British Columbia: Deserts and Grasslands

Submitted by The Catt-Trax2 Team on Fri, 2007/01/12 - 3:21pm.

Report Prepared by Will Choquette and Fergus Ogilvie, students in BCIT’s Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Program.


The deserts of British Columbia are an extremely rare and small, but also valuable and unique ecosystem. They are made up of two biogeoclimatic zones: the ponderosa pine zone, and bunchgrass zone. Both zones provide an amazing amount of life for all kinds of species from plants, mammals, birds, reptiles and even amphibians. Both zones are very hot and very dry places. In the Ponderosa pine zone, the beautiful pines can be found standing in amazing amounts among old growth forests. These forests create a unique area supporting many animals such as mule and white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain elk (both of which migrate to this area during the winter). Many animals come here for the winter because of the combination of the pine canopy and low snow pack. In addition, the seeds from the pine trees are easily found among the ground and make good food for many animals. Insects also live on the bark of the ponderosa pines, and make good food for birds.

The bunchgrass zone, is unique and beautiful. The hot climate and constantly running streams means water is never hard to find and ice doesn’t last long. This attracts animals from all over the province and the U.S. The short horned lizard finds its northern limit in the deserts of B.C. Also, the gyrfalcon finds its southernmost range in these parts. Both these zones are home to thousands of species and also many endangered species, so protection of the area is mandatory.

This area is a valuable resource for humans as well. People like to let their cows graze on what seems to be an unending landscape of beauty, however the land is far from unending and the end is near. People need to realize that everything they do affects the land around them. The sooner we can learn to live with nature and not damage it, the sooner it can flourish, and its beauty can continue to grow.


British Columbia’s grasslands account for less than two percent of the province’s area. Grasslands are areas where grasses and grass-like plants are the main species of plants. They form in areas that are too dry and hot for larger plants, such as trees, to grow in abundance.

The location of B.C.’s grasslands is influenced by the province’s mountain ranges. As weather systems come off the Pacific Ocean, most of the rain is deposited on the western side of the mountain ranges while relatively little rain falls on the eastern side. This leaves the eastern side of the mountain ranges much drier which allows grasslands to thrive. Many grassland plant species have developed special adaptations to help them survive in their dry environment. For example, most plants reach maturity before the hottest and driest parts of the summer, while there is still sufficient moisture in the ground. Species often have extensive root systems to help them capture as much moisture from the soil as possible.

Many animals make B.C.’s grasslands their home. These include many of the more familiar larger animals such as bighorn sheep and elk as well as some less familiar animals such as the rare pallid bat, which hunts for its prey by sound, and the rare ground mantis, which is Canada’s only native mantis species.

While British Columbia’s grasslands occupy a very small portion of the province, they contain many unique pant and animal species, and are an important part of province’s natural history.