation Plan includes direction for a monitoring program as a research and management tool.

Best Practices for Watersheds & Recreation – Headwater Economics, a nonprofit research group based in Montana, developed this document to enhance watershed stewardship in the face of increased recreational pressure. The document includes four municipal case studies highlighting the need to monitoring baseline data to maintain healthy watersheds.

Our BiodiverseCity: Calgary’s 10-year biodiversity strategic plan – This plan aims to provide a framework for City of Calgary staff to foster more resilient, biologically diverse open space and neighbourhoods. The plan includes monitoring of ecological integrity in the City, as well as mapping and scoring it.

Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, Surrey, BC – This strategy aims to preserve biodiversity in the City of Surrey, recognizing biodiversity as a key foundation of a health, livable and sustainable community, and includes a section on monitoring a performance.

Did we miss something?

If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!

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