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  • Cataloguing In situ Genetic Resources

    1. Introduction

    2. Presentation and organization of material

    3. Publications

    4. About BEC (Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification)


    1. Introduction

    In order to evaluate the current degree of protection and the need for additional gene conservation activities, good census information is needed on population sizes for species of concern in currently protected in situ reserves. We have completed an analysis on in situ conservation in BC for all 50 tree species. This has been conducted by combining data on species coverage for tens of thousands of botanical plots in the province with the distribution of biogeoclimatic ecological classification (BEC) units using geographic information systems and spatial analysis. This information is being used to determine: 1) where additional information is needed (e.g. genetic structure and degree of population differentiation for minor angiosperm and conifer tree species not previously investigated); and 2) where additional in situ protection needed.



    2. Presentation and organization of material

    Climate overview
    In this section we present climate analysis results and climate data generated for the biogeoclimatic zones and subzones of BC.

    Zone overview
    The cataloguing information for species composition, and protected areas and land use summaries presented here are organized by biogeoclimatic zone. For each zone there is brief description of the general geographic location and climate. Photographs from some of the common ecosystems and landscapes of the zone are posted and can be explored using 3D imaging software.Species composition and the results from a gap and threat analysis (Protected Area status and land use statistics) are summarized at the zone level and links are provided for the same information compiled at the subzone/variant level. A similar analysis has been performed on the basis of seed planning units instead of BEC units. The results are not posted here but can be found in Hamann et. al. 2004.

    Species overview
    For each of BC's major tree species we have compiled species summaries which include information on basic life history, ecology, uses, distribution, reproduction, demographics, ex situ collections, genetic structure, and resource management and seed transfer. In these summaries in situ protection is calculated by BEC zone. Estimates of in situ protection by Protected Area can be found in Hamann et. al. 2005.



    3. Publications

    Hamann, A., Smets, P., Aitken, S. N. and Yanchuk, A. D. 2005. An
    ecogeographic framework for in situ conservation of forest trees in
    British Columbia. Can. J. For. Res. 35:2553-2561. "Supplementary Data" for this publication (posted on the CFCG website: in situ statisitics page).

    Hamann, A., S. N. Aitken, A. D. Yanchuk. 2004. Cataloguing in situ
    protection of genetic resources for major commercial forest trees in
    British Columbia. Forest Ecology and Management 197: 295-305. "Extended Manuscript and Data" for this publication (PDF 484 Kb).



    4. About BEC

    A Brief History

    The BEC classification system was developed by V.J. Krajina and his students in the 1960's and the 1970's. It was adopted by the BC Ministry of Forests in 1976 and is widely used today for forest, range and wildlife management. Refinement and expansion of the classification system is ongoing and has been extended to seral ecosystems and non-forested ecosystems such as wetlands and riparian areas, grasslands, alpine tundra and parkland. Here we briefly describe some of the components as they relate to this project. For more detailed information on the BEC system see the BC Ministry of Forest BEC webpage or Meidinger, D. and J. Pojar. 1991. Ecosystems of British Columbia. BC Ministry of Forests, Victoria, BC. 330pp.

    BEC Zones

    BEC is a hierarchical land classification system that groups ecosystems using climate, soil and vegetation characterisitics. At the highest level, the regional level, the province is divided into 14 zones. These zones are large geographic areas with relatively uniform climate, i.e. similar regional or macroclimate. Zones are usually named after one, two or three of the dominant climax species. The names can also include another general distinguishing feature of the area such as geographic location (interior, coastal,) or climate (subboreal, boreal, montane). The names can be written in full or abbreviated: Coastal Western Hemlock Zone or CWH zone.


    Subzones and variants

    Zones are further divided into climatically distinct subzones. Subzones are named first with a descriptor of relative precipitation (moisture) and then either relative temperature or continentality. For example, subzones in the CWH zone range from very dry maritime (CWHxm) to very wet hypermaritime (CWHvh). Subzones that have considerable variation in climate are further divided into variants. Variants are areas which are slightly drier, wetter, snowier, warmer, or colder than typical but with a vegetation community that is not different enough to be considered unique or distinct subzones. Numbers are used to identify variants, e.g. CWHvh1 or CWHvh2.

    The climate class modifiers applied when naming subzones are relative. In most cases they are inferred from the vegetation communities and not derived from actual weather station data. With the availability of new climate data in GIS format covering the entire province (elevation adjusted PRISM data) we have further quantified the climatic differences between subzones/variants.

    The variety of ecosystems that occur in each subzone or variant are described using site classification. Site classification describes the pattern of ecosystems across the landscape as it relates to specific site conditions (soil moisture and nutrients). For the purpose of cataloguing in-situ conservation of genetic resources of forest trees we perform most of the analysis at the zone or subzone/variant level and do not use finer levels of classification. Generally, species only show broad patterns of adaptation to macro-climatic conditions (zone level of the BEC system). However, if a tree species exhibits a disjunct distribution or other spatial patterns restricting geneflow, genetic differentiation may be observed at the subzone/variant level.

    Subzone/variant groups
    In some cases we use a simplified BEC system as a framework, where some small variants and subzones are grouped if they are geographically adjacent, similar in species composition, and similar in climatic conditions. Major genetic differentiation within these combined landscape units would not be expected for any tree species. This simplified system is used when evaluating (1) the protection status of tree species, (2) land use patterns, (3) potential impact of climate change, and (4) policy recommendations for landscape units. Subzones and variants were not combined when calculating species composition statistics.