The City of Prince George is often referred to as a "city within the forest" because of the abundance of trees and forested areas within and around the municipal boundary. These extensive forests and natural areas, including wetlands, riparian areas, grasslands, parks, and greenbelts provide many benefits including recreation, aesthetic values, helping with air and water quality, and many important ecosystem and habitat functions. Natural areas provide habitat to hundreds of species of animals and plants and smaller organisms.
It is important to understand our natural areas when we set policies for long term growth and development and make decisions on land use. This is particularly important where "sensitive" or "rare" ecosystems are identified and where climate change may affect certain ecosystems more than others. Natural areas mapping helps to make more informed choices and will help in long term planning (e.g. Official Community Planning), watershed planning, wildfire hazard mitigation, neighborhood planning and building strategies to address impacts from our climate changing climate. The data and mapping developed may also foster research projects, education opportunities and monitoring interests from UNBC and CNC.
The Natural Areas project was initiated in 2010 and was completed in four phases:
- Mapping natural areas using standardized Terrestrial Ecosystem Mapping (TEM) and Sensitive Ecosystem Mapping (SEI);
- Assessing climate change impacts on natural areas;
- Simplifying ecosystem mapping for general use and uploading to PGMap, and;
- Developing management strategies and best management practices.
For a summary of the four phases in the project you can view the Case Study Report by clicking here. This provides an overview of the overall project and its final products.
This project was selected as a finalist in the BC Real Estate Foundation 2012 Land Awards. To see the video that was prepared for release at the Land Awards Gala Event, please click here.
The Reports & Mapping:
Executive Summary of Climate Change Impacts on Natural Areas Report:
An increased understanding of risk and vulnerabilities of local ecosystems is an important component of an adaptive management strategy for maintaining important values of local ecosystems with the limits of City of Prince George. The recent mountain pine beetle epidemic and increases in Douglas-fir bark beetle are a few indicators of recent changes that may be attributed to climate change. Drought is anticipated to be one of the leading causes of climate change induced impacts to ecosystems. This report focuses on a project to predict site-level climate related changes to soil moisture and its potential impact on forest mortality and sensitive ecosystem resilience.
The project uses a recently developed model to assign soil moisture classes to polygons from recently ecosystem mapping of the City. Soil moisture class was then estimated for future climates (2020, 2050, 2080) based on generally accepted climate-change scenarios for BC. An ecosystem level drought risk was calculated for each polygon as well as tree-specific risk based on soil moisture deficit tolerance (i.e., drought tolerance) of the species.
Significant changes in soil moisture availability are predicted over time with a large proportion of the study area shifting from slightly dry to moderately dry or drier between 2011 and 2080. As conditions become drier more and more species will reach their moisture regime tolerance and suffer mortality. No attempt was made to predict shrub and herb species decline but for tree species, deciduous species appear to be at most risk but also spruce and lodgepole pine in some areas.
The Climate Change Impacts on Natural Areas Report can be viewed by clicking here. This report has a number of maps showing the changes to the relative soil moisture for 2011, 2020, 2050 and 2080, as well as mapping showing the Base Risk to ecosystems and specific leading tree species. Each of the maps can be viewed by clicking on the associated links below:
- Actual Soil Moisture Regime for 2011 here;
- Actual Soil Moisture Regime for 2020 here;
- Actual Soil Moisture Regime for 2050 here;
- Actual Soil Moisture Regime for 2080 here;
- Base Risk (overall ecosystem risk due to drought) here;
- Sensitive Ecosystem Risk here;
- Leading Tree Species (summary map - leading species not identified) Risk for 2020 here;
- Leading Tree Species (leading species identified) Risk here;
- Douglas-fir Risk here, and;
- Spruce Risk here.
The Natural Areas Management Report can be viewed by clicking here. This report provides best management practices for each of the 14 simplified ecosystems mapped within the municipal boundary. There are three associated maps for this report that can viewed by clicking the links below:
- High Conservation Valued Areas Map here;
- Simplified Ecosystem Map here, and;
- Intact Forest Map here.
The interactive ecosystem mapping is available on the City's "PGMap" application available through the City's website. The simplified ecosystem zones are colour-coded and by clicking on a zone, you can view more information about the ecosystem and best management practices.
For researchers interested in the detailed TEM and SEI mapping, please download the following maps and reports (warning - the maps are large files):
- Terrestrial Ecosystem Map Here;
- Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory Here;
- Bioterrain Map Here;
- The TEM & SEI Report Here, and;
- Appendix 2 to the TEM & SEI Report RE Wildlife Habitat Here.