Ocean Health Index

Burrard Inlet: Port of Vancouver and traditional territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations

Client: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

Time: 2021 – 2023

Services: Study design, working with Port and First Nations, field operations, lab management, data management and analysis in R and Primer7, reporting.

Ecosystem health is the capacity to maintain a balanced, integrated, adaptive ecological system having the full range of elements and processes expected in the natural habitat, even in the face of external stresses. This pilot project developed a framework, completed all measurements from the field, and ran a fully computed example of an Ecosystem Health Index (EHI) for Burrard Inlet, an ocean fiord on the British Columbia south coast that is home to the Port of Vancouver, the largest Port in Canada, and is part of the unceeded traditional territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

In addition to index calculations, underlying data were analyzed to assist with ecological understanding of the EHI. In-depth analyses included descriptions of spatial and temporal variation among biotic and abiotic patterns and links between those patterns. EHI values show Burrard Inlet ecological health is compromised based on scores in the low-60s out of 100. Water quality and plankton scored highest while sediment quality and trophic state scored lowest. Low scores were related to past industrial discharges and low dissolved oxygen concentrations unrelated to industry.

The present EHI does not describe a baseline but rather is a framework to be followed over time and space showing if and how land and water management actions change the overall quality of Burrard Inlet as a present and future place for peoples that first came here thousands of years ago.

Collaboration with

Let’s do more like this together