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

5. Biogeoclimatic Zones of BC

BC is the only province in Canada which contains all 14 BEC zones. Although BC makes up 1/10th of Canada’s land area, it’s home to more than half of the country's vertebrates and vascular plants and three-quarters of its bird and mammal species.

Map of Bioecoclimatic Zones of BC

Biogeoclimatic (BEC) Zones are named for the dominant plant(s) of the climax old growth forest within that zone. 

Coastal BC forests are predominantly in the Coastal Western Hemlock (CWH) Zone. In the CWH Zone you can find Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar. In the younger stages of these forests, Douglas Fir is the pioneer species. Over time, the smaller component of hemlock and cedar trees growing under the canopy will take over, leaving only a few Douglas Fir veterans behind.


Coastal Douglas Fir zone is the rarest in BC!


Notice that the Coastal Western Hemlock Zone Zone is huge! It extends from the State of Washington through British Columbia and into Alaska.


Mountain Hemlock is the most intact, and oldest.


There is one zone that doesn't have a dominant forest cover; the Alpine Tundra (AT). It is also a large zone and is only found above the tree line. It supports spectacular wildlife values and is a great place to go skiing! AT is most common in northern high elevation areas. In the SCNRD, you can find Alpine Tundra at the Peak of Mt. Steele, where the tree’s stop growing and the dominant vegetation is alpine shrubs.

Alpine Tundra
Alpine Tundra

Next, let's zoom into the SCNRD to get a closer picture.

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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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