Ducks Unlimited Canada
National Boreal Program
10525 170 St NW Suite 300
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
T5P 4W2

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With funding and support from Alberta Innovates’ Water Innovation Program, Alberta North American Waterfowl Management Plan Partnership (NAWMP) and the Prairie Habitat Joint Venture, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) have released a new Alberta Wetland Classification System Field Guide.




 Based on the Alberta Wetland Classification System (AWCS), this field guide includes:

  • A vegetation-based classification decision key to identify wetland classes, forms and types.
  • Detailed fact sheets on each wetland.
  • A vegetation identification section featuring common wetland plant species.

The guide is intended for anyone interested in identifying and classifying wetlands in Alberta, from industry and government practitioners to landowners, Indigenous communities and more. With over 250 images, illustrations and diagrams of wetlands and common wetland plant species, we hope that users will be able to approach wetland classification with ease. For example, there are detailed descriptions and photographs of wetland soils, hydrological characteristics and vegetation communities:

After an introduction to wetland identification and classification concepts, users can navigate their way through a classification decision key of yes/no questions focused on the vegetation, soil and water characteristics of their wetland of interest:

This key identifies the wetland class, form and, in the case of marshes and shallow open water wetlands, the water permanence type. If these terms, or the result of the key, require further clarification for you, then you are next directed to a fact sheet for each of the outcomes. The fact sheets verify the landscape, soil, water, chemistry and vegetation characteristics for each wetland class with illustrative cross-sections to help you visualize these features:

From here, detailed fact sheets for each wetland form and/or type provide more photographic content to help you recognize the typical expression of each wetland at differing times of year, or under varying disturbance regimes, with characteristic vegetation species lists also provided to help you confirm your classification:

If you are struggling to identify the characteristic wetland plant species, an entire section of the guide has been dedicated to common wetland plants. This section provides identification tips, photographs of the plants at various life stages and a confirmation of the types of wetlands the plant occupies as habitat.

For a closer review of the Alberta Wetland Classification System Field Guide, please watch our online training video. You can either download your copy of the field guide for free or purchase a hardcopy from our publications page. Please note that there are some changes, such as the addition of saline fens, which have been incorporated into this guidebook and are anticipated in future updates of the AWCS.


Contact Us 

For more information about this project and how you can participate, please contact the project lead: 

Kristyn Mayner
Wetland Stewardship Specialist
Ducks Unlimited Canada