The 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