Biodiversity at your doorstepdouglasfir-fawnlily

Your home’s yard, garden, or even balcony have the potential to provide essential habitat for plants and animals throughout the capital region. No matter what their size, natural spaces that you create near your home can increase biodiversity and support healthy ecosystems. Take time to sit quietly outside of your house, and observe the nature that you see. When you start looking for it, biodiversity is all around us. Here are some key places to look:

Dense, diverse vegetation: Areas of dense and diverse vegetation give wildlife plenty of shelter. Wildlife may use these areas to find food, hide from predators, raise young, or take refuge from the elements.

Pollinator-friendly plants: These plants attract pollinators like butterflies, bees and hummingbirds by providing energy-rich nectar and pollen. Showy cultivated plants are sometimes sterile and are of little use to pollinators. Native or heirloom plant varieties will attract the most pollinators.

Leaf, stick and rock piles: Messy areas of your yard may be the most biodiverse! Many creatures enjoy the shelter of unraked leaves, stick or rock piles, and groups of rocks.

Water sources: All living things need water for drinking and bathing. Birds also use water to bathe. Watch for wildlife and insects at birdbaths or even puddles after it rains.

Berries, nuts and sap: Food sources in your garden will attract wildlife. In particular, food found on native plants will provide the right nutrition for native wildlife.

Dried plants and seed heads: Dead trees and other dried or decaying plants can provide shelter for wildlife, as well as a food source. Seed heads left on plants can feed wildlife over the winter and add beauty to your garden off-season.

Find out more about how to boost biodiversity in your yard:

What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the term used for the incredible variety of life on Earth – from the smallest microbes to the coastal rainforests. Biodiversity includes:

  • Genetic diversity: the variation in genetic characteristics of a species
  • Species diversity: the number and types of different species that inhabit an area or ecosystem
  • Ecosystem diversity: the variety of habitat types or ecosystems found within a landscape

Of all the provinces, BC has the most biodiversity in Canada. Insect species alone number between 50,000 and 70,000. Other species in BC include (at least) 143 mammals, 454 birds, 20 amphibians, 19 reptiles, 2,850 vascular plants, 1,600 lichens, 522 attached algae, and over 10,000 fungi. The great abundance of life found in many of BC’s marine areas rivals the biodiversity of tropical rain forests. Around 7,000 marine species have been identified in the region off the coast of BC, and at least as many unidentified species are believed to exist.

The Importance of Biodiversity

All types of biodiversity are essential to the function of ecosystems and to the continuation of life on earth. Ecosystems that have a high degree of biodiversity with a wide variety of species are more resilient than those that have less biodiversity. The more diverse an ecosystem, the more it can withstand stressors like climate change, disease, or other disturbances.

Biodiversity supports essential ecosystem services, including but not limited to:

  • nutrient cycles;
  • soil formation;
  • water cycles;
  • cleaning of air and water;
  • climate regulation;
  • pest control; and
  • pollination.

Together, these ecosystem services interact to provide the framework for life on earth. The scale and complexity of these services is so enormous that they cannot be replaced by human technology.

Biodiversity also provides important cultural services, such as research, education, recreational and spiritual benefits. Much of our sense of belonging and heritage comes from our relationship with the landscape and biodiversity that surrounds us. The natural world also provides raw materials for virtually all natural and pharmaceutical medicines. Conserving biodiversity means that more species with healing or scientific properties can be protected. Finally, many people also believe that plants and animals have value in and of themselves. This intrinsic value does not depend on any use for human benefits.

Biodiversity in the Capital Region

Within biodiversity-rich British Columbia, Vancouver Island is considered a biodiversity hotspot. The island likely provided refuge for species during the last glaciation. Today Vancouver Island is home to numerous endemic species, which are those found only in a certain geographical area. 

Although it supports high levels of biodiversity, Vancouver Island is also home to a relatively high number of species at risk.  Of the 1,649 species that are extirpated, endangered, threatened, or are of special concern in BC, 210 are in the capital region. 

