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

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Geographic knowledge plays a vital role in conservation by improving our understanding of the world. GIS and remote sensing technology tell us where landscape features are and how they change or interact with other landscape elements.

What we do

Our GIS experts rely on analysis, statistics and modelling to answer questions such as how many wetlands are on a parcel of land, what kind of species does a specific wetland support, and how might a proposed road affect a nearby wetland.

GIS techniques let us visualize the landscape, stack layers of information, analyze geographic patterns and share information in a digital format.

Remote sensing is the observation of the Earth by satellite or aircraft in order to obtain information without physically making contact. It relies on technologies including digital satellite and aerial imagery, as well as GPS. This information is then considered in relation to measurements captured on the ground. These technologies allow us to map wetlands accurately and efficiently across large regions of the boreal.

Through the integration of GIS and remote sensing techniques, we have generated several conservation products and applications to help us better understand the boreal landscape.



Wetland Inventory Mapping - Enhanced Wetland Classification

DUC is leading the effort to provide detailed and accurate wetland maps for large areas of the western boreal forest. To date, nearly 200 million acres (80 million hectares) of wetlands have been mapped using our remote sensing standards throughout the boreal in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It’s anticipated that another 300 million acres (120 million hectares) will be mapped in the coming years in the Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The Enhanced Wetland Classification inventory is based on satellite imagery, field data and supplementary information collected for each project area. Our classification model is completed based on spectral signatures that use object-based supervised classification methods. The final product is a 30-metre resolution raster dataset that highlights the 19 boreal plains wetland classes along with additional land cover classes, like uplands and anthropogenic. For processing specifics, please see our EWC Field Guide.

The Enhanced Wetland Classification effort is a collaboration with several international, national, provincial and territorial agencies, industries and associations.

Learn more about EWC wetland inventory mapping


Enhanced Wetland Classification Inferred Products

While the Enhanced Wetland Classification locates the wetland types that exist, our inferred products focus on the underlying factors forming those wetlands.

Wetlands develop in response to numerous variables such as geology, hydrology and climate. These variables dictate wetland vegetation, species diversity and underlying factors. DUC has inferred several of these underlying factors from our Enhanced Wetland Classification including water flow characteristics, soil moisture content and relative nutrient status. The inferred products, which allow us to map these variables across the landscape, are vital to enhancing our knowledge and providing useful recommendations to conserve the boreal.

Contact us to learn more about EWC inferred products


Biodiversity Tool

The boreal is an ecologically diverse region and home to a rich collection of species. To begin understanding boreal wetland biodiversity, DUC focused on the Alberta boreal region as a starting point to assess biodiversity within each of the wetland classes in Enhanced Wetland Classification.

Each wetland type has its own unique habitat characteristics and is used by a variety of species during different life stages. Through research, we developed our biodiversity tool to rank wetlands by primary and secondary habitat use, the number of species utilizing a wetland type and the rarity of species. This tool allows for mapping of the biodiversity potential of all mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, or specified groupings of species within each wetland type.

With a focus on wetland habitat types, this tool is the first step in providing ecosystem management solutions dealing with biodiversity.

Contact us to learn more about biodiversity tools


Carbon storage values

Carbon storage is an important ecological function of the boreal forest. The predominant boreal wetland types are peatlands (bogs and fens), which develop thick layers of moss that can be metres deep.

Peatlands can store up to 98 per cent of their total carbon below ground, but our understanding of the depth of the carbon stores is less known. We have been gathering peat depth data from published literature and collecting our own to better understand the volume of peat throughout the various types of boreal wetlands. This information will be combined with our Enhanced Wetland Classification wetland mapping products to map the estimated subsurface carbon storage values.

Learn about the Swan River Carbon Study work to develop a rapid assessment protocol for assessing carbon in wetlands, primarily forested wetlands.

Contact us to learn more about carbon storage values


Waterfowl Models

The western boreal forest contains the greatest number of wetlands and lakes in the world and supports about 10 million ducks each spring.

Waterfowl distribution maps are useful to assess the relative potential contribution of areas to overall population size. This knowledge can help assess approaches to conservation and land use planning, locally and regionally.

DUC has mapped waterfowl in the boreal forest using wetland density as the strongest predictor of waterfowl abundance. Predictions based on wetland density were further refined by other factors including potential evapotranspiration, surficial geology, wetland and upland vegetation classes and human disturbance.

Contact us to learn more about waterfowl modelling


Land Use Planning / Spatial Targeting

Land Use Planning processes are ongoing in many regions of the boreal. DUC facilitates the use of data sources and spatial tools to assist in understanding some of the spatial complexities.

We use spatial decision support tools such as Marxan. These tools give us the ability to understand the landscape in a unique way and provide various solutions to a number of different challenges through our modelling technologies. For example, we have completed a conservation value analysis considering elevation, waterfowl abundance, wetland area and water area in a portion of the Yukon.

DUC is involved in assisting with, and providing advice to, land use planning processes across the boreal region. We run models of various scenarios to provide conservation options for interested parties.

Contact us to learn more about spatial targeting


Spatial Analyses

Visualizing data throughout the boreal on a map is helpful to understand the geographic footprint, but what is the data really telling us? Are we missing some of the potential information just by looking at the data?

Spatial analyses of these data can be used to gain more information that our eyes can’t see. We can leverage the power of many technologies to help us understand the density of a specific wetland class in one region compared to another. We can also learn how wetland density and wetland complexes affect species distributions and what types of wetlands migrating waterfowl choose.

Contact us to learn more about spatial analyses of wetlands


Cartographic Design

Maps are one of our most powerful communication tools. We use a suite of GIS tools to create professional mapping products to communicate our spatial data findings.
Visualizing wetland types and seeing the waterfowl density across the landscape can be more powerful than looking solely at a page of statistics.

Contact us to learn more about cartographic design and maps


Web Applications

Web mapping technology has given us an opportunity to effectively tell the story of the boreal forest and DUC’s work to conserve this land. Web maps and applications allow us to present information in a way that users can interact with the data instead of just viewing a static map. This can be limited to simple functions such as zooming or can be more complex and incorporate elements of spatial analysis and statistics.

Contact us to learn more about web mapping technology


Wetland Hydrology

With our ongoing wetland mapping projects, we are expanding our knowledge of where wetlands are in the boreal forest and how wetlands interact with each other.

Boreal wetlands, with their abundance of peat soil, can allow water to move through the ground more readily than dense upland soils. DUC has started to develop a product that categorizes different wetlands as either isolated, partially connected or fully connected to the network of streams, lakes and rivers in watersheds.

Tracking water movement upstream or downstream of a location and understanding the effect of wetlands on annual water budgets allows us to improve hydrologic models. This can be used to help industry with planning processes such as avoiding and/or improving practices to minimize impacts and helping with emergency spill response planning.

Contact us to learn more about wetland hydrology


Historical Image Analysis

Historical imagery provides an understanding of a landscape’s previous conditions. Landscape knowledge can be gathered from historical imagery through techniques such as manual digitization or visual interpretation. Remote sensing software facilitates comparisons that identify differences in land cover conditions at different times in the same region. DUC uses the Enhanced Wetland Classification inventory and other spatial wetland data to complete these change detection analyses against historical imagery. Having the ability to document and analyze change in these sensitive ecosystems is critical.

Contact us to learn more about historical image analysis of wetlands