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Ecoregion profile: Lower Mainland of British Columbia


Doug Trant, Hugo Larocque and Giuseppe Filoso, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division

The Lower Mainland ecoregion is one of Canada’s 194 ecoregions (Map 1) and will be one of the sites of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. This relatively small 5,067 square kilometre region is one of Canada’s most rapidly changing ecoregions, largely because of its growing population and its evolving socio-economy.

Map 1 Lower Mainland ecoregion

Population in the ecoregion increased by 102% between 1971 and 2006. In comparison, Canada's population grew by 47% (Table 1). The Lower Mainland ecoregion was Canada’s most densely populated ecoregion with 473 persons per square kilometre in 2006. The main population centres include the Vancouver and Abbotsford-Mission metropolitan areas. The population of the ecoregion in 2006 was approximately 2.4 million people, representing 7.6% of Canada’s population.

Table 1 Lower Mainland ecoregion

The main land uses in the ecoregion are forests, developed land and agriculture (Map 2 and Chart 1). Intensive agriculture occurs on the valley bottoms of the Fraser River valley where it competes with urban development. In 2006, 56,889 hectares of cropland were under operation in the region (Table 1). Coastal salt marshes are important wildlife habitat on the Fraser River delta and adjacent Boundary Bay. Land development continues in the Vancouver area and amongst many communities in the Fraser River valley and along the Sunshine Coast.1 At the start of the decade, 23% of the region was in developed land. Forests occupied the largest proportion of the region with 44% of the ecoregion’s area in various forest types.

Map 2 Land cover, Lower Mainland ecoregion, circa 2000

Chart 1 Lower Mainland ecoregion, by type of land cover, circa 2000

Between 1971 and 2006, agricultural land area remained relatively stable, declining by less than 3% (Table 1). Over this period, the number of cattle declined by 12%; however, poultry inventories in the region have gone up significantly, rising by 129% between 1971 and 2006. The region accounts for 13% of Canada’s poultry production in 2006.


  1. Environment Canada, 2005, National Ecological Framework for Canada (accessed October 8, 2009).