Biodiversity BC - Conserving the Variety of Life

23 Major Findings

Photo Credit: Jared Hobbs

"Grizzly Bear"
In Northern BC

BC is Threatened

B.C.'s biodiversity is in better shape than in many other places on the globe only because of the province's relatively short history of largescale development and its mountainous terrain, but the threats to its species and ecosystems are clearly increasing.

Expanding human settlement and development are the most obvious but not the only threats to biodiversity in B.C. today. Settlements are typically located in the valleys where species are most diverse; the agriculture industry focuses on soils that are naturally fertile and grow an abundance of native grasses; the timber industry seeks out forests where trees are largest and, coincidentally, harbour the widest array of species; and transportation corridors crisscross and block wildlife migration routes.

Of the six major stresses that threaten biodiversity in B.C., the three most significant ones are ecosystem conversion, ecosystem degradation and alien species. Ecosystem conversion (the direct and complete conversion of natural ecosystems to landscapes for human uses), has mainly occurred in valley bottoms and coastal regions. Ecosystem degradation (changes to the structure of a natural system from activities such as forest harvesting or water diversion) has occurred throughout B.C. around human settlements, reservoirs and in forested areas. Alien species pervade ecosystems virtually everywhere humans have settled and then move far beyond human settlements to threaten even
remote ecosystems. And over all these threats looms climate change - the magnitude of its threat, which may in the end dwarf all the rest, can still not be accurately calculated.

Though ranked lower, the remaining three stresses can have significant impacts on biodiversity, especially in localized areas. These stresses include environmental contamination (the release of contaminants into natural systems), species disturbance (the alteration of the behaviour of species due to human activities), and species mortality (the direct killing of individual organisms).  Climate change is likely to have a bigger and earlier impact on the Pacific Northwest than on many other places on the planet, with the mean average temperature across B.C. expected to rise between 3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2080.

Major findings on Threats to biodiversity:

16. Ecosystem conversion from urban/rural development and agriculture has seriously impacted British Columbia's biodiversity,  especially in the three rarest biogeoclimatic zones [Coastal Douglas-fir, Bunchgrass and Ponderosa Pine].

17. Ecosystem degradation from forestry, oil and gas development, and transportation and utility corridors has seriously impacted British
Columbia's biodiversity.

18. Alien species are seriously impacting British Columbia's biodiversity, especially on islands and in lakes.

19. Climate change is already seriously impacting British Columbia and is the foremost threat to biodiversity.

20. The cumulative impacts of human activities in British Columbia are increasing and are resulting in the loss of ecosystem resilience.

21. Connectivity of ecosystems in British Columbia is being lost and, among other impacts, this will limit the ability of species to shift their distributions in response to climate change.

Major findings on Capacity and Knowledge:

Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of species in B.C. have not been scientifically described or are not documented as being present in the province. Species groups for which such information is particularly lacking include most of the invertebrates and non-vascular plants. This taxonomic knowledge gap is currently being made worse by an 'extinction of
experience' as the scientists with the knowledge, skills and inclination to do the work required to fill the gaps are retiring and often are not being replaced. The majority of species in B.C. have not been assessed for their conservation status and the global ranks for many species that have been assessed are out of date. The ecology of most species and the distributions of all but a very few are poorly understood. Coarse-scale ecosystem classifications are complete in B.C., but information at a finer ecosystem scale is incomplete, as is ecosystem information from neighbouring jurisdictions. Trend monitoring is extremely limited and data on distribution and population size are lacking for many species. Information about impacts on biodiversity is generally incomplete or out of date.

22. Gaps in our knowledge of biodiversity in British Columbia create major challenges for effective conservation action.

23. The capacity to address some of the gaps in our knowledge of biodiversity in British Columbia is being impacted by the loss of already limited taxonomic expertise.

To see Major Findings 1 through 15 see BC is Special