Riparian Area Assessments

Riparian Assessments 

Understanding what riparian health looks like and why it matters is important to land and resource managers. There are 3 common types of Riparian assessments: Field Based, Aerial Videography Method, and the Satellite Data method. 

The LSWC Has completed assessments using all 3 methods. 

Satellite Data Method

West Prairie River (2021) 
The West West Prairie River is the source water for the Town of High Prairie and Big Lakes County and supports diver industry including forest harvest activities, oil and gas development, and agriculture. in 2020, with support from the Environmental Damages Fund, the Watershed Restoration & Resiliency Program, and Municipal partners, the LSWC hired Fiera Biological Consulting to complete a riparian intactness and risk assessment for 600km of riparian area. 

Download the West Prairie River Riparian Intactness and Risk Assessment Report (2021) - HERE

Don't want to read the whole West Prairie River Intactness and Risk Assessment Report (2021)? Read our summary document - HERE


Aerial Videography Method 

Aerial videography measures the health of riparian areas using video footage from low-level flights or drones that are flown along lake and wetland shorelines and river or stream banks. This method was most commonly used between 2005-2015.

Riparian areas are scored and rated in one of 3 categories:   Good/Healthy; Fair/Moderately Impaired; OR Poor/Impaired

Like the Field-based Method, the area is scored according to the amount of:

  • Area covered by any plant species, cattails and bulrushes, and woody plants (and signs of new growth)

  • Human alteration via bare ground, plant community alterations, or changes to the physical site (including banks

  • Human alteration via bare ground or changes to the physical site (including banks)

  • Shoreline or bank stability


Lesser Slave Lake (2005)

The Alberta Conservation Association used aerial videography to broadly quantify the health of LSL’s shoreline habitat with respect associated landuse. The information was intended to enable regulatory and community groups to make informed decisions regarding the development of LSL’s shoreline. 

The majority of the Riparian Management Area (hereafter riparian zone) at Lesser Slave Lake was classified as healthy (78.7% of the total length of the shoreline) with lesser proportions identified as moderately impaired (12.5%) or highly impaired (8.8%).

Lesser Slave Lake Shoreline – final report (2007, Alberta Conservation Association)



Download PDF map of the West Basin of Lesser Slave Lake with health ratings.






Download PDF map of the West Basin of Lesser Slave Lake with health ratings.



Swan River Including the Moosehorn and Inverness Rivers (2010)

The main objectives of this project were to visually document and assess (qualitative and quantitative) the Swan River and 2 tributaries’ riparian habitat. Low-level aerial videography, and the accompanying Riparian Health Score Sheets (assessed from collected aerial video) and GIS mapping were used to collect and display this information. This information can be used to monitor the results of habitat conservation efforts, facilitate aquatic habitat protection and promote low impact development of the shoreline.

Swan River Aerial Assessment Final Report, (2011) Alberta Conservation Association


South Heart River & West Prairie River (2009) 

Low-level aerial videography was used to assess the health and integrity of riparian areas along selected reaches of the South Heart and West Prairie Rivers. The South Heart River, a major tributary to Lesser Slave Lake is a key walleye spawning river for this watershed (Osokin and Tchir 2006). It’s association with the Horse Lakes complex and Buffalo Bay also contributes to its importance to many wildlife species including migratory waterfowl. Concerns have been raised over the continued habitat viability of this river for walleye due to  agriculture operations, including cattle grazing and haying of the riparian areas.

South Heart & West Prairie River Final Report (2009), Alberta Conservation Association