Gulf Islands Marine Park Reserve Compendium of Research

Posted February 15, 2010 | Categories : 121,15,37,Federal Stewardship,Maps,Reports,Research |

The Friends of Ecological reserves maintains that the baseline work done on Ecological Reserves now ceded by the province to Parks Canada justifies them as still being recognized as special research areas and it is hoped that they will be designated as such.

Research Projects on Brackman Island, former ER #121, and Saturna Island, #15 as well as one article related to the (non-GINPR) Mount Maxwell ER#37  are included in this compendium

Executive Summary

This report is a review of research studies that have been conducted in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR) from the time of park establishment in 2003 to the end of 2009. It provides context for researchers and Parks Canada to gain a deeper understanding of the Park on a multitude of levels. Due to the relatively recent establishment of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, the research program is in its infancy and administrative tools like a functional research database have not been created until now. T share research activities and findings. The primary goals of this report are to: 1) summarize each study by year of initiation and compile the information into one report accessible to Parks Canada staff, the research community, and the general public; 2) create local, regional, and international awareness regarding research conducted in the Park; and, 3) generate interest among potential researchers to conduct relevant research in the Park. This is the first report of its kind for a Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. There continues to be increasing interest from well established researchers in the region and those who may be new to the area and contemplating future involvement in our program. There is also a recognized need and increasing demand for public outreach and awareness regarding research in national heritage areas. We are hoping to increase awareness in these groups thereby leading to increased and focussed research efforts in GINPR based on identified management challenges that the park faces.


See the full PDF here: ginpr_research_compendium

Over the past six years, the park has issued permits for 54 research projects in Natural Science, Archaeological/Historical Research and Social Science. The existing permits are predominantly natural science based as there is a more established and pre-existing permitting program in place. The other disciplines have only come under this permitting program since 2006 and awareness is still building around the need for permits. Research has been sponsored by internal researchers at the park and the Western Canada Service Centre as well as eight universities and several other agencies and NGOs.

Research priorities were established shortly after park establishment but these were interim and incomplete. Many of these priorities have been addressed by research initiatives over the past several years and a new set of research priorities will be generated as a result of this review, the Sate of the Park Report and the Park Management Planning Process that is currently underway.


Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

GINPR was established May 9, 2003 by agreement between the governments of British Columbia and Canada. The park reserve represents the Strait of Georgia Lowlands Natural Region the smallest and most urbanized natural region in Canada and includes lands and waters extending over 15 islands. More than 5.8 million people live within a five-hour travel distance of the park, and the region also attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually for both marine and land-based recreation. The park is a meeting place for a myriad of contrasting, complementary, and competing forces. The unique ecosystem exists in the Gulf Islands because of the mix of ecological forces created by the Vancouver Island rain shadow, the influx of nutrient-rich marine waters from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the freshwater outflow of the Fraser River. The unique location and the Mediterranean-type climate allow delicate meadow flowers and sensitive mosses to grow on the rocky shores and coastal bluffs and provide the ost imperilled ecosystems. Although the ecosystems in the region may be far from pristine and contain introduced species,

Similarly, the park embodies a rich human history stretching from thousands of years ago to the present. Many First Nations lived on these islands and they believe they are entrusted with protecting the islands for future generations. This deep spiritual connection to the area and traditional uses continues today. Over the last two centuries, members of many other cultures, including Hawaiians, African-Americans, Japanese, Chinese, and Europeans have joined First Nations residents. Each culture has brought its own distinctive traditions and approach to the cultural landscape; they have been part of the ecosystem, adapting to and modifying the natural environment of the region over the years.

As is the case with GINPR, when outstanding First Nations interests exist in relation to national park lands, the term national park reserve is used. This natural park reserve status does not affect

Why conduct research in a National Park?

National parks act as long-term ecological research sites, serving as ecological benchmarks, for the study of natural environments and their components in a relatively undisturbed state. Park based research is not only of value in assisting park management and interpretation, but contributes to the growing body of scientific knowledge concerning our natural world and human interaction with it. Scientific studies in parks are seen as increasingly important because they can help reveal changes occurring in ecosystems as a result of human intervention or nature.

Parks Canada Agency is responsible for protecting and presenting heritage areas for present and future generations. These responsibilities are discharged using various legislative and policy n or restore ecological integrity, monitor and ensure the commemorative integrity of historic places, protect cultural and natural resources, and provide for appropriate visitor experiences. Achieving these goals requires a full understanding of the natural and cultural elements in Heritage Areas, their inter-relationships, the natural processes, and visitor interests and activities. Long term accumulation and analysis of information derived from scientific research and traditional knowledge are important tools to realize this goal. The Research and Collection Permit System enables the Parks Canada Agency lfil its mandate.

Furthermore, Parks Canada is one of the principle cultural resource management organizations in Canada. It is responsible for a vast array of cultural resources in public settings at Heritage Areas, including cultural landscapes and landscape features, archaeological sites, structures, engineering works, artifacts, and associate efforts to protect and present these cultural resources for public benefit, and represent part of the on-going efforts to protect, understand and appreciate our human heritage. Heritage Area managers increasingly recognize that timely and reliable information, to which research information is seen as integral, is essential for sound decisions and high quality visitor experiences. Parks Canada welcomes proposals for scientific studies that are consistent with its mandate. These responsibilities are discharged using various policy and legal instruments such as Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, and the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Research Priorities

As a newly established park reserve, research priorities are evolving as we continue to focus on the collection and analysis of baseline inventory data. Listed below are some general research priorities that have been identified as necessary for park management in the shorter term (detailed list in Appendix C). This list was created in 2005 by GINPR staff. The majority of studies conducted so far have been primarily in the first 3-4 categories, consisting mostly of natural science studies as managers continue to develop an understanding of both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. This list is almost five years out-dated and needs to be revised to incorporate new findings. This report will serve as a reference point for GINPR staff to guide management decisions, influence future research, and assist in generating a revised list of research priorities.

