Non-forested ecosystems are an important part of British Columbia’s landscape and biological diversity. Plant community composition and vegetation structure of these ecosystems stand in contrast to the forests that are typical of much of British Columbia. These non-forested habitats supply critical life history requirements for many plant and animal species.
Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) has been applied extensively in characterizing forested ecosystems in British Columbia. However, the focus has largely been on mature forest stands; non-forested ecosystems have received relatively little classification effort in British Columbia. However, with landscape planning initiatives and extensive ecosystem mapping work over the last decade, the need for a working classification of non-timber-producing ecosystems has become a priority.
The working site units of BEC, site series and site associations, are defined and identified in part by communities of plant species. Therefore, BEC relies on well-trained, knowledgeable users for proper application. The site series defines units that reflect the appropriate level of detail for the goals of forest management. However, for non-timber-producing ecosystems, a broader perspective is often better suited for management applications, and specific species information is less important at this level. A hierarchical classification system that generalizes site associations into functionally broader units requiring less detailed knowledge of species identification would therefore have the double advantage of appropriateness of scale and ease of application by non-technical users.
A hierarchy of broader units of this nature for wetlands and related ecosystems is presented in the Wetlands of British Columbia (MacKenzie and Moran 2004). The report that follows formalizes these hierarchical units into the BEC system and extends the system to all naturally occurring non-forested ecosystems in British Columbia, including alpine, subalpine krummholz and shrubland, grassland, rock outcrop and talus, beach and rocky headland, and persistent disclimax ecosystem.
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Updated March 30, 2012