Land & Sea

Calvert Island © Charlie Short

While large-scale land-and-sea interactions have shaped B.C.’s coast, smaller-scale processes also play a role. Tides and currents impact the shorelines in different ways depending on wave energy, exposure and location. That’s why some shores are rocky, some are sandy, some have much marine organic materials washed ashore while others have less. Some shores slope gently into the sea and some shores drop like cliffs. The way the sea shapes the shoreline affects which species inhabit which areas.

Marine nutrients washed ashore are consumed by shoreline plants, scavengers, assorted small creatures and on up the food chain. When herring eggs are washed ashore, they provide nutrients for black bears, wolves, birds, and other small mammals. These nutrients are then transported inland from the waste of these animals that fertilizes the forest.

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The annual salmon run is another example of land-and-sea interaction. When salmon return to their freshwater spawning grounds, they bring with them important marine-based nutrients. As bears, wolves, gulls, and other animals feed on the salmon, scraps and waste from these animals are moved into the surrounding forest, providing nutrients for a multitude of plants, trees and insects.

The tall trees of the rainforest that surround salmon spawning grounds thrive on marine-based nutrients. Some plants grow better in nitrogen-rich soils while others prefer nitrogen-poor soils – this can determine which plants grow near salmon-bearing streams and waterways. The interesting result is that plant diversity in the rainforest varies depending on what kinds of nutrients are contained in different habitats.

NEXT: Waterways, Estuaries & Fjords