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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Towards a holistic assessment of intertidal ecosystem health Ogden, Donna Lesley


A diagnostic tool of intertidal ecosystem health was created and tested at a study area in southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The diagnostic tool was created to promote a more holistic approach to intertidal ecosystem health assessment, in addition to being simple, fast, inexpensive, and accessible. The diagnostic tool was generated after 6 coastal zone managers were interviewed and data were gathered on current practices and challenges in ecosystem health assessment. Based on a conceptual model of intertidal health drawing on the metaphor of the ecosystem as a household, the diagnostic tool was designed with respondents' comments in mind. The tool is composed of a series of questions that ask the practitioner to consider and judge the essential components of, and their interactions within, an intertidal ecosystem to assess the overall health of a specific site. To test the diagnostic tool, species and abundance data were collected from the intertidal zone in the Cordova Bay area, during the summer of 2004. The survey methodology followed the Shorekeepers' protocol for monitoring intertidal habitat in Canada's Pacific Waters (Jamieson et al., 1999). The study area has known impacts primarily from non-point sources of pollution and secondarily, from recreational use. Three sites within the Cordova Bay study area were chosen to reflect the differing severity of impacts. A high impact site, located directly at the mouth of Douglas Creek, carries a large amount of pollutants from urban run-off. A low impact site was chosen several hundred metres away from the mouth of the creek, with a moderately impacted site in between the sites with high and low levels of impact. The field data were used to test and evaluate the diagnostic tool based on its ability to meet the above criteria (holistic approach, simple, fast, inexpensive, accessible). The results indicate that the diagnostic tool is an appropriate first step in working towards an holistic assessment of intertidal ecosystem health. Implications of this research for integrated coastal zone management and future research are discussed in the final chapter of this paper.

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