Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Strengthening Capacity to Manage Ecosystems Sustainably for Human Well-Being

British Columbia, Canada


The assessment site in North and Central Coastal British Columbia (BC) covers the coastal waters, islands, and watersheds of the Canadian Pacific from the Alaskan border south to the Strait of Georgia and from the summits of the coastal ranges west to the continental slope. It includes Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands (QCI) and northern Vancouver Island. The region has a land area of 11 million hectares and marine area of 11 million hectares.

Lead institution

The Coast Information Team (CIT) has been established to provide independent information on the region using the best available scientific, technical, traditional, and local knowledge. CIT was set up by the Provincial Government of British Columbia, First Nations of the region, environmental groups, and forest products companies.

Contact information:

  • Mr. Robert Prescott-Allen
    PADATA, Inc.
    627 Aquarius Road
    Victoria BC 9B 5B4
    Phone: (+1) 604-474-1904
    Fax: (+1) 604-474-6976

Focal issues

The CIT’s information and analyses are intended to assist First Nations and three sub-regional planning processes to make decisions that will achieve ecosystem-based management (EBM), defined as “an adaptive approach to managing human activities that seeks to ensure the coexistence of healthy, fully functioning ecosystems and human communities”. The assessment will include a Wellbeing Assessment that measures current environmental and human conditions in each of the eight sub regions that make up the CIT analysis region, to provide a context for decision making, a test of options and scenarios, and a baseline for monitoring implementation of the plans and progress toward EBM and sustainability.

Ecosystem services being assessed

  • Provisioning services: food, fiber, biochemicals, minerals.
  • Regulating services: air quality, climate regulation, water regulation.
  • Cultural services: sustenance, heritage, spiritual, recreational, tourism.
  • Supporting services: ecosystem representation, rare or at risk taxa and ecosystems, habitat supply.

Project outputs

PDF versions of all reports will be posted on the CIT web site ( and provided to the sub-regional and First Nations planning processes. Metadata and all public domain data will also be made available via the site.

Key features of assessment

The region is the heart of the Northeast Pacific archipelagic coast, one of the world’s three large glaciated leading edge coastal zones (the others being Norway and southern Chile). These zones are on the leading edge or collision margin of tectonic plates and have been sliced and diced by glaciation. Hence they have narrow to nonexistent coastal plains, drop sharply from mountain heights to ocean depths, and are incised by fiords, fissured by channels, and broken into islands large and small.

Biologically and culturally, the Northeast Pacific is extremely diverse. North and Central Coastal B.C. include the world’s largest tracts of intact temperate rain forest, once abundant runs of Pacific salmon, and the northern or southern limits of many species. Globally unique hexactinellid sponge reefs lie in deep troughs of the continental shelf. Several endemic species of plants and animals and an endemic subspecies of black bear occur on Haida Gwaii/QCI; and an unusual white form of the black bear—the Spirit bear—lives on Princess Royal Island. The region’s cultural diversity stems from the variety of its human population: 25 First Nations (aboriginal peoples) in four linguistic groups: Haida (2), Coast Tsimshian (5), Heiltsuk-Wuikala (3), Coast Salish (1), and Kwakwala (14); as well as a sample of the rest of the Canadian ethnic mosaic.

Timeframe, budget

The CIT began work in January 2002 and will complete the assessment by December 2003. The current approved budget is CA$3.2 million. Funding is provided largely by the Provincial Government with substantial contributions from the environmental NGOs, forest product companies and the Federal Government. The Provincial Government also provides GIS support.