The Alberta Species Conservation Atlas (ASCA) is a digital repository of biogeospatial data on the present and future distributions and habitats of Alberta’s flora and fauna. We developed the Atlas as an online initiative to collect and share the data we have accumulated on species distributions and projections with other scientists, conservation workers and policy-makers in the hopes that it may prove useful.

The Atlas was started with a collection of maps and GIS data representing the present distribution and potential future habitat, accounting for climate change and other impacts, of Alberta’s 500 rarest species of plants, vertebrates and invertebrates. By synthesizing information across species, this collection is being used to rank, in a spatially-explicit manner, the irreplaceability of Alberta’s places, thus helping to guide and prioritize conservation actions and land use decision-making associated with Alberta’s Land Use Framework.
Atlas Index
Each atlas is organized into collections by type and taxa. Some atlases are associated with specific conservation projects, conference presentations and publications, all noted in the descriptions of each collection. All data published in this atlas is completely available and free for anyone to download, use, and re-disseminate, so long as appropriate attribution is made. Details on attribution are provided in collection descriptions.

For all enquiries, please contact ASCA PI Scott Nielsen at We would love to hear from anyone working with this data.
Rare vascular plants of the Lower Athabasca

In 2012 the Terrestrial Vascular Plant Monitoring Project for the Lower Athabasca, known at the time as the Ecological Monitoring Committee for the Lower Athabasca Rare Plants Project, was initiated to inform the status of rare vascular plant species, test protocols to improve sampling and monitoring, and develop models to assist with management of rare plants across the Lower Athabasca Planning Region (LAPR). In the survey years of 2012 to 2015 a total of 602 Rarity and Diversity plots were completed, generating a comprehensive dataset consisting of 536 vascular plant species across regionally significant habitat types.

Conservation Planning in Northwest Alberta

A conservation plan for Northwest Alberta, Canada based on coarse and fine-filter conservation values.

Digital Atlas of Fruiting Shrubs

A digital atlas for 21 species of fruiting plants across the Lower Athabasca region of northeast Alberta south of Lake Athabasca.  Models were developed and used to map shrub presence, abundance (% cover) and fruit production for each species using  environmental predictors and field plot data (845 plots for presence; 335 plots for cover & fruit production).

Nielsen SE (2016) Fruiting shrubs of the Lower Athabasca: Distribution, ecology and a digital atlas. A report to the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA). 81 pgs.

Prioritizing Sites for Protection and Restoration for Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos) in Southwestern Alberta, Canada

Maps and data of distribution and prioritization of key areas for Grizzly Bear conservation, including sources, sinks, food resources, suitable habitats and mortality risks. Publication supplemental (online data & models).

Braid & Nielsen (2015) Prioritizing sites for protection and restoration for grizzly bears in southwest Alberta, Canada. PLoS ONE. 10(7):e0132501.

Velocity of climate change in Alberta

Atlas of synthesis maps representing rare plant vulnerabilities to climate change & migration stresses in Alberta under a variety of rates of climate change; maps of how organism ranges have to shift to keep up with climate change.

Barber, Nielsen & Hamann (2016)  Assessing the vulnerability of rare plants using climate change velocity, habitat connectivity, and dispersal ability: a case study in Alberta, Canada. Regional Environmental Change.


Plant biodiversity hotspots & climate change refugia in Alberta

Atlas of current and future (2080s) distribution of 1,541 vascular plant species of Alberta, indicating richness, phylogenetic diversity and endemism. Analysis includes areas projected to lose or gain species, and potential future refugia. Publication supplemental.

J. Zhang, Nielsen SE, Stolar J, Chen Y & Thuiller W (2015) Gains and losses of plant species and phylogenetic diversity for a northern high-latitude region. Diversity and Distributions.21(12):1441–1454

Land Facets of Alberta

Atlas of land facet models for Alberta representing combinations of terrain, climate, and lithology conditions as coarse-filter representations of biodiversity. Atlas data in preparation.

Alberta Orchid Atlas

Probable habitat model atlas for species of Orchidaceae in Alberta, Canada under current and projected climates.

Stolar & Nielsen (2012) Probable habitat for species of Orchidaceae in Alberta, Canada. Version 1. Alberta Species Conservation Atlas, Applied Conservation Ecology Laboratory.

Rare Vascular Plants of Alberta

Ecological niche models for rare vascular plants of Alberta, present-day and 2050 and 2080 projections. Atlas contains 146 genera, 214 species & subspecies in 54 families.

Stolar & Nielsen. (In review) Mitigating potential losses of Alberta’s rare vascular plants and butterflies under climate change and resource use. Ecosphere.

Rare Butterflies of Alberta

Ecological niche models for rare butterflies of Alberta, present-day and projections for 2050 and 2080.
Atlas contains 7 genera, 9 species in 4 families.

Stolar & Nielsen. (In review) Mitigating potential losses of Alberta’s rare vascular plants and butterflies under climate change and resource use. Ecosphere.