Ecosystem Status Report 2004/006
Identification of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas
- Identifying Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas is not a general strategy for protecting all habitats and marine communities that have some ecological significance. Rather, it is a tool for calling attention to an area that has particularly high Ecological or Biological Significance, to facilitate provision of a greater-than-usual degree of risk aversion in management of activities in such areas.
- There is a continuum of activities in the process of bringing Ecologically and Biologically Significant areas into management. All steps are science-based, in the sense that they work from scientifically sound information. However, the role of science changes along the continuum from being science-led in identifying such areas to management and stake-holder led processes for developing and implementing management plans accommodating such areas.
- At a conceptual level, there are three main dimensions along which specific areas can be evaluated with regard to their Ecological and Biological Significance – Uniqueness, Aggregation, and Fitness Consequences. Interpretation of specific cases on these three dimensions should take account of two additional dimensions on which specific areas can be evaluated – Resilience and Naturalness.
- Evaluation of sites within this framework is a relative process, and not an absolute one. Both ecological conditions and information about ecological areas are so variable around Canada’s oceans that it would be inappropriate to set a specific “score” which would automatically qualify an area as Ecologically and Biologically Significant. Rather, the framework is to be used to identify areas as especially “Ecologically and Biologically Significant” compared to other areas in the region.
- Evaluation of sites within this framework should be based on the biological and ecological properties of areas, and not consider threats and risks to those sites. However management of areas selected as Ecologically and Biologically Significant should take full account of threats to the ecological areas.
- The framework and the concepts of Ecological and Biological Significance work best when applied to geographic sites. Nonetheless the locations of some features, particularly physical and biological oceanographic ones, may vary substantially seasonally and inter-annually, and still be Ecologically and Biologically Significant. Spatial and temporal scale are both important to application of the framework to identify boundaries of areas considered Ecologically and Biologically Significant.
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