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Wetlands Alberta

Engaging Albertans to conserve and protect wetlands


Wetlands act as nature’s water filter, removing contaminants and trapping sediments.

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Wetland Management

There are many reasons to protect and conserve Alberta’s wetlands. Here are some important points for landowners, producers and land managers to consider.

Value riparian areas

Riparian areas are sometimes referred to as the shoreline of a wetland. It is important to maintain the full, natural extent of the riparian area around a wetland. Examples of actions that can be taken to protect riparian areas include managing grazing to prevent overuse and trampling of the riparian area by livestock and remote watering, which moves clean water to livestock and keeps the animals out of the main supply. This also avoids manure build-up in the water and on the soil adjacent to the wetland.

A healthy riparian area is characterized by good ground cover. This reduces erosion, which helps prevent contaminants from being carried into the wetland itself.

Additional buffers can be added to a riparian area. Wider buffers and healthier riparian areas increase a wetland’s ability to filter out sediment. This reduces the amount of pollution in the watershed. A wider buffer also traps more snow, increasing the amount of water capture in the local area. Buffers with trees and shrubs trap snow, hold runoff and create an upward movement of groundwater, making it available to adjacent plants and crops. They also provide important shelter for livestock and critical wildlife habitat.

Remember the upland

Uplands are areas outside the riparian and buffer zone around a wetland. In Alberta’s settled areas, uplands often produce annual crops or native forages. Because they are part of the same watershed, it is important to treat these lands with care, since contaminants left on uplands can move into a wetland. Rotational grazing strategies, which spread manure across the land are one way to ensure that a specific upland area does not have to deal with the negative impact of high nutrient loads.

Consider the watershed

Individual wetlands are part of a larger system or a watershed. Agricultural producers who match fertilizer application with crop needs and avoid pesticide drift into wetlands can avoid contamination of surface water. Contaminants that enter a wetland can move downstream can impact the larger ecosystem.

Maintaining healthy wetlands, including temporary wetlands, provides for collection and storage of surface water. The stored water infiltrates into the ground thereby replenishing groundwater systems.

Seek information

Wetland management is a key topic for the Alberta Government and a number of habitat conservation groups and agencies. These specialists are good sources of technical advice. Some may even make funding available to help with things like water testing, wetland enhancement and restoration and remote watering systems for livestock and fencing.

Wetlands provide habitat for waterfowl and over 600 species of plants, animals and insects.