Introduction - 2
ɷ Integrate new map information with existing TRIM and municipal
ɷ Contribute information towards an inventory of fish distribution and
limiting factors to watershed based fish production;
ɷ Assist in understanding urban water runoff patterns and help
determine areas of impervious surfaces in urban watersheds.
Streams and other freshwater watercourses are a critical component to the
health, vitality and economies of the urban and rural landscapes of British
Columbia. They not only contain the runoff for water downhill, but also provide
critical habitats and corridors for fish and wildlife. In coastal BC, small streams
and watercourses provide critical spawning, rearing, overwintering and feeding
habitats for both adult and juvenile salmonids. These environments are also
home to many other species of fish, aquatic invertebrates, benthic organisms,
wildlife and plants, all of which function as a part of the freshwater community
and the entire ecosystem.
Conditions in and adjacent to streams are easily disturbed, and changes in land
use can adversely affect the overall health and state of the streams and
watercourses and the plants and animals within them. Human disturbance to
freshwater watercourses often results from housing, industry and road
development, and leads to the decline and alteration of: surface water runoff;
stream channel stability; watershed based nutrient cycles; other organic/
inorganic constituents; riparian vegetation; in-stream vegetation; water
temperature and flow regimes. These forms of disturbance can cause dramatic
changes in the ecosystem biodiversity, population status and the form and
function of watersheds and ecosystems. For example, in British Columbia’s
Georgia Basin, numerous coastal salmonid stocks (Slaney et al. 1996) and
populations of 29 wildlife taxa are at risk of extinction (red or blue listed) and
are rapidly declining in abundance due to loss of sensitive habitats which are
vital to sustaining populations (Anon. 1997).
Recent studies (i.e. Brown 1997), reveal that at least 30% of small urban streams
and watercourses in the Georgia Basin of British Columbia are not delineated on
provincial or federal topographic maps and databases. This appears to be typical
in many regions and local municipalities. Local cadastral and planning
information can often be dated and not capture recent land use changes, while
recent large-scale inventory maps of streams and adjacent habitats are often not
available as a means to identify sensitive habitats for fish and wildlife. As a
result, many planning and development decisions continue to be made in the
absence of critical information about fish and stream habitats and associated
sensitive areas. Good land use planning and decision making requires accurate,
precise and recent spatial habitat information. Accurately inventoried and
delineated small urban streams, wetlands, watercourses, and riparian areas will
help improve current land use planning processes and promote decisions made
through greater understanding, improved planning practices, heightened
protection and clearer priorities for fish and wildlife habitat restoration and
Population growth within the Georgia Basin of British Columbia is expected to
double in the next 20 years. For this reason, ecologically sensitive areas such as
floodplains, riparian corridors, small stream channels and wetlands may be
severely influenced by development unless there is strong community
stewardship, awareness and effective land use planning. Mapping of stream and
Introduction - 3
riparian habitat is a critical first step towards protecting and managing sensitive
freshwater habitats. The SHIM methods are intended to provide community,
stewardship groups, individuals, regional districts and municipalities with an
effective low cost approach to map and inventory local watercourses.
Some communities are presently using SHIM methods to collect critical
freshwater habitat data. SHIM is being used to help support land use planning in
these communities being challenged by pressures of local development. We
encourage SHIM data to be collected, compiled and integrated into local
government geographic information systems and incorporated to assist in local
municipal and regional planning and recognised in Official Community Plans.
SHIM mapped watercourses should also be used to address land use
development referrals, the Fish Protection Act Stream Side Directives, ditch
maintenance in urban and agricultural areas, freshwater habitat enhancement
and restoration opportunities, Greenway and Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA)
planning and wildlife habitat conservation.
During the past five years local communities have performed trials and reviews
of SHIM methods to collect and integrate accurate and precise watercourse
information. At least 30 separate community SHIM based mapping projects have
been completed throughout the Georgia Basin and west coast Vancouver Island.
