This section answers frequently asked questions about biodiversity and the Biodiversity Atlas. If you would like more information, please don't hesitate to contact us or visit our links page for other related sites.

  1. What is biodiversity?
  2. Why is biodiversity important?
  3. What about biodiversity in British Columbia?
  4. What is the Biodiversity Atlas Project?
  5. Why is this project important?
  6. What is the scope of the project?
  7. How will this project help preserve British Columbia's biodiversity?
  8. Who is developing this Biodiversity Atlas?
  9. How is it funded?
  10. What is the Selkirk College Geospatial Research Centre (SGRC)?
  11. As a private landowner, what can I do to help conserve biodiversity?
  12. What is the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP)?
  13. What is the CBT Environmental Initiatives Program (CBT-EIP)?
  14. What is The Nature Trust of BC?
  15. What is the FortisBC Environmental Program?
  16. What are Citizen Science and the Wildlife Reporter?
  17. How can I comment on the Biodiversity Atlas?

Answers for some of these FAQs have been reprinted with permission, from British Columbia's Ministry of Environment publication, "Biodiversity in British Columbia".

What is biodiversity?

Biologists use the term biodiversity to refer to life in all its forms and the habitats and natural processes that support life. Biodiversity encompasses:

Why is biodiversity important?

The health of the planet depends on conserving biodiversity and sustaining the viability of ecosystems. Ecosystems support all forms of life, moderate climates, filter water and air, conserve soil and nutrients, and control pests. Species provide us with food, building materials, energy, and medicines. They also provide services free of charge such as pollination, waste assimilation, and distribution of seeds and nutrients.

Many commercially important breeds of plants and animals exist because of naturally occurring differences in species. Genetic diversity also enables us to breed higher-yield and disease-resistant plants and animals and allows the development or evolution of breeds and races that thrive under a variety of environmental conditions.

In addition, there are ethical concerns involved in making decisions that affect biological diversity. If all life forms have an intrinsic value, as many argue, we have a moral obligation to protect them and ensure that they survive because of their own intrinsic worth, as well as their value to future generations.

What about biodiversity in British Columbia?

Many scientists believe we are in a global 'biodiversity crisis.' They attribute the decline of biodiversity to the loss and degradation of habitats, the invasion of exotic species, over-exploitation of resources, and environmental shifts such as climate changes, pollution and increases in ultra-violet light, and the fragmentation of habitat into segments too small to maintain a full complement of species and processes.

Here are some issues with significant implications for biodiversity in British Columbia.

What is the Biodiversity Atlas Project?

The Biodiversity Atlas Project is a way of presenting information about the biodiversity of Columbia River Basin wildlife species and their habitats to the research community, resource managers, local decision-makers, the public and others. The Biodiversity Atlas addresses terrestrial — land-based — species and their habitats as well as some amphibian and aquatic species.

The Biodiversity Atlas uses maps, facts, reports and pictures to tell the story of wildlife and their habitats in the Columbia River Basin.

The Biodiversity Atlas assembles web-based geographic information systems (GIS) data into a dynamic interface that is based on interactive maps. In addition to the maps, this web site includes other information intended to increase awareness about biodiversity and the impact of human activity on wildlife and their habitats.

Why is this project important?

A science-based understanding of species and ecosystems is the foundation for successful conservation planning and management. However, the vast amount of information flowing from research and management activity is a challenge to navigate and often key reports or datasets are overlooked.

The goal of the Biodiversity Atlas is to build a system that uses maps, text, tables, and photos to provide a powerful interface for searching, discovering, and accessing information on species and their habitats that will ultimately lead to better conservation planning and decision making.

As a result of the Biodiversity Atlas Pilot Project in the East Kootenay, landowners and decision-makers now have access to information about species and habitats and will be able to include that information in their conservation planning in Canada's portion of the Columbia River Basin.

If we are to conserve biodiversity in British Columbia, land- and water-use decisions must be based on a sound understanding of British Columbia's ecosystems and processes.

What is the scope of the project?

Though originally focussed on the East Kootenay region within the Columbia Basin, the Atlas now includes information on the entire Canadian Columbia River Basin. Always growing in number, our focus is on species whose conservation is a concern.

How will the Biodiversity Atlas help preserve British Columbia's biodiversity?

The information available in the Biodiversity Atlas, through its dynamic maps and data, will help protect British Columbia's biodiversity by providing important information to resource managers, groups and individuals pursuing conservation efforts in the Columbia Basin.

For example, acquiring land for conservation purposes is a primary tool to offset accelerating loss of habitat. Groups acquiring land for conservation purposes can now make decisions about what additional lands should be conserved and how best to manage land already acquired for conservation, based on the data now available through this project.

Private landowners will be better able to gauge the impact of their land management by considering their decisions in a broader context. Local governments will now be able to consider this information in their water and land-use planning decisions.

By using the interactive maps, you can 'zoom' to any area of interest and find out more about biodiversity.

Any individual, group or agency concerned about biodiversity — and protecting the rich and diverse species and habitats found in the Columbia Basin — can now access a range of data in one, on-line location.

