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Methods for biogeoclimatic ecosystems mapping

Author(s) or contact(s): W.R. Mitchell, R.N. Green, G.D. Hope, and K. Klinka
Source: Research Branch
Subject: Ecosystems
Series: Research Report
Other details:  Published 1989. Hardcopy is available.


As demands on the forest land base increase, so does the need for intensive integrated resource management. An essential tool in this is a land inventory that will provide information for the planning of intensively managed environmentally sensitive areas. Various land inventories (e.g., of soil, terrain, biophysical features, and surficial geology) have been used with varying degrees of success in forest land planning. The classification and subsequent mapping of ecosystems using the Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification system (Pojar et al. 1987) provides another, more effective approach. It offers a biological or ecological basis for managing forest land. Rather than considering different components of ecosystems in separate inventories, it integrates the biotic (vegetation) and abiotic (climate, physiography, and soils) ecosystem components into one classification and map.

An ecosystem map assists in area-specific land management by providing information on the location and distribution of ecosystems, from which a number of management interpretations can be developed to facilitate silvicultural, timber management, range, wildlife, and watershed planning. Ecosystem mapping has been used for a number of demonstration and operational applications (Klinka 1976; Klinka et al. 1980; Inselberg et al. 1982; Utzig et al. 1983; Lindeburgh and Trowbridge 1984; Banner et al. 1985; Mitchell and Eremko 1987; Green and Klinka 1981 *1 ; Lewis 1981
*2), usually at a scale of 1:20 000 or larger.

To ensure that ecosystem maps are consistent in quality and utility and are completed efficiently, a standardized set of methods and procedures is necessary. The purpose of this report is to propose such a set of methods, which have been developed on the basis of several ecosystem mapping pilot studies. These methods are intended to serve as a reference for ecosystem mapping projects carried out or funded by the B.C. Ministry of Forests.

The audience addressed in this report is assumed to have an understanding of forest ecology, biogeoclimatic ecosystem classification, and basic mapping procedures and techniques (e.g., photo interpretation). This includes pedologists, ecologists, biologists, agrologists, and foresters involved in ecosystem mapping for intensive resource planning and management. From this report, the reader should gain an understanding of: the relationship between ecosystem classification and mapping; the criteria required for mapping, including how to determine survey intensity, establish map units, select appropriate nomenclature, and set up legends; the procedures for undertaking a mapping project; and the design of maps and reports. The report will also help potential users understand the limitations of ecosystem maps. Although an outline of the taxonomic classification of ecosystems is provided, the actual methods for classifying them are contained in another report (Pojar et al. 1987). Similarly, a summary of how to map biogeoclimatic units is provided, although the methods of classifying of these units are not.

*1 Green, R.N. and K. Klinka. 1981. Ecosystems of the Sayward Forest: their description and interpretation. Unpublished report.
*2 Lewis T. 1981. Ecosystem mapping of TFL 24, Queen Charlotte Islands, Rayonier Canada. Unpublished report to Rayonier Canada Ltd.

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Updated November 14, 2008