Because the biotic mapping system is based on the shore units, zones and components of the physical shore-zone mapping system, the physical mapping system and databases described in Howes et al. (1994) are a required starting point for the biotic mapping system. Four databases are required for recording biological data: the shore unit, component, band and biota databases. The shore unit database (see Appendix 2 for descriptions of terminology) includes physical parameters that are characteristic of the entire shore unit. The component database contains information on the physical characteristics of across-shore divisions of a shore unit. The band database includes information on sub-divisions of components based on species assemblages. The biota database contains information on species abundance and distribution within a band.

4.1 Shore Unit Database

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The shore unit database (Table 1) contains physical parameters which characterize the physical environment for a shore unit. Some shore unit parameters define environmental conditions which may constrain the distribution of organisms alongshore. Fields for Intertidal Width and Shoreline Type are in this category. Exposure Category and Tide Range are also relevant to species distribution. These data are contained in the Wave Exposure database of the physical shore-zone mapping system and are used without change by the biotic mapping system. Four exposure categories are used based on maximum fetch and effective fetch. The Unit Length field is present in each unit record and is an essential parameter, especially when the quantitative contribution of characteristics of all units for a region is desirable. For a detailed description of the parameters in the physical database see Howes et al. (1994).

The shore unit database can be linked with the digital map, other tables in the physical database including the component database, the band database and the biota database for the same shore unit with the combination of unit ID, zone, component and band codes.

The shore unit database requires the addition of fields for Land Use and Freshwater Influence in support of the biotic mapping system. Land use defines the dominant activity on land that is apt to influence the coastal communities of a shore unit. General land use activity categories should include industrial use, recreational use, residential use, harvested, cultural/historic use, multiple use, no use and unknown use. However, the method of assessing the influence of land use in the vicinity of a shoreline unit (e.g., area of influence) has not been determined and requires development. Freshwater influence describes the frequency and degree of freshwater influence on the salinity of coastal waters adjacent to a shoreline unit. The freshwater influence may be characterized as continuous, episodic, freshet only, none, or unknown.

TABLE 1 - Shore unit database

Unit ID





Unit Type
Shoreline Type
Note Number
Associated Exposure Unit
Unit Location

Start Latitude

Start Longitude

End Latitude

End Longitude

Unit Length
Intertidal Width
Sediment Transport




Shoreline Change



Data Sources

Airphoto Flightline

Airphoto Frame No.

Ground Truthing

NTS Map Sheet

Chart Number

Videotape Number

Tape Time

Land Use
Freshwater Use

4.2 Component Database

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The component database (Table 2) contains a unit ID which is a number common to the shore unit database and, therefore, can be used to link the component database, the band database and the biota database with the physical data and the digital map. Zone and component data in the component database divide each shore unit into across shore sections; the zone divides the unit into backshore, intertidal and subtidal areas and the components further divide zones into across-shore sections. Zone and component divisions are based on physical characteristics of the shoreline. The material and form fields in the component database contain information on primary, secondary and tertiary composition of the physical substrate within a component.

TABLE 2 - Component database

Component ID


Component No.



Width (m)









4.3 Band Database

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The band database (Table 3) characterizes the distribution of conspicuous assemblages of species and contains data on physical parameters for those areas where they occur. The fields for zone and component are taken directly from the component database and are used to link data tables in the physical and biological databases. Each band is given a unique three-letter code for a band name corresponding either to the name of the organism contributing most to the band colour or to the colour itself. Figure 2 is a schematic of the banding concept and its relationship to the physical classification. Figure 3 is a photograph that shows the across-shore banding. The distribution code is used to describe the general distribution (patchy or continuous) of the biotic assemblage defining a band. Data on the elevation at the top of a band (elevation-top) and elevation at the bottom of a band (elevation-base) and the measured width for each band are also recorded.

The accuracy and resolution of the data depend mainly on the method of data collection although the field conditions at the time of survey may also influence data quality. A field has been included in the band database for method of data collection that indicates the level of effort and thus provides a measure of resolution. This allows a database user to avoid problems of differing resolution by selecting data records for analysis with a common survey method.

At present, there is no indicator of data quality due to conditions, but presumably when conditions are sufficiently poor and data quality is in jeopardy, the survey would not be conducted.

Fields for date collected and name are included for maintenance of tables. Date refers to the date the component record was first completed and the name field should be used for the name of the key person/firm responsible for the original data record.

TABLE 3 - Band database

Unit ID






Dist. Code


Ele. Top

Ele. Base


Date Coll.



FIGURE 2 - Banding schematic

FIGURE 3 - Typical banding pattern on bedrock substrate

4.4 Biota Database

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Each band in the biota database (Table 4) contains information on the abundance and microhabitat of each species observed within a band. The unit ID, zone, component, and band codes allow linkage of species information with the band, component and shore unit databases and the digital map. A numeric code is used to define each species where the number defines a species or a higher phyllogenetic group if the species is not known. For the convenience of the user, a field for the species or group name is also included in the biotic database. The numerical coding system also allows for flexibility in the analysis and display of biota data. The distribution of biota can be summarized or incorporated into an algorithm based on any combination of the number codes.

The recording of data at the species level provides a high level of detail and thus allows for flexibility in the analysis of biota among shore units. Species data can be grouped by taxonomic similarity, feeding guilds or other associations, although an additional field would be required to group species into guilds. Data analysis for defining biological and physical habitat characteristics preferred by common shore-zone species can be attempted after the development of a suitable data set. The identification of habitat characteristics at a later date may justify the inclusion of a habitat field. The hierarchical structure allows for flexibility in the level of information entered on the biota type as well as flexibility in the level of detail used for summary and analysis. Species can be grouped based on many criteria during or after the creation of the database.

The abundance code for species identifies general categories of abundance at the general site survey level and quadrat counts at the detailed site survey level. Species are given a microhabitat code when they occur in specific habitats (e.g., tide pools, crevices, under rocks). Otherwise, species which occur on the common substrate are not given a microhabitat code, except when species occur on both the general substrate and in a microhabitat.

TABLE 4 - Biota database

Unit ID Zone Component Band Species Code Species Name Abundance Micro Habitat

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Copyright 1997 Province of British Columbia

Published by the Resources Inventory Committee