Vulnerability of British Columbia Landscapes

Kirsten Feifel
Posted on: 12/28/2009 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

Posted by

Kirsten Feifel

Project Summary

To help survey and assess the vulnerability of British Columbia lands to climate change, the BC Ministry of Environment has used GIS technology to create sensitivity maps of the Province. These projects have been conducted in collaboration with students at the Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC under the mentorship of Ministry of Environment staff.


British Columbia is expected to experience a wide range of climate change impacts, including a 2-5°C increase in average annual temperature, increased flooding and storm surges, reduced snowpack, species shifts, and increased risk of forest fires, among others. The BC Ministry of Environment teamed with students in an advanced GIS course at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo. Each student is required to do an advanced-level practicum as a final project. The staff at the Ministry of Environment help to develop the project and then serve as mentors to the students. For this project, BC watersheds were examined and categorized into vulnerability and disturbance classes to assess the connectivity of resilient lands within the Province.


The resulting maps are of a relatively low resolution but can be used to highlight where efforts should be focused to reconnect resilient lands and provide movement opportunities for animals and plants. The GIS maps were created within large geographically coherent ecoregions:

  • Third order watersheds were the basic analysis unit.
  • Disturbance class - roads were used as a relative proxy
  • Vulnerability class - land protection level (i.e. parkland, private land, crown land) 
  • Watersheds were identified by the combination of disturbance class and vulnerability class.

Outcomes and Conclusions

In sum, five areas were mapped with this analysis: 

  • Cascade Ranges
  • Peace Lowlands
  • Thompson Okanagan Plateau
  • Nass Mountains
  • Elk Valley


Feifel, K. (2009). Vulnerability of British Columbia Landscapes [Case study on a project of the British Columbia Ministry of Environment]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated December 2009)

Project Contacts

Affiliated Organizations

The BC Ministry of Environment is tasked to foster and enhance a clean, healthy and naturally diverse environment. In 2009, the Environmental Stewardship and Parks and Protected Areas Divisions of the BC Ministry of Environment distributed Common Statements of Understanding and Working Principles related to climate change adaptation. These principles should be taken into consideration in all future projects and planning. The Ministry recognizes that it must prepare for and adapt to the unavoidable impacts rising greenhouse gas concentrations will cause throughout the Province.

Related Resources