Ecological data assembly and preparation continues

Five ecological expert workshops focused on marine birds, marine plants, fishes, marine invertebrates, and marine mammals are complete and the Project Team is assembling data from expert-recommended sources.

A total of 248 datasets have been recommended and the BCMCA Project Team is contacting all data custodians to assess availability and obtain these data. More than 150 of these have either been obtained, or are unavailable, or were deemed inappropriate upon closer examination. Some recommended data sets that were not in spatial format and represented small spatial extents were deemed inappropriate due to the amount of work required to digitise them. In some cases however the BCMCA has provided resources to digitise more spatially comprehensive datasets and datasets to inform features that would otherwise be data gaps.

Available seabird and marine plant data sets have mostly been received, and pre-processing of these data to develop feature layers is nearing completion by qualified GIS contractors. Some ecological data sets recommended at expert workshops are still being requested. Ecological data requests are currently a high priority as most of these data sets will require pre-processing to collate data from different sources into one feature, create an atlas page, and then quantify into Marxan planning units prior to running analyses.

The Project Team has also drafted proposed methods and data sources for representing physical features of the marine environment, based on several recent and on-going efforts in the province. The proposal was sent to a number of experts for comment and review, and was revised substantially based on the expert input. The revised working version of our plan to represent the physical marine environment in the atlas and in Marxan analyses has been posted on the website.

The BCMCA has requested most of the data sets required to support preparation of the physical marine features. Illustrating the physical features of the marine environment for the atlas and representing these features in the spatial analyses is an important component to the project. As species are mostly found in association with specific habitats, representing the full range of physical marine features and habitats can help to ensure that the majority of species and their supporting natural systems will also be represented.

Parks Canada is undertaking some of the pre-processing work required to map important physical marine features identified in the BCMCA plan. In particular, Parks Canada is developing two comprehensive maps. The first will illustrate benthic habitat types, based on bathymetry, seafloor features (e.g., ridges, slopes and depressions), and substrate type, and the second will illustrate oceanographic regions based on physical oceanographic characteristics and processes. Parks Canada is undertaking this work as part of their program and has agreed to share the results with the BCMCA for our project.