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Natural Heritage

Montane LandscapeThe end of the last Ice Age was signaled when the ice melted from the territory we now know as Alberta over 10,000 years ago. The landscape that remained was very empty and lifeless. Today, the material that was picked up by the glaciers and deposited as they melted is largely hidden beneath thick, productive soils. On top of these soils are found the plant and animal species that combine to form the Natural Regions of Alberta. The climate that existed in Alberta at the end of the Ice Age evolved to become the one that exists today and is the single most important agent in the establishment of these natural regions.

The climate of any region is made up of the daily weather patterns over a very long period of years. The climate is defined by the temperature, wind, sunshine, and precipitation in a region. Did you know that a change in climate caused Alberta to be a desert at one time in its geologic history, and at another time to be a rain forest? It was the climate acting on the post-Ice Age landscape that resulted in the plants, animals, and soils that are now found in the six different natural regions in Alberta.

The unique natural history of Alberta has contributed to its bountiful array of natural resources. Natural resources are what first attracted settlers to the area. Soil and forests have been the most consistent resources over the years, providing a steady stream of useful crops and timber from the mid-19th century to the present day. Coal extraction was the first major hydrocarbon industry in Alberta, though discoveries in oil and natural gas quickly overshadowed coal as an energy resource. Natural resources in Alberta provide hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.

The settlement and economic activity in Alberta have also had adverse effects on the province. As industry and municipalities encroach upon the natural habitats of animals, more and more species become threatened or even extinct. It is important to maintain wildlife diversity for numerous health-related, economic, and aesthetic reasons. The federal and provincial governments have established parks to protect special areas of the province, and biologists continue to work to understand and minimize the human impact on animals.

Get back to nature! Experience wilderness wonders at the Alberta, Naturally website!

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