Great Canadian Parks / British Columbia

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The Parks / British Columbia / Gwaii Haanas National Park



 

Burnaby Narrows is a 50 metre wide shallow channel between Moresby and Burnaby Islands. With every tide, the ocean provides a replenishment of nutrient rich water, which has resulted in an unparalleled marine ecosystem. Quantitative studies conducted in 1992 and 1993 determined that this area contained some of the highest levels of living material (called ‘biomass’) of any intertidal zone in the world. Researchers counted 293 different species and numerous varieties within each.

The Bat star is a five-tentacled creature that seems to come in every colour of the spectrum. At Burnaby Narrows, on average, there are 74 bat stars per square metre; the same species exists on the west coast of Vancouver Island at a density of three per square metre. Red turban snails and moon snails, limpets, mussels, barnacles, periwinkles and clams, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers and of course, star fish, all live in a forest of kelp. The same tidal action that provides the nutrients also makes the rich marine life accessible for viewing. Virtually all the species float through the narrows at low tide in little more than a foot or two of water. Additionally, many areas are high and dry. Numerous stars cling to rock faces, temporarily abandoned by the ocean. Mussel beds and clam beds are exposed. Tiny shore crabs scramble for cover under rocks or seek remnant pools. Human curiosity is the danger in this exposure and the park is working to increase visitor knowledge of these fragile environments, advocating a no-walk policy for the intertidal zones.

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