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Ecological Framework of Canada
Pacific Maritime Ecozone

Plants

  1. Western hemlock
  2. Red alder
  3. Yellow cedar (cypress)
  4. Sitka spruce
  5. Sword fen
  6. Skunk cabbage
  7. Salmonberry
  8. Devil's club
  9. Pacific dogwood
  10. Western bleeding heart
  11. Salal
  12. Kelp bed
  13. Douglas fir
  14. Red huckleberry
  15. Bracket fungus
  16. Red cedar
  17. Old man's beard
  18. Red elderberry
  19. Moss
  20. Calypso orchid
  21. Viola langsdorfii

The combination of heavy rainfall and year-round mild temperatures support some of the most spectacular temperate rain forests in the world. Here are Canada's most productive forests and its biggest and oldest trees. A record-breaking Douglas Fir near Red Creek measures over 14 metres around and 80 metres high; a western Red Cedar on Meares Island is 20 metres around; Carmanah Creek is home to the world's tallest Sitka Spruce at 95 metres; Cathedral Grove is dominated by Douglas Fir as tall in feet as they are old in years -- up to 250 feet (85 metres). Yet these trees are still young compared to other western Red Cedars, which reach over 2 000 years of age.

The forest ecosystems found here vary with elevation and precipitation. In low-lying coastal areas, Western Hemlock forests dominate; in higher elevations subalpine Mountain Hemlock forests are more common; and small areas of dry Douglas Fir forests are found on the leeward side of the mountains. It is the coastal Western Hemlock forests that make up the famous rainforests of this ecozone.

Coastal temperate rainforests are globally scarce, originally covering barely 0.2% of the earth's land area. Today, the largest undeveloped tracts of these forests are found in South America and North America, much of which -- approximately 106 000 square kilometres -- is in the Pacific Maritime Ecozone. These forests contain ecosystems with the highest biomass per hectare on Earth. The western coastal forest is composed mostly of Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir, Mountain Hemlock, Amabilis Fir, Sitka Spruce, Yellow Cedar and Alder. Douglas Fir is confined largely to southern regions while, in the north, Amabilis Fir is more common. As the elevation increases, the Mountain Hemlock and Yellow Cedars give way to stunted clumps of trees known as "krummholz." Above 900 metres, treeless alpine tundra takes over.

A unique forest ecosystem in the dry rainshadow climate of the Gulf Islands and Saanich Peninsula is the Arbutus and Garry Oak woodland. Among B.C.ís rarest forests, it is considered one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. Urbanization, wildfire suppression and the introduction of exotic species such as Scotch Broom have destroyed about 95% of its original range.