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Sustainable and Responsible Tourism » Blogs » Ecology of the Island - Sensitive Ecosystems

  • Ecology of the Island - Sensitive Ecosystems

    Posted by Shawna Quinn March 25, 2014 - 1,349 views - 0 comments - 4 likes - #ecology  #vancouver island  #ecosystems  #ecotourism  #protecting wildlife  #environmental education 

    Ecotourism is a word that gets thrown around a lot, especially when used as a marketing tool. “Eco” as a prefix can be easily added to a product or service to give it that glorified status – a responsible decision for the consumer. You know, something we can feel all warm and fuzzy about. But what does it really mean?


    This is a big question, and one I’d like to address regularly. But for now, let’s assume that what it really means is something “eco” (or eco-friendly) is a good or service that is produced with the best interests of the “environment” in mind. That includes the communities it affects, as well.


    So how do we know if we are actually participating in legitimate “eco”-tourism? Well, there are handfuls of ways to make responsible decisions. So to make it simple, let’s begin with the beginning in mind – EDUCATION. After all, education is power, and power makes things happen.


    Vancouver Island and its adjacent islands are teeming with rich, diverse ecosystems, which are often the drawing points for visitors and new residents. The influx of human inhabitants and tourists over the past several decades, however, has severely altered the landscape, leaving only approximately 10% of its original physiognomies. The federal and the BC provincial government have teamed up with local municipalities, NGOs, and other initiatives to put together what they call the “Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory”. The SEI details the conditions of areas of East Vancouver Island and the Gulf Island with the hopes that this information will allow for better decision making for land use and stewardship.


    Why is this important? Well, as a responsible tourist or resident of the island it’s important to know the state of the land we are walking on in order to understand how our actions can endanger or protect these environments.


    Quick summaries of the sensitive ecosystems studied are below, but I encourage you to investigate further by visiting the Ministry of Environment Canada website and reading more for yourself.



    You can learn more here


    East Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands Sensitive Ecosystems


    Coastal Bluffs – shorelines, coastal cliffs, and islets of exposed bedrock. Habitats are often exposed to tidal waters, ocean currents, and winds. Many rare plant and animals species exist in these sites.


    Sparsely Vegetated Areas – sand dunes, gravel and sand pits, and inland cliffs with little vegetation and harsh conditions including winds, heat, shifting sands, and salt spray. These areas are important nesting, resting, and feeding grounds for many birds, snakes, and lizards.


    Riparian Areas – areas next to streams, rivers, and lakes where soil conditions are unique, providing rich ecosystems for a mosaic of animal and plants species. These areas are also essential to the health of river systems and water quality.


    Woodlands – open forested areas supporting a wide variety of plants, insects, reptiles and birds, along with tree species such as Garry oak, arbutus, and Douglas-fir.


    Wetlands – bogs, marshes, swamps, shallow water or wet meadow areas that are cultivated from drainage conditions. These ecosystems are extremely productive as essential feeding and breeding grounds for a multitude of birds, amphibians, and invertebrates.


    Terrestrial Herbaceous Areas – grasslands and grass-covered outcrops with few trees. These highly specialized habitats are home to a colorful array of wildflowers and rare animal species.


    Older Forests – mainly coniferous trees with an average age of 100 years or more. Both living and fallen trees sustain a variety of plant and animal wildlife.


    On the island and got your walking shoes on? Why not get out there and identify some ecosystems! We’d love to see your pics!