The Skeena River is British Columbia’s third largest Pacific watershed, draining more than 54,000 km2 in BC's northwest. At its mouth, the Skeena River drains into the Pacific Ocean near Port Edward, where it forms one of the province’s major river estuaries.
Although estuarine habitats represent only a small proportion of BC’s landmass, their location at the interface between aquatic and terrestrial habitats results in their having disproportionate importance to ecosystem processes. Estuarine salt marsh and eelgrass beds, for instance, provide key habitats for migrating juvenile salmon as they make the transition from fresh to saltwater habitats and for the juvenile stage of many commercially harvested ocean fish. Salt marsh environments further support migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Estuarine environments may also play an important role as carbon sinks, storing so-called “blue-carbon” as a buffer against a changing climate.
Our research is now examining the status of salt marsh communities in the Inverness Passage, near Cassiar Cannery at Port Edward. Key measurements being taken in the Skeena River estuary include assessments of the productivity and biodiversity of salt marsh communities. Associated environmental parameters being measured within the salt marsh at Cassiar Cannery include elevation, salinity, and soil organic matter content. These studies will provide a better understanding of ecosystem function along the Skeena River estuary and a baseline against which future changes can be assessed.