Terrestrial Ecozones of Canada
Nationally, ecosystems in Canada
are divided into provincial-scale marine and terrestrial ecozones.
These are roughly equivalent to the “biomes” taught in introductory
ecology courses: Sonoran desert, tall grass and short grass prairies,
boreal forest, and so on. The Columbia Basin is entirely within
the Montane Cordillera ecozone. Some federal statistics - such as
those on the state of the environment and the state of forests -
are compiled by ecozone.
Two ecological classification systems are in wide use in B.C. today.
The Biogeoclimatic Zone system,
developed initially to serve forestry, defines zones, subzones and
variants based on the biological communities that can develop within
the constraints of climate and geography (Meidinger, 1997). It is
two-dimensional, although the natural zonation in plant communities
that occurs with elevational differences in temperature and moisture
gives a three-dimensional aspect to it. Biogeoclimatic zones are
divided into subzones, and these are divided into variants. A zone,
subzone or variant may occur wherever physiography, soils and climate
are suitable, and there are disjunct occurrences of each.
Ecoprovinces and Ecoregions of British
By contrast, the ecoregion classification
system is hierarchical: Broad Ecozones (roughly equivalent to biomes),
defined areas of geography on a continental scale, are subdivided
into Ecoprovinces, each of which is further divided into Ecoregions,
and hence into Ecosections (Demarchi, 1996). Each subdivision in
this system is unique; it does not occur anywhere else.
These two classification systems - biogeoclimatic zones and ecoregions
- have been integrated for certain planning purposes, especially
those involving ecosystem management in forest development plans.
The result is a bioecoclimatic (BEC)map
The following table shows the Southern
Interior Mountains Ecoprovince and some of its Ecoregions.
Southern Interior Mountains
Columbia Highlands Ecoregion
Southern Rocky Mountain Trench
Western Continental Ranges Ecoregion
Forest Region and Districts
Some ecological information, such
as forest inventory data and rare and endangered species tracked
by the Conservation Data Centre, are compiled by Forest Region and
A more complete forest region
and district map of British Columbia, and for the CDC tracking
list of endangered species, is at: http://wlapwww.gov.bc.ca/wld/
How much is protected?
about 1991, under the Protected Areas Strategy (PAS) the provincial
government began a program of protecting representative ecosystems
of the province. Pre- and post-PAS protected areas established
up to 1997 in southeast British Columbia are shown in the
map at right, adapted from one available on the Ministry of
Environment, Lands and Parks website.
How much of each ecoregion is protected?
The following map shows the proportion of each ecoregion protected
as of 1997:
The Ministry's website also provides
detailed statistics on the amount of protected area by ecoregion.
Harding, Lee, 1994. Overview
of ecosystem diversity. Chapter 18 in Biodiversity in British Columbia:
our changing environment. Environment Canada.
Demarchi, D., 1996. An introduction to the ecoregions of
Meidinger, D., 1997. Biogeoclimatic Units of British Columbia.