Ministry of Environment


Sensitive Ecosystems InventoriesSensitive Ecosystems Inventories

Sunshine Coast Ecosystems

Note that this classification was revised in January 2005. It supersedes the classification in the May 2000 Newsletter, and the classification published here in June 2003.

Sensitive Ecosystem Classes

Sensitive ecosystems are fragile and/or rare, or are ecologically important because of diversity of species they support.

Old Forest (OF): Conifer-dominated dry to moist forest types, structural stage 7 (see table), generally >250yrs


  • co (conifer dominated) – greater than 75% coniferous species

Woodland (WD): Dry open forests, generally between 10 and 30% tree cover, can be conifer dominated or mixed conifer and arbutus stands; because of open canopy, will include non-forested openings, often with shallow soils and bedrock outcroppings.


  • co (conifer dominated) – greater than 75% coniferous species
  • mx (mixed conifer and deciduous) – a minimum of 25% cover of either group is included in the total tree cover

Herbaceous (HB): Non-forested ecosystems (less than 10% tree cover), generally with shallow soils and often with bedrock outcroppings; includes large openings within forested areas, coastal headlands, shorelines vegetated with grasses and herbs, sometimes low shrubs, and moss and lichen communities on rock outcrops.


  • hb (herbaceous) – central concept of the category, non-forested, less than 10% tree cover, generally shallow soils, often with exposed bedrock; predominantly a mix of grasses and forbs, also lichens and mosses
  • cs (coastal herbaceous) - as hb but influenced by proximity to ocean, windswept shoreline and slopes; > 20% vegetation, grasses and herbs, some rock outcrops, moss and lichen communities
  • vs (vegetated shoreline) - low-lying rocky shoreline, soil pockets in rock cracks and crevices; salt-tolerant vegetation, generally with < 20% vegetation cover
  • sp (spit) - finger-like extension of beach, comprised of sand or gravel deposited by longshore drifting; low to moderate cover of salt-tolerant grasses and herbs
  • du (dunes) - ridge or hill, or beach area created by windblown sand; may be more or less vegetated depending on depositional activity, beach dunes will have low cover of salt-tolerant grasses and herbs
  • sh (shrub component) - > 20 % of total vegetation cover is shrub cover, with grasses and herbs

Riparian (RI): Areas adjacent to water bodies (rivers, lakes, ocean, wetlands) which are influenced by factors such as erosion, sedimentation, flooding and/or subterranean irrigation due to proximity to the water body. Structural stages 1 – 7.


  • fl (low bench floodplain) - flooded at least every other year for moderate periods of growing season; plant species adapted to extended flooding and abrasion, low or tall shrubs most common
  • fm (medium bench floodplain) - flooded every 1-6 years for short periods (10-25 days); deciduous or mixed forest dominated by species tolerant of flooding and periodic sedimentation, trees occur on elevated microsites
  • fh (high bench floodplain) - only periodically and briefly inundated by high waters, but lengthy subsurface flow in the rooting zone; typically conifer-dominated floodplains of larger coastal rivers
  • ff (fringe) - narrow linear communities along open water bodies (rivers, lakes and ponds) where there is no floodplain, irregular flooding
  • gu (gully riparian) - watercourse is within a steep sided V-shaped gully
  • ri (river) – watercourse is large enough to represent >10% of the polygon

Wetland (WN): Areas that are saturated or inundated with water for long enough periods of time to develop vegetation and biological activity adapted to wet environments. This may result from flooding, fluctuating water tables, tidal influences or poor drainage conditions.


  • bg (bog) – nutrient poor wetland, on organic soils (sphagnum peat), water source predominantly from precipitation; may be treed or shrub dominated
  • fn (fen) – nutrient medium wetland (sedge peat) where ground water inflow is the dominant water source, open water channels common; dominated by sedges, grasses and mosses
  • ms (marsh) – wetland with fluctuating water table, often with shallow surface water, usually organically enriched mineral soils; dominated by rushes, reeds, grasses and sedges
  • sp (swamp) – poor to very rich wetland on mineral soils or with an organic layer over mineral soil, with gently flowing or seasonally flooding water table; woody vegetation
  • sw (shallow water) – standing or flowing water less than 2 m. deep, transition between deep water bodies and other wetland ecosystems (i.e. bogs, swamps, fens, etc.); often with vegetation rooted below the water surface
  • wm (wet meadow) – periodically saturated but not inundated with water, organically enriched mineral soils; grasses, sedges, rushes and forbs dominate

Cliffs (CL): Very steep slope, often exposed bedrock, may include steep sided sand bluffs; habitat for rare species.


  • cc (coastal cliffs)
  • ic (inland cliffs)

Other Important Ecosystems

Other important ecosystems have high biodiversity values.

Mature Forest (MF): Usually conifer-dominated, occasionally deciduous, dry to moist forest types, structural stage 6, generally >80yrs; > 25 ha. or buffering sensitive ecosystems.


  • co (conifer dominated) – greater than 75% coniferous species
  • mx (mixed conifer and deciduous) - a minimum of 25% cover of either group is included in the total tree cover

Seasonally Flooded Agricultural Fields (FS): Annually flooded cultivated fields or hay fields; important migrating and wintering waterfowl habitat.

Other Mapped Ecosystems

Other mapped ecosystems occur in mosaic with sensitive ecosystems and are not possible to delineate separately at the mapping scale.

Young Forest: (YF): Limited to areas of young forest dispersed among sensitive and other important ecosystems.