Resource managers in Canada and the United States recognize that open, honest communication and effective information sharing are important foundations for resolving land and water use conflicts, and are essential to economic and environmental sustainability in the Columbia Basin.

Who is developing this Biodiversity Atlas?

A working group, comprised of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) staff, University of British Columbia, British Columbia Ministries of Sustainable Resource Management, and Water, Land & Air Protection, Selkirk College, professional biologists, and web site developers was formed in 2001. This working group was asked to establish partnership agreements for data sharing, hosting and development costs, and to launch this web site-based Biodiversity Atlas.

In 2007, the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) entered into a new partnership with the Selkirk Geospatial Research Centre (SGRC) to further develop the Biodiversity Atlas. A planning workshop was held in 2007 to set priorities and identify opportunities. The results of this workshop are available online.

Since this time the SGRC has led development of the Biodiversity Atlas.  As well as funding and in-kind support from FWCP, we have  secured funding through CBT?s Environmental Initiatives Program (link) through successful grant proposals.   We have also had financial contributions from The Nature Trust of BC (TNT) and FortisBC.   Our current steering committee includes representatives from SGRC, FWCP, CBT, TNT, B. C. Ministries of Environment and Natural Resource Operations, the Regional District of Central Kootenay, Golden, Parks Canada, and the wildlife biology consulting community.   See our steering committee document for a complete list.

How is it funded?

The Biodiversity Atlas Project has received funds from FWCP, CBT-EIP, TNT, and FortisBC and in-kind support from Selkirk College's SGRC.  It began life as  one of the many projects funded by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP). The Web-based Geographic Information System (GIS) Interactive Mapping Database was first developed with the assistance of the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.  Information on the early days of the project can be found in the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) document "Columbia Basin Biodiversity Atlas: Phase 1 Final Report" available at

More funding sources will be identified and pursued in order to develop the Biodiversity Atlas to its full potential. Contact us if you would like to fund this important project.

What is the Selkirk College Geospatial Research Centre (SGRC)?

The Selkirk Geospatial Research Centre (SGRC) is a leading-edge research centre specializing in mapping technologies to aid in solving critical issues pertaining to environmental and socio-economic problems. Our experienced and capable researchers apply the best technology to help you approach decisions with greater understanding.

While applied research is the heart of the SGRC, the same expertise and equipment offers excellent training capacity. Our courses provide training covering the breadth of geospatial technology and software used in research, industry and government organizations.

The people and technology required to address your applied spatial research needs are available at the SGRC. Step into partnership with us and discover a better way to make informed decisions in a complex world.

As a private landowner, what can I do to help conserve biodiversity?

As a private landowner there are a number of things you can do to help conserve biodiversity.

What is the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP)?

The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) is a joint initiative between BC Hydro, the British Columbia Government (Ministry of Environment) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife populations affected by construction of BC Hydro dams in Canada's portion of the Columbia Basin.

The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) is a primary funder of the Biodiversity Atlas. Its geographic area of responsibility includes the part of the Columbia River Basin that drains into the main stem of the river before it crosses the border into the United States. As a result, the Okanagan and Flathead Rivers are not part of the FWCP area, as they join the Columbia River south of the border. On the other hand, part of the upper Fraser River Basin, the Robson Valley, is included within the study area as similar wildlife habitat is available in the Robson Valley compared to what was flooded.

What is the CBT Environmental Initiatives Program (CBT-EIP)?

CBT's Environmental Initiatives Program (EIP) provides support to community-initiated and supported environmental projects that aim to reduce the impacts humans have on local and regional ecosystems.   CBT puts out an annual proposal call for large and small projects.   This can be accessed via its website at

What is The Nature Trust of BC?

The Nature Trust of British Columbia is dedicated to conserving BC's biological diversity through securement and management of ecologically significant lands.  Find out more about The Nature Trust of BC at

What is FortisBC Environmental Program?

FortisBC is an electrical generating and distributing company which is wholly owned by Fortis Inc. The environmental program supports community projects within its service are in southeastern BC.

What are Citizen Science and the Wildlife Reporter?

Citizen science is any action taken by non-scientists as a part of scientific research.   Typically, a scientist develops and leads the overall project, working with a number of people who are not expert in that discipline.  This allows for an increase—often significant—in the amount of information that the scientist can collect (or process) themselves. For an interesting profile on some excellent citizen scientists, read this article from the June 2010 issue of the Canadian Geographic.

The wildlife reporter is a way for Basin residents and visitors to contribute information to wildlife science and conservation projects underway in the Basin.   Professional biologists have selected the species to include on the Wildlife Reporter (we have 10 species in 2010) based on the wildlife projects supported by FWCP.  Biologists will review information contributed by the public to ensure its accuracy in terms of location and species identification.    After screening the data for sensitive locations, such as breeding habitat including nests and dens, this data will be added to the Biodiversity Atlas to further increase public access to information about Basin biodiversity.  See for more.

How can I comment on the Biodiversity Atlas?

We would love your feedback on the current Biodiversity Atlas as well as your ideas on developing the Atlas further. Please take a minute to answer our survey. You may also contact us directly.





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