Research activities within parks are not necessarily restricted to topics of direct relevance to park management; however, researchers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with park management issues which may be of interest and to contact the park once they have a specific research topic in mind to discuss their proposals.

Research Categories:

1. Inventory and Status Surveys
2. Ecosystem and Habitat Studies
3. Studies on Ecology and Behavior of Species 4. Long-Monitoring Studies
5. Impact Assessment Studies
6. Geophysical Studies
7. Aboriginal and Traditional Knowledge
8. Social Science Studies
9. Archaeology/Human History

M ethodology

The purpose of this report is to compile and summarize all research conducted in GINPR since establishment in 2003. This involved auditing research permits for the Park and inputting information into a database. Each research project was reviewed based on annual research reports and other information located in the research permit files. These data were compiled in a standardized database as well as digital and hard-copy files. For the purposes of reporting in this report, some basic summary statistics were generated to describe the research program to date. Recommends for future work to improve the administration of the research program and to improve on reporting out to interested parties are included.

For the development of this report, data is further summarized and displayed in standard templates. As draft templates were generated for each research project, the principle researchers were contacted either to provide the missing documents and reports or to review the draft templates for accuracy. This was done through E-mail, in-person interviews, and phone interviews. A standardized letter was sent to each researcher outlining the goals of the report and a request for an update/revision of the templates, along with a request to send any remaining reports. Follow-up communications occurred in efforts to finalize templates with the most current information from research studies. Where researchers did not respond, the information has been presented in draft. Project Name: Highlighted in red indicates the template has not been reviewed by the researcher.

Records are based on information available in existing files and records. This initiative has provided an opportunity to identify missing documents or data. Efforts will be made to retrieve these missing elements so that they can be archived in the park offices and provided in future updates.


Review of research permits for GINPR provides an indicator of research effort in the protected area. Research permits are categorized based on input to the National Research and Collection Permit System ( which was established in 2006. Due to the developmental nature of this database, earlier years (2003-2006) rely on park-based records.

From 2003 to 2009, the number of active research permits has increased annually to a high of 24 permits in 2007, declining slightly to 21 permits in 2008, and increasing again to 23 permits in 2009 (Figure 2). The number of research permits issued in 2003 reflects the need to collect baseline data by means of inventories and surveys for the Strait of Georgia Lowlands natural region the park lies within. As little scientific data existed for ecosystems and their inhabitants prior to park establishment, 2003 became a critical year for researchers and parks staff to begin ecological monitoring programs (Figure 3). Six to ten new permits are issued per year in GINPR

with an expected increase in future years, while approximately fifteen permits are renewed annually. So far, 64 permits have been applied for, while only 54 permits have been approved. Where permits have not been approved, it is generally for one of three reasons: 1) Funding issues may prevent researchers from carrying out their research; 2) Proposed studies may be components; 3) Researchers identify other areas outside of the park to undertake their research.

Natural science research is the dominant discipline facilitating research in the park, reflecting the number of academic research, inventory, and monitoring programs (Figure 4). Archaeology research reflects basic resource inventory efforts as well as some site-specific initiatives. Archaeological surveys undertaken for environmental assessment are not permitted individually but fall under the blanket annual permit issued to the Western Canada Service Centre. Similarly, a small number of natural resource inventory and monitoring programs are not covered under the permit process. Social science is under-represented because it has only recently come under the permitting policy and is not yet fully integrated. Parks Canada is increasing capacity in social science and social marketing. This new capacity is in demand and it is anticipated that there will be increased research effort in future years. Respecting archaeology and historical research effort, the basic resource inventory phase of park establishment is nearing completion, but the park anticipates continued effort at specific sites for inventory, academic research, and condition monitoring.

The two dominant sponsors facilitating research in the park so far have been Parks Canada with 23 studies and University sponsors with 21 studies. University-sponsored research is lead by the University of British Columbia with 9 studies so far, followed by the University of Victoria with 6 studies. Universities involved in research within the Park demonstrate the attraction of local protected areas for facilitating research. Permits issued to other governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations are fewer. This is often due to funding issues and lack of resources. There appear to be three-year trends seen for Parks Canada (2003-2005 and 2007- 2009). These likely represent three-year permits issued specifically for social science and natural science studies (These permits must be renewed on a three year basis). It is important to note that permit holders operating under three-year permits are required to submit interim reports updating Park staff on research activities, as well as any new trajectories their studies may have taken. Where the research program shifts beyond the scope of a permit, a new application or amendment is required.

Declines in research effort in a given year most likely reflect a reduction in park resources available to support research programs. For example, many university researchers prefer to work within the national park system and typically rely on Parks Canada for technical and logistical support. Without dedicated human resources, funds in place, and a mechanism to access these funds in a timely way, it is difficult to provide committed support to access researchers and, therefore, difficult to build long term relationships or long term programs.


Listed below are recommended strategies and general ideas for the future management of the Research Permit Registry Program and Research Compendium Report.

Develop and implement a management strategy
Have one staff member manage incoming permit proposals and renewals Update database and report annually

  1. Update research priorities for the ParkManagers and Park ecologist to review and revise existing priorities and to take into account future struggles (eg. Climate change)
  2. Make template document mandatory for researchers to fill out when agreeing to terms of research permitThis will reduce internal Park tasks and increase efficiency and accuracy of information made available to the public