From the high alpine regions of the coastal mountain range, to the low valley streams that feed into the Pacific Ocean, the animals that inhabit the Great Bear Rainforest are not only amazing and unique, they are also interconnected. Each species plays a critical role in maintaining a functioning ecosystem.
The abundance of life on land in the Great Bear Rainforest also spills out into the nearby Pacific Ocean. Here, rebounding sea otter populations feed on sea urchin, protecting local kelp forests from urchin overgrazing. Thousands of schools of minuscule krill feed humpbacks, salmon, herring and threatened birds. In turn, pods of orcas rely on strong salmon returns and healthy marine mammal populations for their nourishment.
Healthy populations of terrestrial species in the Great Bear Rainforest rely upon healthy populations of marine and freshwater species. In this amazing region, it is nearly impossible to separate the land from the sea.
An astonishing array of birds can be seen using every inch of the rainforest. Flitting in and out of dense forest stands, soaring along the Pacific Flyway and bobbing just beneath the water’s surface, key species such as bald eagles, goshawks and marbled murrelets rely on intact, old-growth stands and pristine watersheds for survival. As predators and scavengers, they help build the forest’s nutrients by transporting and scattering scraps and carcasses.
Salmon are a keystone species of British Columbia’s rainforest, and their contribution to the local ecosystem is linked to its overall health and productivity. Salmon are of crucial importance to the late summer and early fall diets of carnivores such as grizzly bears, black bears, coastal gray wolves and the elusive spirit bear. Deteriorating salmon carcasses serve as highly concentrated fertilizer for the surrounding forest and provide nutrient-rich food for growing juvenile salmon.
Within British Columbia’s coastal temperate rainforest, hoofed mammals like the small Sitka black-tailed deer maneuver delicately through the dense understory and provide a critical source of food for local carnivores. Large, stark-white mountain goats, with long beards, move effortlessly along the coastal mountains’ steep alpine ridges, grazing on lichens, grasses and moss.