Dean Channel © Charlie Short
People along the coast depend on healthy ecosystems, both on land and in the ocean, for their livelihoods as well as for recreation and cultural activities. At the same time, people and industry – transportation, logging, fishing, urban development, agriculture – put pressure on the surrounding ecosystems. This pressure is greatest where most people live. In B.C., more than 40% of the land in Greater Vancouver has been permanently altered by human use. In contrast, only 2% of the vast land area of the B.C. coast has been permanently altered.
Protected areas preserve wilderness and protect wildlife. Protected ecosystems are also vital to ensure the flow of clean water, control erosion and flooding, regulate the climate and protect resources that enable economic activity. A protected ecosystem can also provide recreation, enjoyment and tourism income.
The rugged B.C. coast, with its complex geography of deep fjords and countless islands, is home to animals that live nowhere else on Earth. It is one of the most biologically diverse areas in Canada. Of all the species in B.C., two-thirds of the mammals and three-quarters of the freshwater fish live only in the coast region. One-quarter of all remaining coastal temperate rainforests in the world are found in B.C.
The climate in B.C. has warmed noticeably over the past half-century. Average air temperatures are warmer and ocean temperatures have increased along the coast. Projections for the 21st century show a continuing warming pattern. The climate is warming because rising concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap more heat and warm the Earth.
For B.C., the changing climate means:
- Concern about freshwater and hydroelectricity supply as snow pack and glaciers disappear in southern B.C.
- Warmer waters affecting productivity of lakes, streams and the chemistry of the ocean.
- Changing ecosystems and more severe natural disturbances.
- Increasing risk of damage from extreme weather and flooding in low-lying areas as sea levels rise.