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Technical Thematic Report No. 11. - Western Interior Basin Ecozone+ Evidence for key findings summary

Conclusion: Human Well-Being and BioDiversity

Many of the WIBE's ecosystem challenges are driven by continued human population growth, land conversion, and land fragmentation. The WIBE is an ecologically unique area of Canada due to its species richness and the significant number of species that occur nowhere else in the country. As the northern extent of the Great Basin Desert, the WIBE is an especially important corridor (and a potential bottleneck if poorly managed) for the northward migration of species as the climate changes.

In the biodiverse southern Okanagan, considerable human/ecosystem interactions have occurred with conversion of the original landscape to urban and agricultural areas. Some types of agriculture are more compatible with ecosystem processes and so pressures to transfer land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve are another threat to ecosystems and biodiversity. In addition, land fragmentation, habitat alteration, and the introduction of invasive species have increased the vulnerability of ecosystems and their capacity to provide ecosystem services.

The growing human population will continue to put pressure on surface water ecosystems that provide irrigation and drinking water. Climate change also threatens water availability in this already water scarce area. This threat will be particularly acute at certain times of year, such as the summer and fall when climate-induced shifts in stream flow result in reduced water availability during seasons when water needs for agricultural are the greatest.

Many of the animals present in the WIBE are iconic species for BC with high value to First Nations for food and ceremonial activities. BC residents also value the animals of the WIBE for wildlife viewing, angling, and hunting. Several large mammal populations are stable but many bird and fish populations are in serious decline. In some instances, there is also cause for optimism as conservation and restoration efforts improve habitat conditions in an effort to reverse these declines.

Despite the impacts of human modifications, some parts of the WIBE remain relatively natural and intact, especially in the west and northwest of the ecozone+. Protected areas have increased in number and area over the past 70 years and provide valuable cultural services as well as habitat conservation. However, the distinct Interior Dry Plateau natural region lacks federal protection.