8.1 Road density and other maintained linear features

Last Updated: 
June 4, 2015

 

This indicator measures the total length and density of semi-permanent linear features  maintained by humans, such as transmission lines, winter roads, all-season roads and small local roads in each ecozone5.

Trails are not included because existing data sets are incomplete and unreliable. Seismic lines are not included in this indicator as they are considered temporary disturbances and are tracked using another indicator. Future reports will provide information on non-linear features as it becomes available.

The information is obtained from national data sets produced by Natural Resources Canada: CanVec vector digital data1 for transmission lines and National Road Network vector digital data for roads2. The Enbridge pipeline vector digital data is obtained from the NWT Centre for Geomatics, Department of Lands, Government of the NWT.

A linear feature in the southern Taiga Plains - road along the Mackenzie River, near Wrigley
A linear feature in the southern Taiga Plains - road along the Mackenzie River, near Wrigley.

NWT focus

The total length of semi-permanent linear features within an area provides information on the extent of fragmentation or disturbance to a landscape. Some wildlife species may alter their behavior based on openings in forest canopy or ground cover and linear features on the landscape may affect wildlife movements. Some animals, such as wood bison3,4, use linear features as transportation corridors. Other species, such as Woodland Caribou6,7, avoid the openings. Once an area is opened, there is an increased chance people will use the linear feature as a new access point into previously inaccessible areas andincrease human presence for hunting and recreation. Linear features also represent removal of forest cover, which affects carbon storage and may affect sedimentation in water streams due to increased erosion.

Current view: status and trend

The average road density in the NWT, including all-season roads, is very small at 0.22 km/100 km2. The Taiga Plains ecozone, which contains most of the NWT communities, has a slightly higher road density (0.5 km/100 km2). If all semi-permanent linear features are included, the average density for the NWT is 0.4 km/100 km2. The following table presents length and density of all semi-permanent linear features by each Ecozone. This information is considered baseline for year 2007. Changes in density of roads and other linear features can be tracked against these values in the future.

Table - length and density of all semi-permanent linear features by NWT Ecozone.
Length and density of all semi-permanent linear features by NWT Ecozone.

The following map shows where semi-permanent linear features are situated in each ecozone in the NWT:

NWT road density and other maintained linear features - map
NWT road density and other maintained linear features. Source: Ecozones from ENR, GNWT roads and transmission lines from Natural Resources Canada, and pipeline from NWT Centre for Geomatics, Department of Lands, Government of the NWT.

Looking forward

New infrastructure and transportation corridors are established when development increases. As a result, linear disturbance is expected to increase on the landscape The effects of these changes on wildlife and other ecosystem components will be monitored.

Looking around

The extent of road density in the NWT (less than 1 km/100km2) is much less than in other areas in Canada. For example, road density in the British Columbia portion8 of the Taiga Plains is 52 km/100km2. The average road density in Canada is about 10 km/100km2.

Technical notes

Road Density: Alaska has one mile of road for every 42 square miles of land area.

For more information

Other focal points

  • For more information on natural changes in NWT Landscapes, go to the VEGETATION Focal Point.
  • For more information on human activities themselves, some of which result in landscape changes, go to HUMAN ACTIVITIES.

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References:

Ref. 1. Earth Sciences Sector. 2007. CanVec vector digital data. Sherbrooke, Natural Resources Canada. Government of Canada.

Ref. 2. Earth Sciences Sector. 2007. National Road Network vector digital data. Sherbrooke, Natural Resources Canada. Government of Canada.

Ref. 3. Brodie, J.F. 2008. A review of American bison (Bos bison) demography and population dynamics. Wildlife Conservation Society and Pennsylvania State University.

Ref. 4. Corman Gates, C., J.  Mitchell, J. Wierzchowski, and L. Giles. 2001. A landscape evalutaion of bison movements and distribution in northern Canada. AXYZ Environmental Consulting Ltd. Calgary, AB.

Ref. 5. ENR. 2007-2013. NWT Ecosystem Classification. Yellowknife, GNWT.

Ref. 6. Dyer, S.J., J.P. O'Neill, S.M. Wasel, and S. Boutin. 2002. Quantifying barrier effects of roads and seismic lines on movements of female woodland caribou in northeastern Alberta. Can. J. Zool. 80:839-845.

Ref. 7. James, A.R.C., and A.K. Stuart-Smith. 2000. Distribution of caribou and wolves in relation to linear corridors. Journal of Wildlife Management 64:154-159.

Ref. 8. Government of British Columbia. 2007. Environmental Trends in British Columbia 2007 - Ecosystems. Government of Columbia.

Ref. 9. Natural Resources Canada. 2004. The Atlas of Canada - Road Density. Natural Resources Canada.