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Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) are sites identified as areas that provide productive fish and wildlife habitat; contain sensitive, rare or depleted ecosystems and landforms; and represent sites of Nanaimo's natural diversity that are in danger of disappearing.

The City of Nanaimo currently has identified ESAs in "Schedule B" of the Official Community Plan. Aside from the protection given to watercourses and their leave strips, ESAs are currently not protected by municipal regulations. However, work is underway to catalog the values in these areas and develop protection mechanisms.

What TYPES of ESAs are there?

Wetlands - form where water remains at or near the land surface. They are the most productive ecosystems of all.

Riparian - ecosystems form beside lakes, streams and rivers where soil moisture and light conditions support plants that are distinct from surrounding land areas. They supply critical habitat conditions for fish (food, cover, and water).

Rocky outcrops (Terrestrial Herbaceous) - that have natural grassland as well as grass/moss covered rock outcrops. Few trees survive on the shallow soil, but spring wildflowers thrive here. A number of rare species of plants, mosses, and butterflies are known to live in these sites.

Arbutus / Garry oak Woodland - are found in open forested areas that support a rich diversity of plants, insects, reptiles, and birds. Garry oak woodland is known to have an especially high number of plant species.

Older Forests are largely conifer forests with an average age of 100 years or more. These ecosystems include standing dead trees, fallen logs, and large live trees. Some species found here can only survive in typical features, such as hollow tree centers and underneath thick tree bark.

Why protect these sites?

ESAs are RARE: more than 90% of their original landscape has been altered or removed. Garry oak woodlands are one of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada.

ESAs add to the QUALITY OF LIFE in Nanaimo: they add variety to the landscape and they indicate a healthy environment. They are also a piece of our living history. (E.g. - Wetlands purify drinking water; forests clean the air; open meadows are spectacular to see in spring.)

ESAs are biologically DIVERSE: ESAs have a higher proportion of life then non-ESAs. Protecting these sites helps protect local BIODIVERSITY for the future.

ESAs bring nature to COMMUNITIES: these spaces give residents a chance to observe a wide variety of wildlife in a relatively short distant from their homes.

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