Citing a BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer Search:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 20xx. BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer. B.C. Ministry of Environment, Victoria B.C. Available: http://a100.gov.bc.ca/pub/eswp/ (date accessed).

Note: it is helpful to include your search criteria, which can be copied from the results page after a search has been done, e.g.:

Search Criteria

Search Type: Plants & Animals
AND BC Conservation Status:Red (Extirpated, Endangered, or Threatened)
Sort Order:Scientific Name Ascending

Citing a BC CDC Species/Community Summary Report:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 20xx. Species/Community Summary: species name or ecosystem name. B.C. Ministry of Environment. Available: http://a100.gov.bc.ca/pub/eswp/ (date accessed).

Citing CDC i-map Occurrence information:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre: Conservation Data Centre Mapping Service [web application]. 20xx. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Available: http://maps.gov.bc.ca/ess/sv/cdc/ (date accessed).

Citing CDC Webpage content:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cdc/. Web. (date accessed).


Endangered Species and Ecosystems

Rare means not common. Many species and ecological communities are naturally rare. Relative rarity does not necessarily mean that a species and ecological community is endangered. Endangered means that a species or ecological community is at risk of becoming extinct. Ranking is the process of determining the degree of extinction risk. In B.C., the Conservation Data Centre is responsible for assigning provincial ranks. For a description of ranks and how they are determined, please read NatureServe Conservation Status and Ecological Communities in British Columbia: Conservation Status Assessment Factors (PDF).

If the species or ecological community is known from a common, relatively unthreatened habitat in a remote region and/or is not a showy, easily observed species, then it may be more common than the number of observations indicate. Only by targeted surveys can this question be answered. Some species and ecological communities have indeed been down-listed after such surveys. Until the survey can be done, though, the precautionary principle requires the B.C. Conservation Data Centre to rank the species or ecological community based on existing information.

The greatest part of the biodiversity of British Columbia is made up of invertebrates - a group that we know the least about! We do not even know what species are found in the province or the extent of their ranges, let alone the roles that they play in the diverse ecosystems in the province. For example, many bees, flies, butterflies or beetles are key pollinators. They are critical components in the food chain. There are many plants that are dependent on fungal associations with their roots, invertebrates are important vectors in this process. Insects and other soil-dwelling creatures help create productive soil. There are many predaceous or parasitic invertebrates that are vital in the control of unwanted plants or other invertebrates that may be considered pests.

One cannot assume that just because an element is at the edge of its range in B.C. that it is doing well elsewhere. For example, the Oregon Spotted Frog is declining across its range. Other species, such as the golden paintbrush and Columbia Sharp-tailed Grouse, are doing better at the edge of their ranges than in the centre. Furthermore, range edge populations often have special conservation value. They have often adapted to live in different habitats than populations in the centre of the range, and have developed unique genetic characteristics that should be preserved to maintain the strength and diversity of the species as a whole. In the case of climatic change, it may be the population at the edge of the range that can best adapt to a new environment.

Visit the NatureServe web site and use NatureServe Explorer. This is a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals, and ecological communities of the United States and Canada. Through the NatureServe site you can also link to Conservation Data Centres and Natural Heritage Programs in other states and provinces. From the NatureServe home page, click on the Network Directory.


BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer

The data in BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer come from the B.C. Conservation Data Centre (CDC). CDC species data come from a wide variety of sources including museum specimen records, theses, published and unpublished research, surveys conducted by contractors or ministry staff, naturalist's reports and from observations sent in by the public. For ecological communities, sources include the vegetation component of the Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (Ministry of Forests and Range Research Branch), the Ecological Reserves Program, theses, International Vegetation Classifications, surveys and mapping projects. If you have information to share about a rare species or ecological community in B.C. please visit our Help Us page.

All BGC units on which an ecological community occurs are displayed in the results, regardless of the BGC unit or FD specified as a search criterion. This also applies to searches on a specific Ecosection, Ministry of Environment Region, or Regional District.

This means that a FD (or Ecosection, Ministry of Environment Region, or Regional District) search may return ecological communities that also occur on BGC units that aren't in the specified FD (or Ecosection, Ministry of Environment Region, or Regional District). For example, Glyceria borealis Fen is one of the ecological communities in the Haida Gwaii FD. The BGCs listed in the search results for Glyceria borealis Fen are CWHvh2, which occurs in the Haida Gwaii FD, and ESSFdv, MSxv and SBPSxc, which do not.

For more information on interpreting the results of ecological community searches in  BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer click the Help tab, then Ecological Community Help, then RESULTS PAGE and refer to the section Understanding the Results of a Search.

