Eastern Vancouver Island one of nine ‘Ecocrisis regions’ in Canada

Baikie Island in the Campbell River Estuary is one of the ‘bright spots of conservation’ identified in the study. Photo NCCBaikie Island in the Campbell River Estuary is one of the ‘bright spots of conservation’ identified in the study. Photo NCC
The Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve is one of the NCC’s best restoration success stories. Photo NCCThe Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve is one of the NCC’s best restoration success stories. Photo NCC
The Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve is home to the globally rare Garry Oak tree. Photo NCCThe Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve is home to the globally rare Garry Oak tree. Photo NCC

Eastern Vancouver Island has been named one of nine of the country’s Ecocrisis Regions by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

The conservancy released a study on 77 ecological regions in the country’s southern half, looking at the number of endangered species, the amount of parks and protected areas, and the amount of remaining habitat. The study then ranks the areas in terms of the biodiversity and the threat they face in coming years as the climate crisis continues.

The study also, however, says there’s room for optimism, pointing to restoration efforts like those happening on Campbell River’s Baikie Island as a sign of hope for the future.

Eastern Vancouver Island is one of the nine most at risk areas in the country. According to the study it “supports more biological diversity than anywhere else in the province.”

“For eastern Vancouver Island, what’s important is that it’s really near the top in terms of unique biodiversity from a national perspective. It certainly scores right near the top in terms of the number of species of national conservation concern, and also there’s a large number of species in terms of global conservation concern,” said Dan Kraus, a senior conservation biologist for the conservancy and the author of the study. “It is critically important, not just from a Canadian perspective, but from a global perspective.”

What makes the Island stand out are the Garry Oak ecosystems in the south. However, the study also identifies over 55 species that are part of the national database of species at risk on the Island, including the Oregon vesper sparrow, the dense-flower lupine and the common sharp-tailed snake. Many of the most diverse areas also happen to be the most populated by humans, which can increase the risk to the species.

While it is that clash between human populations and pockets of biodiversity that put the Island on the map, Kraus also sees this as an opportunity for people to get more involved in conservation and protecting the rich biodiversity in their communities.

“In some cases those imperiled species only exist in those urban areas,” Kraus said. “Urban areas can be a challenge, but there’s also the opportunity to protect those places close to where people are living. This is a chance for people to get directly involved in protecting those places, but also a gateway to think about whether that same time of habitat or species exists outside of where they live,” he said.

“There’s more and more awareness now that protecting these places is more than that. It’s about protecting the benefits that nature provides the people. The places that we’ve lost the most nature are the places that we need it the most… They’re storing carbon, which will help with climate change, they store flood waters in times of drought and in many coastal ecosystems they’re going to become more important as sea levels rise and we get an increasing number of storm surges.”

Though the content of the study is dire, there are some instances of hope that Kraus says the study has pointed out. One of which is the restoration work that has occurred at Baikie Island in the past few years.

“We hear a lot of doom and gloom, and even calling it ‘crisis eco-regions’ makes it sound really bad, but there are these places that provide evidence of hope that we can protect nature and the benefits that nature provides while supporting local economies and our well-being,” he said.

The study has been made into a user-friendly website at www.natureconservancy.ca/casc.

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marc.kitteringham@campbellrivermirror.com

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