8. Physical Geography of British Columbia


Physical geography is the study of the processes and patterns of the natural environment. This chapter provided an overview of the array of process that create British Columbia’s physical characteristics and give the province its unique landscape.  BC’s complex landscape includes 47 official ecoregions as defined by the government of BC – areas with physiographic, microclimatic and oceanographic variation. Marine and terrestrial ecosystems interact to create a unique and vibrant coastal zone.

Climate change refers to change in weather patterns over time. Climate change impacts irreplaceable natural resources: water and air, game, fish, scenery, flood control natural barriers, metals, minerals and natural gas. The province of British Columbia must take some actions to further protect the environment of the region. Each person can make a difference if acting as a collective. Possible actions include:

  • Reducing emissions by reducing car usage, buying food locally, using eco-friendly products where possible, buying energy efficient appliances, getting energy from renewable sources and turning down heat sources in winter by just two degrees.
  • Enhancing preparedness procedures, as has been done with the creation of  FireSmart communities.

Geology refers to the study of the solid features of any celestial body (such as the Moon or Mars). Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth by providing the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life and past climates. Geology is vital in BC as economic development is associated with mineral and hydrocarbon (oil and natural gas) exploration and harvest.

Geomorphology is the study of the process that creates and transforms the surface of the Earth. Geomorphology seeks to understand landform history and dynamics, and predict future changes through a combination of field observation, physical experiment and numerical modelling (geomorphometry). Plate tectonics theory suggests that the Earth’s lithosphere is made up of seven large plates and several small ones. The plate edges are where most volcanic and earthquake activity take place.

Natural hazards are a direct result of the physical geography of BC. BC has a complex system of fault lines. The five fault lines featured in the chapter are the Pinchi Fault in Central BC, the Fraser River Fault, the Columbia River Fault, the Rocky Mountain Fault and the San Juan Fault.

Some of the most devastating events that have occurred because of natural hazards include the Okanagan forest fire, the Hope Slide and the Port Alberni tsunami.