Conservation Planning

Regional Landscapes

Regional Landscapes

As climate disruption proceeds landscape classification systems based on vegetation and soil zonation will have to adapt to remain relevant. An alternative for landscape classification is to abandon vegetation, soil development and climate differentiating components of a classification system, and simply rely on “enduring features”, physical components of the landscape that are not affected by climate (e.g., bedrock type, landform, slope position, parent material texture). The Regional Landscape (RL) is proposed as a potential landscape classification unit to replace BEC subzone/variants and Ecosections.  While the distribution of RLs is based on the present distribution of regional climate, the boundaries of individual RLs are mainly defined by enduring features that control climatic variables and associated vegetation zonation, rather than climatic variables and the distribution of vegetation species at any given time. The existence of RLs does not require an assumption of a stable climate or persistent zonal climax vegetation.

Using macro-topography and existing distributions of regional climate as represented by elevational sequences of BEC units, southeastern BC has been mapped into a series of RLs. It is assumed that individual RL areas have relatively unique and homogeneous climates today due to their unique and consistent elevational sequences of BEC units. The topographic features occurring within them and/or surrounding them ensure that interactions with seasonal air masses are relatively consistent year to year. The implicit assumption is that because the major topographic features have not changed, each RL will still maintain relatively homogeneous climate within its boundary as it responds to climate change, even as the actual climate within each RL changes.

The RL system can be adapted at multiple scales and for multiple end-uses. For broader more regional applications the RLs can be grouped into Subregional and Regional Climatic Regions. For finer units, rather than using BEC units to differentiate elevational bands of climate, it has been proposed to use selected elevation breaks. For finer subdivisions, site level enduring features can be utilized as differentiating characteristics such as bedrock composition, landform, parent material texture, aspect, slope position and seepage presence/absence (similar to the lowest levels that BEC and EC utilize today).

RLs have been used as analysis units for the Conservation Planing project described here, as well as in the Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment for the West Kootenays (see other Ecosystem Vulnerability page on this website). When combined with 500m elevation bands, they also have been utilized for representation analysis to measure distribution of various conservation zoning desigations. The RLs have also been grouped on a watershed basis to provide Hydrologic Regions for the Columbia Basin.

For further discussion of RLs and their utilization, download the more detailed report below.
Climatic Regions
Regional Landscapes Report