Research Report

The Alberta GPI Accounts:: Wetlands and Peatlands

Sara Wilson
Mary Griffiths
Mark Anielski
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2001
Published by: Pembina Institute
Pages: 34
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Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. 1. Executive Summary
    (pp. 1-5)
  4. 2. Peatlands and Wetlands
    (pp. 6-7)

    Wetlands play an important ecological service in terms of water regimes and habitat for wildlife. Both peat and non-peat wetlands absorb water from spring snowmelt and summer storms, reducing flooding, erosion and sedimentation and recharging the water table in times of drought. They are natural filters, cleansing the water that passes through them. All wetland types are habitat for a wide variety of plants and wildlife, including rare and endangered species. Not least, they provide extensive areas for consumptive and non-consumptive recreation, including hunting, sport fishing and bird-watching. Many of these recreational pursuits are focused on the non-peat wetlands.


  5. 3. Peatlands
    (pp. 7-13)

    Peatlands play a vital ecological service, both as a filtration system for clean water and as a massive store of carbon. Indeed, there is more carbon embodied in peatlands than in forests or other biomass. Peatlands are typified by the accumulation of organic materials in wet, anaerobic conditions, with the actual nature of the water supply creating a distinction between bogs and fens.c Typically peatlands have at least 40 centimetres of carbon accumulation and western Canada peatlands continue to act as net carbon sinks.² With increasing concerns about global climate change, this role may soon be given an economic value,...

  6. 4. Wetlands
    (pp. 13-20)

    In southern Alberta, an estimated 330,000 wetlands cover less than five percent of the total land area.12 Wetlands in the settled zone of Alberta were once far more extensive than they are today. In earlier times, shallow sloughs or “prairie potholes” were abundant, ranging in size from a fraction of a hectare to several hundred hectares. It is thought that about 60 percent of the sloughs and marshes in the settled area of the province have been lost since European settlement began.13 Given this estimate, the original extent of wetlands in the settled area of the province would have been...

  7. 5. Wetland and Peatland Indices
    (pp. 20-21)

    To construct a GPI index for wetlands, the estimated original area, approximately 35,500 square kilometres, was adopted as the benchmark (100 on the index). Zero on the index represents zero square kilometres of wetlands. In 1961, the status of Alberta’s wetlands was 49.7, and by 1999, the index had dropped to 39.6 (Figure 10).

    To calculate the peatland index, we used the net annual carbon sequestration rate from the peatland carbon account, which deducts the carbon released due to the commercial peat harvested. The steps taken to estimate the account are described in the peatland section above. As noted above,...

  8. Appendix A. List of Alberta GPI Background Reports
    (pp. 22-23)
  9. Appendix B. Wetlands and Peatlands Data
    (pp. 24-24)
  10. Appendix C. U.S. GPI Cost of Loss of Wetlands
    (pp. 25-27)
  11. Endnotes
    (pp. 28-29)