Science Advisory Report 2009/056

Development of a Framework and Principles for the Biogeographic Classification of Canadian Marine Areas


  • High-level spatial units have been identified for each of Canada’s three oceans which are primarily based on oceanographic and bathymetric similarities. For each ocean these units are:
    • Atlantic Ocean – the Scotian Shelf, the Newfoundland-Labrador Shelves, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence;
    • Pacific Ocean – the Northern Shelf, the Strait of Georgia, the Southern Shelf, and the Offshore Pacific Zone; and
    • Arctic Ocean – Hudson Bay Complex, the Arctic Archipelago, the Arctic Basin, the Eastern Arctic, and the Western Arctic.
  • Transition zones are important features to consider and should be taken into account when delineating boundaries between biogeographic units.
  • There are important scales below the highest spatial scale identified which are defined by similar features, and subdivision of larger biogeographic units should consider bathymetry and oceanography as well as food web structure and benthic communities.
  • All available ecological information and data (including experiential/traditional knowledge) should be taken into consideration when forming hypotheses about the location of boundaries between biogeographic units. Testing should consider these data sources, as well as pattern analysis when appropriate.

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