Two workshops have also been held in Nanaimo and Abbotsford to review the
status of all SHIM mapping projects, potential data gaps, to review and improve
methods and provide recommendation for future method development. Method
and project recommendations derived from the workshops include:
ɷ Maintenance of adequate funding for SHIM mapping project support;
ɷ Development of resource centres for compiling data, disseminating
information, training and planning stewardship activities;
ɷ Completion of a data collection standard so information will be
accurate and can be shared and interpreted for a variety of
ɷ Formation of 2 steering committees (Vancouver Island, Lower
Mainland) consisting of local and senior resource and planning
managers, and key community groups to assist in coordination of
local projects, improvement standards and inventory systems;
ɷ Integration of mapping information into local GIS for use by
ɷ Development of Sensitive Habitat Atlases for all communities in the
It is important to realize that while communities may receive a limited amount of
funding for data collection, there is little or no funding available to provide
support to compile and integrate data into a common database and generate
final products such as Sensitive Habitat Atlases. As in previous years, there are
many new funding applications from communities for SHIM projects through
federal, provincial, regional government and other sources.
Note: new and ongoing projects need to recognize the importance of proper
field and office staff training, use of quality field survey tools, effective data
quality assurance and control, and maintenance of local computing centres for
compiling, integrating and distributing final mapping products.
Introduction - 4
SHIM Method Schematic
The SHIM method comprises "eight" component modules and three appendices.
The following flow chart illustrates the sequence and connectivity between tools
and methods used to complete Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping on a given
Watercourse Centreline Mapping
GPS data dictionary
Photointerpret riparian areas
Segment Classification System
, then field survey using cards
Field validation of riparian areas
Field survey using cards 1st
Compile and review existing
Module 9: Final digital files / Planning Maps /
Data transfer Community Awareness
Prepare Watershed Overview Map
Identify data gaps
Determine survey objectives. Compile
ortho or aerial photographs
Watercourse survey / GPS field
methods / GIS data system tools
Select field survey
Channel Cross sections
Fish Inventory / Sampling
Submit Final Digital files
to Regional District /
Agency - Management
Introduction - 5
Limitations of SHIM Methods
The SHIM methods outlined here are intended to collect information on fish
species distribution, watercourse location and characteristics, watercourse reach
descriptions, the location and nature of fish habitat features, riparian zone
conditions and impervious area.
These methods are not intended to assess fish population abundance or
determine the productive capacity of watercourses. More detailed, site specific
assessments should be coordinated for collection of this information. SHIM
methods can augment fish and habitat assessments by providing spatial details
of habitats. SHIM collected information can be displayed on digital/hardcopy
maps and tables and provides the details of location for inventoried
It is important to emphasize that SHIM and this manual address methods to
inventory fish and fish habitats exclusively. It does not address methods used to
assess fish stock structure and abundance, or habitat related restoration and
enhancement potential. However, data collected using SHIM methods can be
used to augment these resource assessments. SHIM should be viewed as one
component tool used to inventory and assess the health, state, productive
capacity of freshwater resources and habitats.
Who can or should use this manual?
A basic understanding of freshwater ecology and general fishery and ecological
principles is needed as a starting point for users of SHIM methods and this
manual. The goal of developing a SHIM standard is to make the methods
versatile and usable by both professionals and trained community groups. All
users need Resource Inventory Committee certified operator training in global
positioning system (GPS), fish habitat field procedures and data compilation.
Local Fisheries and Oceans Canada, BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air
Protection, municipal and regional environmental planners, should be contacted
prior to conducting surveys using SHIM in local watercourses. They are interested
in helping and may be able to provide equipment and/or helpful background
As one final note, we have developed the SHIM methods to ensure information is
collected and mapped using a standard procedure to allow this information to be
effectively used and integrated with existing local and regional data and maps
(e.g., local cadastral, Terrain Resource Information Maps - TRIM, Fisheries
Information Summary System - FISS, and regional/municipal planning and
Terms and Definitions
For the purposes of this manual, urban areas have been broadly interpreted to
include urban and rural settlement areas. For example, the entire Fraser Valley
may be considered as a settlement area. Generally, there are four broad
categories of land use to which this manual applies:
Introduction - 6
Urban - Aquatic features (watercourses, lakes, wetlands, streams, aquifers
ditches etc.) that fall within regional/municipal boundaries and are
typically affected by urban development pressures such as culverting,
channelization, riparian clearing, flow diversion and enclosure, and
hydrological and water quality changes associated with impervious
Rural - Aquatic features that are located within agricultural/forest land and are
affected by riparian clearing, livestock access, irrigation withdrawal,
channelization, impoundment and point source water quality impacts.
