Beautiful path in a forest during a vibrant summer day. Taken in Raft Cove Provincial Park, Northern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

6. Bioecoclimatic Zones of Sunshine Coast Natural Resource District

Map of Bioecoclimatic Zones of SCFD

We can now see a bit more detail. Note that:

The Coastal Western Hemlock Zone (CWH) is by far the largest zone in the SCNRD. Many of the species with low protection levels in the CWH zone, such as Arbutus, Cascara, trembling aspen, and hawthorn, occur in the drier and milder subzones. These subzones have the highest levels of disturbance and the lowest protected area coverage in the CWH zone. 

The Coastal Douglas Fir Zone (CDF) forests in the SCNRD are almost completely gone. This low elevation BEC zone has been hard hit by residential development over decades.  There last small fragments of CDF left on the Coast are in Halfmoon Bay, along the waterfront in Powell River and on the Gulf Islands. 

The Mountain Hemlock Zone (MH) is our highest elevation forested zone. Its contribution to timber harvesting has traditionally been small as much of it is inaccessible or lacking in economically viable logging opportunities. This is fortunate because the MH Zone is rich in non-timber resources and very slow to regenerate, making it extremely vulnerable to disturbance. This zone is critically important for carbon storage in fibre and soils. Given the current state of climate change and how slow this ecosystem is to regenerate, if logged, MH ecosystems will never recover.

The Alpine Tundra (AT)  is found at the highest elevation areas on the Sunshine Coast. These areas do not contribute to timber harvesting, as it is the only BEC Zone which does not have a dominant forest cover. This is because the AT zone is characterized by harsh conditions, with snow and cold winds, making it difficult for trees to grow. In lower elevations in this zone you can find stunted trees and alpine vegetation (shrubs, lichens, bryophytes, and herbs).

More About BEC and BGC units: UBC has an extensive website dedicated to learning about all of the different BEC zones and subzones of British Columbia. The use of BEC Zones was adopted by the BC Ministry of Forests in 1976, and UBC has explained this classification system in an effort to evaluate the current degree of protection and need for further conservation using spatial data integrated with Biogeoclimatic information. To learn more, visit the UBC Center for Forestry Conservation and Genetics.

Mountain Hemlock
Mountain Hemlock
Coastal Hemlock
Coastal Hemlock
Coastal Douglas Fir
Coastal Douglas Fir
Alpine Tundra
Alpine Tundra

This scale is still too coarse to answer our big questions. In the next page we will look at BEC Subzones to see if the picture will clarify.

Click the blue box above to view a list of pages in this section of the website.

Glossary of Terms

Biomass: refers to the total amount of organic matter (i.e., anything that comes from plants and animals). 

Biogeoclimatic (BEC) Zone: the classification system used to identify an area based on the dominant type of vegetation, climate, and soil characteristics at its climax 

Climax Old-Growth: the final stage of a forest stand when left undisturbed by humans 

Biogeoclimatic Zone Abbreviations

  • AT: Alpine Tundra
  • BG: Bunchgrass
  • BWBS: Boreal White and Black Spruce
  • CDF: Coastal Douglas-Fir
  • CWH: Coastal Western Hemlock
  • ESSF: Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir
  • ICH: Interior Cedar - Hemlock
  • IDF: Interior Douglas-Fir
  • MH: Mountain Hemlock
  • MS: Montane Spruce
  • PP: Ponderosa Pine
  • SBPS: Sub-Boreal Pine - Spruce
  • SBS: Sub-Boreal Spruce
  • SWB: Spruce - Willow - Birch

Landscape Units of the SCNRD

  • Bishop
  • Brem
  • Brittain
  • Bunster
  • Bute East
  • Bute West
  • Chapman
  • Cortes
  • Haslam
  • Homathko
  • Homfray
  • Howe
  • Jervis
  • Lois
  • Narrows
  • Quatam

Biogeoclimatic Subzone Codes

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