Nearly all of Greater Victoria lies within the Coastal Douglas-fir Biogeoclimatic zone, characterized by mild winters and dry, warm summers. This zone is home to a number of ecosystems, including Douglas-fir forests, Garry oak meadows, wetlands, shorelines, and more:

Forested Ecosystems:
Douglas-fir forests (PDF)
Garry oak meadows (PDF)
Riparian zones (PDF)
Western hemlock forests

Non-forested Ecosystems:
Grasslands and meadows
Inland cliffs/bluffs

Aquatic Ecosystems:
Wetlands (PDF)
Lakes
Waterways

Marine Ecosystems:
Estuaries (PDF)
Shorelines and beaches
Eelgrass beds
Kelp beds

Built Environment:
Agricultural land

 

Biodiversity Stressors

There are many factors that can decrease biodiversity:

Habitat Loss and Degradation

Activities such as urban expansion, logging and shoreline modification modify the landscape so that fewer organisms can survive there.

Invasive Species

Non-native species that aggressively compete with native plants and animals can drastically alter the landscape. Dense plant monocultures, for example, provide little habitat or food for local animals. Chemicals used to control pests can often harm non-target species, and contaminate food and water.

Pollution

Chemical and sewage pollution can be directly toxic to many plants and animals, and can modify the oxygen and nutrient content of the air and water.

Climate Change

Climate change will result in changes in our area's precipitation and temperature patterns, as well as more frequent storms and increased likelihood of floods, fires and sea level rise. Local species may not easily adapt to the new climate conditions.

Over-exploitation

Excessive hunting, fishing and “pest control” can threaten animals such as bison, whales, seals, wolves, ground squirrels and a large percentage of the world’s fish species.

How You Can Help - Take Action

There are many ways to help support biodiversity in the capital region depending on your circumstances. Here are a few easy tips to get you started:

Naturescape Your Yard

  • Garden with native plants to create habitat and provide food to support local biodiversity. Adapted to our local climate, native plants do not require additional watering once established or the addition of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.
  • Increase habitat in your yard by leaving woody debris, providing rough rocky areas and reducing lawn area.
  • Provide a water source for drinking and bathing.
  • Learn more natural gardening techniques here.

Remove Invasive Species

  • Avoid planting and remove invasive species from your yard. Watch for invasive plants in wildflower mixes and labels that say “vigorous self-seeders” or “rapid spreaders”.
  • Check out Grow Me Instead for beautiful native plant alternatives.

Prevent Pollution

  • Increase permeable surfaces to allow more rainwater to pass into the soil, reducing runoff into our stormwater system which can cause flooding, erosion, pollution and habitat degradation
  • Clean sidewalks and driveways with a brush or broom, rather than power washing.
  • Dispose of hazardous substances (e.g. motor oil, paint, pesticides, solvents) at an appropriate facility.
  • Use active transportation like walking or cycling to reduce car pollution and keep your car properly tuned and maintained

Take Only Photographs, Leave Only Footprints

  • Pack out everything you brought in such as garbage
  • Leave washed up natural items such as driftwood and shells on the beach to be recycled and reused in the ecosystem. Empty shells become new homes for hermit crabs. Seaweed tossed on the shore by fall and winter storms are food for amphipods and other marine critters and the nutrients are recycled back into the marine ecosystem.
  • Avoid trampling plants and animals along the seashore and stay on designated trails while hiking

Get Involved

  • Join or support a local stewardship group that works to protect and restore biodiversity.
  • Learn about the amazing biodiversity in our region and spread the word to friends, family and members of your community!

Photo © Bee on Lupine: Sandi Walmsley; Great Blue Heron in Eelgrass Bed: Julian Anderson

Species ID Guides

Use these guides to help identify some of the most common native species found in the capital region:

CRD Resources

Ecosystem Infosheets

Learn More