First, distribution searches are restricted to Red- and Blue-listed and legally designated species. Second, birds are only listed in a jurisdictions in which they breed. The Western Grebe breeds in the interior, then disperses along the coast in the winter.


Red, Blue and Yellow Lists

In B.C., species and ecological communities are assigned to one of three lists, based on their provincial Conservation Status Rank. Red-listed species and ecological communities are Extirpated, Endangered, or Threatened in British Columbia. Blue-listed species and ecological communities are of Special Concern (formerly Vulnerable) and Yellow-listed species and ecological communities are secure. To see how Conservation Status Ranks relate to list colour, see the Provincial Red and Blue Lists page.

A species or ecological community is placed on the Red or Blue list based on its provincial Conservation Status Rank, which is assigned by the B.C. Conservation Data Centre. To see how Conservation Status Ranks relate to the red and blue lists, see the Provincial Red and Blue Lists page.

The following factors are considered in assigning the Provincial Conservation Status Rank:

  • total number and condition of occurrences
  • population size (species only)
  • range extent and area of occupancy
  • short- and long-term trends in the foregoing factors
  • threats
  • intrinsic vulnerability
  • environmental specificity

For a complete treatment of this topic for plants and animals, read NatureServe Conservation Status. For ecological communities read Ecological Communities in British Columbia: Conservation Status Assessment Factors (PDF).

Use the BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer to search for the species or ecological community you are interested in. Then click on 'View' under the 'Reports' column. This will create a web-linked bibliography. Your local library or a search of the world-wide web may lead you to more information. In some cases there may not be very much known about the species or ecological community or at least not very much known about it in B.C.

Species and ecological communities are added or removed from the lists as a result of increased knowledge about the species/ecological community or because of an actual change in the species'/ecological community's circumstances. For example, the Boreal Snaketail Dragonfly, Ophiogomphus colubrinus, was only known from two locations in the province before an extensive dragonfly survey was conducted in the summer of 2000. It is now known from a dozen locations in relatively non-threatened habitats. Consequently it was moved from the Red list to the Blue list. On the other hand, Caribou (southern population) were moved from the Blue list to the Red list when extensive surveys indicated that their population numbers were decreasing, and the threats they were exposed to were increasing. The Conservation Data Centre attempts to review ranks annually.


Ecological Communities

The B.C. Conservation Data Centre (CDC) and NatureServe network use the term "Ecological Community" to capture the full range of ecosystems in B.C. at a variety of levels. The term "ecological" is a direct reference to the integration of non-biological features such as soil, landform, climate and disturbance factors. The term "community" reflects the interactions of living organisms (plants animals, fungi, bacteria, etc.), and the relationships that exist between the living and non-living components of the "ecological system".

Currently, the most common ecological communities that are known in B.C. are based on the Vegetation Classification component of the Ministry of Forests and Range Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification, which focuses on the terrestrial plant associations of B.C.'s native plants. Additional ecological communities are documented from inventory projects, theses, and other reports. Future work will incorporate levels of aquatic and marine ecological communities as well as various other levels of ecosystems.

Ecosystems provide the foundation that supports all life forms as they exist today. Ecological services are provided by ecological processes and functions, which in turn provide benefits that we enjoy. Examples are safe, clean drinking water, clean air, flood control, and economic resources (timber, fisheries, ecotourism, etc.). Our health, safety and quality of life depend on the health and integrity of ecosystems so they can continue to provide these services and benefits.

If it is not on the list at all you may have found an ecological community that either has not been documented before, since some parts of the province are not well sampled, or is a local variation of a recognized type.

If it is on the list but not for your area or the Biogeoclimatic (BGC) unit in which you found it:

  • The BGC unit(s) in which this ecological community occurs may not have been mapped in your Forest District (FD) because it may occur in areas that have not been sampled, or may be a very small area on the border of your FD.
  • We may not have data that show that this ecological community occurs in the BGC in which you have found it.

If you have mapped and documented an ecological community we encourage you to submit your data (including plot forms, air photos and mapping) using the Ecological Community Conservation Evaluation form available on the CDC Data Contributions  web page. We will review your data to verify the ecological community occurrence, and, where appropriate, update the CDC database.

We may also have data for this ecological community, but have not had a chance to assess and incorporate these data into our database.

The CDC appreciates all contributions of data. For information on how to submit your data please refer to the CDC Data Contributions web page. Field data forms and the Ecological Community Conservation Evaluation form can be downloaded from this page and used to record data. We will review your data to verify the ecological community occurrence, and, where appropriate, update the CDC database.

Yes, mid-seral stages of a forest community can definitely be considered as an element occurrence of an Ecological Community, regardless of the community’s status rank.

