Biodiversity Protection Policy
North Cowichan is striving to become a leader in environmental policies and practice. The Biodiversity Protection Policy intends to identify, quantify and assess significant ecological assets and use this information to develop policies, goals and monitoring programs to protect and restore ecological assets within the Municipality of North Cowichan.
What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability of life on earth. It is inclusive of all forms of life that inhabit North Cowichan’s urban and natural ecosystems and the connections between them. Different plants and animals have different needs, which are met by ecosystems as small as a single tree in the forest and as large as the Salish Sea.
North Cowichan features a mild climate and variety of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats leading to a rich diversity of life calling our community home. We are located along an ecological transition zone, with some of our forests called the Coastal Douglas-fir Zone and others the Coastal Western Hemlock Zone. The Coastal Douglas-fir zone is the smallest in all of Canada and has the highest number of species at risk. The Coastal Western Hemlock zone stretches along much of BC's coastline; however, these forests have some of the highest development pressure in the province. This means North Cowichan has a unique opportunity to protect biodiversity in the larger context of our province.
An ecosystem is a system of co-dependent connections between living things and the environment they share. All ecosystems provide benefits and have values that improve the quality of life in North Cowichan. Ecosystems occur throughout the Municipality on public and private land, and often cross property boundaries.
Removing a plant or animal from an ecosystem or introducing a non-native plant or animal can have negative impacts throughout the ecological community. This may include the loss of species in the ecosystem, or it may impact the behaviours of other living things. Maintaining biodiversity is very important for ecosystems to be resilient to change. The more diversity, the more resilient the ecosystem can be as there are more species to potentially fill all roles if one is missing.
Biodiversity describes the richness of life in a place and the genetic diversity within species. Measuring biodiversity in an area often focuses on identifying different species present.
In addition to formal research, species identification can be supported by volunteers making observations as part of citizen science programs. iNaturalist (LINK), an online project by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic, allows anyone with an internet connection to become a citizen scientist. Thousands of people have contributed over 17,000 observations of wildlife, plants, fungi, and other life in the North Cowichan area, of over 2,130 unique species.
Since time immemorial, indigenous people have respectfully lived in harmony with the land and sea. They have relied on the diversity of species to sustain them. Today, we have left our footprint on the land and sea and have impacted the plants and animals that have naturally occurred here.
Growing our relationship with nature is an important part of reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Many First Nations, including the Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation, Stz’uminus First Nation, Penelakut Tribe, and Lyackson First Nation, have lived here for thousands of years and their relationship with the land continues today. Their relationship with the land continues today despite the many threats and changes brought by settlers to their territories.
Today, we recognize we have many opportunities to learn from our indigenous neighbours on good ways to manage our biodiversity. We have a great opportunity to shape how we connect and interact with the land, sea, and its inhabitants.
Last edited: February 14, 2023.