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Map of the Pacific Maritime ecozone  

Location | Climate | Geology and geography | Flora and fauna | Humans | Images

The Pacific Maritime ecozone lies along British Columbia's coast and its border with Alaska.

The Pacific Maritime ecozone is Canada's western coastline. Here is where one finds the wettest weather, tallest trees, and deepest fjords in the country. Being so close to the Pacific Ocean, the climate is extremely altered. Summers are cooler, winters more mild. Summer temperatures average 13ļC, while winters average -1.5ļC; there is less difference between winter and summer temperatures here than elsewhere in the country. The mountains block most of the precipitation that clouds would bring to the interior, so precipitation can exceed 4000 mm a year in the north, although some areas get far less than that. The Gulf Islands in the south by contrast receive only 600 mm a year.

Geology and Geography
The Coast Mountains rise steeply from the fjords and channels on the coast, and glaciers are found at higher elevations. These mountains are still young, and even where they are not very tall, as on the Queen Charlotte Islands and Vancouver Island, they are still extremely rugged. As part of the "Ring of Fire" that surrounds the Pacific Ocean, magma is close to the surface here. Instead of dangerous volcanoes, hot springs are the rule.

Flora and Fauna
The rainfall and mild temperatures lead to record-breaking trees, both in size and age. Temperate rain forests are common at lower altitudes, but high altitudes lead to stunted trees, and eventually no trees at all above the treeline. Some of the tree species found here are western red cedar, yellow cedar, western hemlock, mountain hemlock, western yew, coast Douglas fir, amabilis fir, grand fir, coast redwood, Sitka spruce, red alder, lodgepole pine, western white pine , shore pine, Engelmann spruce, Garry oak, and pacific dogwood. Other plants in the ecozone include salal, Oregon grape, arbutus, sword fern, skunk cabbage, salmonberry, devilís club, western bleeding heart, red huckleberry, old manís beard, red elderberry, calypso orchid, and Viola langsdorfii


Some of the characteristic large herbivores include black-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, caribou and mountain goat. The large carnivores of the Pacific Maritime are black bear, grizzly bear, wolf, and mountain lion, Smaller herbivores such as beaver, snowshoe hare, American pika, applodontia, hoary marmot, Vancouver marmot, townsend chipmunk, and chickaree can be found here. The small carnivores include wolverine, mink, river otter, spotted skunk, raccoon, red fox, and marten. Aquatic mammals here include northern sea lion, northern fur seal, Alaska fur seal, harbour seal, elephant seal, California sea lion, giant beaked whale, sperm whale, grey whale, orca, Pacific pilot whale, and blue whale.

Some of the characteristic birds of prey are northern pigmy owl, northern saw-whet owl, short-eared owl, long-eared owl, turkey vulture, bald eagle, and red-tailed hawk. Shorebirds and seabirds that are found here include American black oystercatcher, tufted puffin, glaucous-winged gull, pelagic cormorant, spotted sandpiper, common snipe, pigeon guillemot, rhinoceros auklet, and killdeer. The waterfowl of the region include great blue heron, wood duck, northern pintail, blue-winged teal, mallard, Canada goose, trumpeter swan, and sandhill crane. Some of the songbirds that are found here are chestnut-backed chickadee, Stellerís jay, northwestern crow, red-winged blackbird, cedar waxwing, purple finch, brown creeper, American dipper, and brewer's blackbird. The birds of the forest include California quail, mountain quail, spruce grouse, ruffed grouse, blue grouse, Lewis' woodpecker, band-tailed pigeon, and downy woodpecker.

Amphibians and Reptiles
The moist conditions of the Pacific Maritime allow many amphibians to thrive. A few of the frog and toad species are the western toad, red-legged frog, pacific treefrog, wood frog, and tailed frog. Some of the characteristic salamanders and newts are the roughskin newt, long-toed salamander, northwestern salamander, pacific giant salamander, western redback salamander, and Eschscholtz's salamander. The turtles of the ecozone include leatherback turtle and green turtle. Some snakes and lizards that are found here are the garter snake, western terrestrial garter snake, sharptail snake, northwestern garter snake, and northern aligator lizard.

Pacific salmon, pacific herring, pacific halibut, steelhead, cutthroat trout, dolly varden, rainbow smelt, peamouth, and coastrange sculpin are some of the fish that live here. Some of the species that enter freshwater to spawn are western brook lamprey, pacific lamprey, river lamprey, green sturgeon, white sturgeon, pink salmon, chum salmon, coho salmon, and sockeye salmon.

The oval lake-limpet, western-river pearl mussel, western floater and arctic-alpine fingernail clam are some of the molluscs that live here.

A few of the insects that are found here are red turpentine beetle, Nicrophorus sayi, European earwig, spring azure, American copper, monarch butterfly, mourning cloak, and migratory grasshopper.

Human activities have an enormous effect on the Pacific Maritime ecozone. Two and a half million people live in this ecozone, and the population continues to grow by leaps and bounds. The resulting urban growth has severely strained ecosystems in the areas around the major urban centres. Forestry also threatens many systems and overfishing does much the same in the coastal waters.

Rainforest, Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia
Salmon Glacier, near Stewart, British Columbia
Salmon Glacier, near Stewart, British Columbia


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