Successional and structural descriptors (PDF, 8.2MB) of ecosystems at risk are often used to provide a sense of the developmental stages that characterize the ecological community with good to excellent ecological integrity. This has caused some confusion over whether or not the mid-seral stages are important ecosystems for conservation. For example, statements that mid-seral ecosystems do not represent ecosystems at risk, or that they are not worth conserving, have been reported.

Some ecosystems at risk, which historically persisted for centuries, now have a greatly reduced area in mature and late seral stages. In these situations occurrences of forest stands of lower ecological integrity can be improved through restoration activity (or left to age naturally). These stands may be recommended for protection in order to achieve the necessary recruitment for representation of late-seral stages over time.

It is a common expectation that B.C. Conservation Data Centre (CDC) ecological communities will correspond directly to the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) site series, because site series are widely used in resource management in the province. However, CDC ecological communities are derived primarily from the FLNRO Vegetation Classification, not from the FLNRO Site Classification. The Vegetation Classification is a component of the Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) that describes plant associations. Plant associations are equivalent to CDC ecological communities.

A site series is a location on the ground that has the potential to produce a particular plant association. It can be identified even when there is no vegetation present. However, in order to identify the CDC ecological community, the characteristic vegetation and physiognomic structure must be present. In the BEC system, each plant association can potentially occur on one or more site series, but each site series has the potential to produce only one mature plant association.

B.C. Species and Ecosystem Explorer (BCSEE) lists the site series from published BEC Field Guides, on which an ecological community is known to occur. BEC Field Guides, which are accessible through the BCSEE Reports section, can be used to link the vegetation of ecological communities to site series identified on the ground.

The B.C. Conservation Data Centre (CDC) provides downloadable Community Summaries from BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer (BCSEE). These summaries include name, classification, range and references for all ecological communities. For some ecological communities, vegetation and environment descriptions are also included in the Community Summaries, available from the BCSEE Reports and References page. This page also includes links to NatureServe reports prepared by B.C. CDC and NatureServe staff.

Where vegetation and environment descriptions are not included in the BCSEE Community Summary, please refer to the references included on the BCSEE Reports and References page. For ecological communities that are sourced from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) system (formerly  managed by Ministry of Forests and Lands), please refer to the relevant published Land Management Handbook(s), and use the vegetation and environment tables for the related site series. Full vegetation and environment tables are also available through the BEC “Information Requests” for these ecological communities (plant associations).

Most ecological communities are based on the plant association, which is the basic unit of the Vegetation Classification component of the provincial Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC). Each plant association is assigned a unique name that includes two to four of the plant species characteristic of that ecosystem after long periods of stability. Since a few species tend to occur as dominants in a variety of ecological communities, it is the combination of both dominant and indicator species that imparts the unique ecological ‘label’ for a complex, interacting system.  

Plant species are used to support the vegetation classification because plants are strong integrators of site characteristics and are readily identifiable and measurable components of the ecosystem. Knowledge of how plant species respond to soil moisture and soil nutrients enables the correlation between climatic and physical site conditions. Groups of plant species tend to occur together in response to similar conditions. On occasion a local variation or disturbance factor may mean that one of the species in the name might not be present, however, the combination of other species on the site and the ecological conditions, can still be used to help identify the ecological community.

The name (or ‘label’) encapsulates much more information about the ecosystem, including climate (macro or meso), geomorphological and geological history (what is ‘shaping’ the landscape), soil moisture and soil nutrients, and all of the associated species including soil organisms and species at risk. In the same way that the name Northern Goshawk imparts a wealth of information about the species to the expert, the name of an ecological community is much more than just a name.


Known Locations of Species and Ecosystems

An occurrence is an area of land and/or water in which a species or ecological community is or was present. The number of known occurrences for a species or ecological community may be an important factor in determining its Conservation Status Rank. An occurrence record is the spatial representation of a species or ecological community at a specific location. An occurrence generally delineates a species population, or ecological community stand, patch or cluster of stands or patches, and represents the geo-referenced biological feature that is of conservation management interest.

Some occurrences are considered to be susceptible to persecution or harm. Examples include falcon aeries, rattlesnake dens, and bat 'hibernacula' or roost sites. The B.C. Conservation Data Centre (CDC) only displays secured occurrences as a large "fuzzed" polygon with only an ID number. The CDC can release details of these occurrences on a need to know basis. Some occurrences are secured due to proprietary reasons and these are not released. For more information on obtaining secured data, contact . Read more about Species and Ecosystems Secure Data and Information.

Search for the species or ecological community in BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer. From the results page, click on the globe icon. This will link you to Google Maps where you will see mapped known locations. Alternatively, visit the Mapped Known Locations page.