Incorporating climate change in marine use plans for British Columbia’s First Nations

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 2/26/2017 - Updated on: 6/18/2021

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Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

The Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP) is a collaboration between British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and First Nations representing the Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative, the North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society, and the Nanwakolas Council. EcoAdapt partnered with MaPP in 2012-2015 to facilitate the integration of climate change into marine use plans for the four subregions: Haida Gwaii, North Coast, Central Coast, and North Vancouver Island. Activities included (1) integrating climate change into subregional marine use plans, (2) creating vulnerability and resilience maps to inform decision-making, and (3) reviewing a draft list of ecosystem-based indicators to identify climate-informed opportunities.

Activity 1. Subregional marine use plans

EcoAdapt created climate impacts assessments for each of the four sub-regions that include observed and projected climatic changes as well as discussion of potential impacts on coastal and marine uses in each of the planning areas. EcoAdapt then revised the draft sub-regional objectives and strategies to identify opportunities for climate-informed revisions. The plans were released in 2015 for Haida GwaiiNorth CoastCentral Coast, and North Vancouver Island and in 2016 for the entire MaPP region.

Activity 2. Vulnerability and resilience mapping

EcoAdapt conducted a science-based effort to identify where and to what degree the region’s important coastal and marine natural resources, such as habitats and species, and cultural/social resources, such as historic sites and community infrastructure, are likely to be affected by changing climate conditions. The vulnerability maps highlight areas likely to change more or less under climate change based on observed and projected changes. Climate vulnerability maps of ocean acidification, sea level rise, and sea surface temperature were created for the MaPP boundary area as well as for each sub-region. These data layers were then overlaid on comparative maps of important natural and cultural resources. The natural resource maps include bull kelp and giant kelp distribution, eelgrass distribution, estuary distribution, herring important areas, killer whale important areas and designated critical habitat, salt marsh distribution, and sponge and coral important areas. The cultural/social resource maps include important cultural and historic sites as well as public and commercial infrastructure sites.

The maps can help managers understand where and to what degree resource vulnerabilities may occur due to climate change, and can be used to develop and prioritize adaptation strategies. For example, salt marshes in the MaPP region are vulnerable to sea level rise. When salt marsh distribution is compared with sea level rise projections, the most change is visible along the north and west coast of Graham Island and in the North Coast Fjords (up to 1.32 meters of rise by 2100). Salt marshes may be able to migrate inland as sea level rise as long as coastal development does not impede their movement, so limiting development behind salt marshes in these most vulnerable areas may be the best course of action.

Activity 3. Ecosystem-based indicators and monitoring framework

MaPP created a draft suite of ecological and human well-being indicators, which EcoAdapt reviewed to identify those that may be appropriate for tracking climate impacts, as well as recommending additional indicators. Physical and chemical indicators to monitor climate change include temperature, precipitation, pH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. Biological and ecological indicators relevant to climate change include primary productivity and the areal extent of seagrass beds and nearshore vegetation. These indicators are still under development, but potential indicators relevant to tracking the effectiveness of CMSP strategies may include:

  • Miles of vulnerable nearshore areas (e.g., eelgrass beds) restored with future conditions in mind;
  • Changes in zoning and development policies that incorporate sea level rise projections;
  • Eradication or reduction in invasive species; and
  • Percentage of protected areas that include climate change impacts in design and management protocols.

Monitoring can therefore inform decision-making and help evaluate decisions, in addition to increasing understanding of the effects of climate change on ecosystems and human communities.


Gregg, R.M. 2017. Incorporating climate change in marine use plans for British Columbia’s First Nations. Summary of a project of the Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast. Retrieved from CAKE:’s-first-nations (Last updated February 2017)

Project Contacts

Affiliated Organizations

The MaPP initiative is a partnership between the Province of British Columbia and 17 member First Nations that developed marine use plans for B.C.’s North Pacific Coast. The MaPP region is divided into four sub-regions: Haida GwaiiNorth CoastCentral Coast and North Vancouver I

EcoAdapt is at the center of climate change adaptation innovation. We provide support, training, and assistance to make conservation and management less vulnerable and more Climate Savvy. Over the past 200 years, great strides have been made in the world of conservation and now all of that is at risk because of climate change. EcoAdapt is working to ensure the success of these past efforts by delivering a framework for climate adaptation.