1.1 Purpose

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The purpose of this manual is to standardize the methodology for recording and mapping biological characteristics of the marine shoreline of British Columbia and to provide a clear and concise description of the database structure. From the outset of development of this system, the objectives were to design a flexible system that would meet the requirements of a broad spectrum of potential users and be compatible with the physical shore-zone mapping system developed by the province (Howes et al. 1994). This manual provides the conceptual framework used in developing the mapping system, the methods of data collection, an interface with the physical shore-zone mapping system, and the mapping procedures.

1.2 Background

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Eleven habitat classification systems developed for North America and elsewhere were reviewed (Frith et al. 1993) and some common characteristics of established classification systems of biological communities operating at a similar scale to that desired for the British Columbia coastline were identified. In summary, the review concluded that a coastal habitat mapping classification system for British Columbia should contain the following elements:

1. a truly hierarchical design thus facilitating application at a variety of scales;

2. a global perspective where the higher levels of the classification system are defined by global processes;

3. a process-driven classification system where the criteria defining each level are functional determinants of community structure;

4. selection of habitat classification parameters that can be monitored by remote sensing techniques (e.g., aerial video, satellite imagery) at least at the higher and intermediate levels of the hierarchy;

5. quantitative assessment of general measures of biological community structure (e.g., relative abundance of key species), their distribution in space within the coastal zone and linkages with habitat classification parameters.

Given the interest of the Land Use Coordination Office of the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks in a physical shoreline classification system (i.e., Howes et al. 1994) and the desire to extend this system to include biotic communities, it was deemed essential to make the two systems compatible wherever possible. For the most part, the biological database structure has been designed to interface with the physical system and a common base map.

In order to be useful and informative for most required applications, a biotic mapping or habitat classification system must be predictive rather than simply descriptive. A functional predictive system consists of a series of key species together with physical habitat data which can be used to predict the probable biological community present in the area (Figure 1). Nevertheless, in the absence of suitable data on which to develop a predictive mapping system, few alternatives remain. Through the process of elimination, the descriptive option was chosen for the biotic mapping system. However, this approach is a "stop-gap" measure only until further research is directed at developing a predictive tool. Some field studies have already been conducted toward this end. Harper et al. (1993) has field tested an earlier, but similar, approach on the Queen Charlotte Islands and developed a workable prototype. Further work by Harper and others on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in 1994 tested a draft version of the soreline biotic mapping system which led to revisions contained in this manual. Throughout the development of the biotic mapping system, the probable requirements of a predictive model have been anticipated and information that is likely to be required in the future development of a predictive model has been included.

1.3 Format

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The biotic mapping system presented in this manual is intended to provide a structure for the description and mapping of the marine shore zone of British Columbia. It has been developed as a means of recording the distribution of biological resources along the coast and as a tool for identifying biological communities and community-based relationships with physical and oceanographic processes. As with the physical shore-zone mapping system, the biotic mapping system is essentially independent of scale and lends itself to data collected at all levels of detail. It is intended to meet a wide-ranging need for resource information including land-use planning, oil-spill response and management, resource conservation and management and environmental impact assessment.

HTML Created: July 97

Copyright 1997 Province of British Columbia

Published by the Resources Inventory Committee