Our Areas of Study

Areas of Study

With thousands of new Albertans finding homes in the province – many within areas around or between Edmonton and Calgary – the province is experiencing countless kinds of change.

It is beyond the reach of any one institute to consider the full scope of this new reality, so the Alberta Land Institute has turned its attention to four particular areas of study.

These four areas are not independent of each other. In certain cases, research funded by ALI may address just one field, but in most instances, the research we support considers the interaction of two or more. The intersection of these themes is often where tension arises – between groups in society, between economic and environmental interests, or between jurisdictions.

These intersections also highlight the need for examination through multiple disciplines. The assessment of tradeoffs within or between sectors often requires linkages between social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering.


Agriculture remains one of the pillars of Alberta’s economy. However, much of the province’s best farmland can be found in the corridor between Edmonton and Calgary – the same area where population growth has created the greatest demand for new homes.

The questions that arise are no secret to Albertans: are we losing our farmland? If improved efficiency and technology has opened new land to cultivation, how does that land compare to land that we were cultivating before?

Can policy prevent loss, and what could be the consequences if laws were passed to deny farmers their rights to modify their land use? Will the provision of ecosystem services, through projects like wetland restoration, provide new economic opportunities for farmers and land owners in the future?

These are some of the questions being examined by our researchers in projects tagged Agriculture.


Essential to life, agriculture, and industry, water is a resource of great importance – particularly in Alberta. While a broad range of water manage-ment and conservation issues warrant research, the work we support focuses specifically on the importance of land use, and its impacts on water quality and quantity.

How can water policy related to irrigation influence industrial growth and community development in a place like southern Alberta – where water basins are fully allocated? Might the restoration of wetlands on agricultural land benefit watersheds – could floods be mitigated, or water purified?

Consideration of these and other questions is taking place in our projects tagged Water.

Municipal Development

As the population grows, so does the footprint of our cities. Many institutes have begun to consider urban development, so we direct our focus to questions surrounding the impact of these communities upon the land.

Does the growth of cities and towns in Alberta qualify as ‘urban sprawl’, or is that term even properly understood? Can improved municipal and regional planning protect some of Alberta’s finest farmland and the ecosystem services it provides, and what might the socio-economic consequences of such planning be for farmers, urban dwellers, and the public at large?

Questions like these are examined in our projects tagged Municipal Development.

Governance & Regulation

Policy is central to all of ALI’s research. Understanding how the decisions of government influence the use of land in Alberta is vital to helping shape the province’s decisions for generations to come. While this policy consideration is often embedded within the examination of other subjects, it is sometimes necessary to look directly at the structure and process of government, and its impact on the making of policy.

How have individuals’ property rights in Alberta been influenced by the implementation of the province’s Land Use Framework? How does Alberta’s property rights framework compare to that of other jurisdictions – are there lessons we can learn? Are municipalities positioned to collaborate on regional planning, and how do their individual objectives integrate with the Alberta Land Stewardship Act?

These issues are among the many explored by our projects tagged Governance & Regulation.


Matrix: ALI Research Projects & Areas of Study