Environment
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Christmas Hill in Saanich becomes a world Key Biodiversity Area

The Christmas Hill Garry oak ecosystem is acknowledged as rare and irreplaceable

Environment
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Christmas Hill in Saanich becomes a world Key Biodiversity Area

The Christmas Hill Garry oak ecosystem is acknowledged as rare and irreplaceable

Christmas Hill meadow. Photo: Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary / Facebook
Christmas Hill meadow. Photo: Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary / Facebook
Environment
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Christmas Hill in Saanich becomes a world Key Biodiversity Area

The Christmas Hill Garry oak ecosystem is acknowledged as rare and irreplaceable

Get the news and events in Victoria, in your inbox every morning.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Christmas Hill in Saanich becomes a world Key Biodiversity Area
Christmas Hill meadow. Photo: Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary / Facebook

On International Biodiversity Day, May 22, Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary announced that Christmas Hill joined Trial Islands Ecological Reserve as a designated Key Biodiversity Area (KBA). KBAs are special areas that support rare and endangered species and ecosystems and key natural processes. The Trial Islands Ecological Reserve, off Oak Bay’s shores, was the first designated key biodiversity area in Canada. 

Christmas Hill is a significant example of the endangered Garry oak ecosystem. A Garry oak ecosystem has naturally occurring Garry oaks—the only native oak trees in western Canada—and ecological processes that existed prior to European settlement. The area supports some 250 plant species and numerous animals. Many of these have been harvested by W̱JOȽEȽP (Tsartlip), BOḰEĆEN (Pauquachin), SȾÁUTW̱ (Tsawout), W̱SIḴEM (Tseycum) and MÁLEXEȽ (Malahat) First Nations communities for food, clothing, medicines, shelter and ceremony for millenia. 

The majority of the 170+ acres of the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary lands are owned by the District of Saanich and receive 70k visits annually. Mayor Dean Murdock was on hand to celebrate. 

“We are really excited about the Key Biodiversity Area status for Christmas Hill by the KBA Canada Coalition,” Murdock told Capital Daily. “Christmas Hill is an incredible natural space and the special status recognizes it as a global hotspot for biodiversity. I want to acknowledge the significant conservation efforts from countless individuals over the years to protect and preserve Christmas Hill. We look forward to continuing to work with the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary to conserve this truly amazing space in the heart of Saanich.”

The KBA initiative maps and recognizes Canada’s most critical places for species and ecosystems. Nominations and proposals for KBAs must be submitted through the Canadian KBA Secretariat and can take up to 12 years to review. In 1999, long before the designation, Saanich created an Environmentally Significant Areas Atlas which was one of the first in the province. The atlas is used to flag important environmental features and inform decision-making. Much of this information is accessible on the Atlas public mapping (GIS) system. 

Cara Gibson, executive director at Swan Lake said, “We first learned of the opportunity just over two years ago and we gathered our materials and submitted the application in winter 2022.” The designation “elevates our conversations around conserving Christmas Hill to the provincial and national levels.”

The designation does not give Christmas Hill any new management prescription or legal status. However, it is recognized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Taskforce on Biodiversity and Protected Areas (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest environmental organization in the world. The IUCN  has more than 1,200 government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries.

The task force can be traced back to 2004 when IUCN membership agreed to develop a set of criteria that would enable countries to identify KBAs. The criteria are a set of quantitative thresholds that are based on data collected over time to prove an area makes a significant contribution to global biodiversity and can be applied to macroscopic biodiversity in land, inland water and marine environments. Some of the criteria include rarity and irreplaceability and whether the area is host to biological processes such as hibernation or migration. 

At the national level, a standard for KBAs in Canada was established in 2021. 

Not every environment offers KBAs protection. A recent report published by the International Review of the Red Cross (IRRC)  indicates that KBAs are disproportionately located in areas of the world impacted by armed conflict. The IRRC says that geospatial data shows that more than 1,500 refugee or Internally Displaced People camps can be mapped onto existing KBAs. 

The authors of the report write “Conflicts do not just impact biodiversity, putting pressure on wildlife and habitats; they also impact the management of protected areas and those responsible for keeping them safe and regulated.” The report points out the increased scale of destruction that “is brought about in high-intensity warfare backed with complex military technology versus ‘bush’ wars where the AK47 dominates.

The nature reserve has been stewarded by a small, skilled team of dedicated staff, and active community volunteers, however, just as geopolitical conflicts have shifting impacts on KBAs, the designation may not be permanent. The IUCN suggests that sites be re-assessed against the criteria and thresholds at least once every eight to 12 years. For the last 50 years.

contact@capitaldaily.ca

Related News

Delays, disruptions, fires, and health concerns: CRD's biosolids plan beset with issues
Stay connected to your city with the Capital Daily newsletter.
By filling out the form above, you agree to receive emails from Capital Daily. You can unsubscribe at any time.