|The Sunshine Coast Sensitive Ecosystems Inventory (SEI) identifies rare and fragile terrestrial ecosystems along the coastal lowlands of British Columbia. The study area includes Howe Sound to Desolation Sound and the adjacent islands in the Strait of Georgia. The Sunshine Coast forms the eastern component of the Georgia Basin Ecosystem, an ecological system unique in Canada. Landscape fragmentation, invasion of alien species, and loss to development has severely compromised much of the biodiversity of the western Georgia Basin and southern islands in the Strait of Georgia. The Sunshine Coast, with its small population and limited urban development, provides the last opportunity in the Georgia Basin to conserve viable representation of the diverse ecosystems and species which occur here.
The SEI is a "flagging" tool that identifies sensitive ecosystems and provides scientific information to local governments and others who are trying to maintain biodiversity in the region. However when land-use changes are proposed detailed site-level assessments are necessary.
The study area covers just over 163,000 ha (1,630 sq. km) and includes portions of 39 mapsheets: 092F050, 092F059, 092F060, 092F068, 092F069, 092F070, 092F077, 092F078, 092F079, 092F080, 092F087, 092F088, 092F089, 092F095, 092F096, 092F097, 092F098, 092G033, 092G041, 092G042, 092G043, 092G051, 092G052, 092G053, 092G061, 092G062, 092G071, 092K004, 092K005, 092K006, 092K007, 092K008, 092K014, 092K015, 092K016, 092K017, 092K018, 092K025, 092K026.
The study area is within the Coastal Douglas-fir moist maritime biogeoclimatic subzone (CDFmm), the Coastal Western Hemlock Eastern very dry maritime variant (CWHxm1), the Coastal Western Hemlock dry maritime subzone (CWHdm) and the Coastal Western Hemlock submontane very wet maritime variant (CWHvm1). Ecosections in the study area include the Georgia Lowlands (GEL), Strait of Georgia (SOG), Outer Fiordland (OUF), and Southern Pacific Ranges (SPR).
M apping methods are based on the Vancouver Island SEI project and the Resources Information Standards Committee (RISC) Standard for Terrestrial Ecosystem Mapping (TEM) in BC.
Sensitive Ecosystem categories are generalised groupings of ecosystems that share many characteristics, particularly ecological sensitivities, ecosystem processes, at risk status, and wildlife habitat values. Six Sensitive Ecosystem (SE) classes, two Important Ecosystem classes, and one Other Ecosystem class are mapped. Sensitive ecosystems are fragile and/or rare, or are ecologically important because of diversity of species they support. Other important ecosystems although not strictly defined as sensitive have high biodiversity values. Other mapped ecosystems occur in mosaic with sensitive ecosystems and are included only where it was not possible to delineate separately at the mapping scale. Terrestrial Ecosystem site units and structural stages, stream and drainage corridors not included in TRIM are also mapped.
Field survey protocols follow Describing Terrestrial Ecosystems in the Field (RISC 1998) with the addition of a conservation evaluation form to document ecosystem condition and viability.
Ecosystems were delineated onto air photographs and then captured into a Geographic Information System (GIS) using monorestitution. Aerial photographs were flown between 1994 and 1999, most are at 1:10,000 scale, some at 1:16,000 scale. Maps are presented at 1:20,000 scale. Minimum polygon size is usually one-half hectare. Minimum riparian polygon width is 20 metres regardless of the stream channel width. Enlargement of the data beyond the source scale may result in unacceptable distortion and faulty registration with other data sets.