Urban/Rural Interface - Aquatic features located at the edge of expanding
urban settlement, where there is growing pressure to convert land from
rural to urban use which may affect freshwater habitat values.
Less Disturbed - While this manual does not apply to rural forested watersheds
that are relatively undisturbed, many urban or rural watersheds remain
undisturbed in their headwater areas. In these instances, this manual
would apply to these less disturbed areas of watershed.
The following definitions apply throughout this manual:
Watercourse - a well defined channel containing flowing water for at least part of
the year, which supports a community of plants and animals within the
channel and its associated riparian zone. Watercourses can be ephemeral
(watercourse that flows briefly in direct response to precipitation in the
immediate locality and whose channel is at all times above the water
table), intermittent (watercourse that flows in contact with the
groundwater table only at certain times of the year when the groundwater
table is high and/or when it receives water from springs or from some
surface water source such as melting snow in mountainous areas), or
permanent (watercourse that flows continuously throughout the year).
Watercourses do not include features lacking a well defined channel i.e.,
lakes and some wetlands.
Inventory - the collection of information. In the context of natural resources,
inventory requires measurement of objects and features, but no
interpretation regarding their importance or value (see assessment
below). Inventory data are typically derived from field surveys, and
minimal professional judgement is required other than interpretation of
inventory data descriptions and definitions.
Assessment - to determine the importance, value or condition of what has been
inventoried. In the context of natural resources, assessment requires
interpretation of data collected through an inventory method.
Assessment can sometimes be derived during field surveys, although in
these professional judgement and experience is applied.
Fish Habitat - spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply and
migration and holding areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly to
continue their life history cycle.
Introduction - 7
Relationship of this Manual to Other Inventory
A variety of methods are currently used to inventory habitat and resource in
urban areas. Many of these methods were reviewed and used to supplement
SHIM methods. It is also important to recognize the specific program/project
objective of each method or inventory procedure. The relationship of this manual
to several other methods currently used in B.C. is presented below.
Streamkeepers Manual: A Practical Guide to Stream and Wetland Care
(Taccogna and Munro, 1995) was prepared as part of FOC’s (DFO)
Streamkeeper Program. The guide describes several fish and fish habitat
inventory techniques, and is used primarily by volunteer stewardship
groups for local fish and fish habitat monitoring and to understand
specific restoration and enhancement potential.
Urban Salmon Habitat Program (USHP)
The USHP document
Urban Salmon Habitat Program Assessment and
Mapping Procedures for Vancouver Island
(Michalski, Reid and Stewart
2000) provides a watercourse assessment method for volunteer
stewardship groups. The document outlines a procedure for completing
USHP inventory and mapping projects, and a process for identifying and
prioritising future habitat restoration projects.
The SHIM manual is intended to complement, not replace, the
Streamkeepers and USHP manuals. Determining which inventory method
to use will depend on the project objectives, training and expertise,
available equipment and survey tools, level of funding and computing.
Generally, Streamkeepers and USHP information will be suitable when
community based stewardship groups are collecting watercourse
information, and for providing a general description of the watershed i.e.,
information at the reconnaissance level. The USHP manual is helpful for
identifying enhancement and restoration opportunities in a watershed,
and is generally considered to include a more intense level of assessment
and data interpretation than Streamkeepers methods. SHIM methods can
augment other methods, but should be used when the information is
collected by professionals (biologists/fisheries technicians, or trained and
certified community members), and when detailed spatial tied to
technical information on an aquatic system is required.
RIC Reconnaissance (1:20,000) Fish and Fish Habitat
The Reconnaissance (1:20,000) Fish and Fish Habitat Inventory Manual
(RIC, 1997) is a Resources Inventory Committee manual, which replaces
Lake and Stream Inventory Standards and Procedures
1995). The manual describes a sample-based survey method intended to
Introduction - 8
provide inventory information about watercourse and lake biophysical
characteristics as well as fish species presence/absence characteristics,
distribution and relative abundance in forested watersheds. The intended
audience of this manual is fisheries professionals (biologists/fisheries
technicians). The SHIM method is intended to complement the
Reconnaissance (1:20,000) Fish and Fish Habitat Inventory Manual
serve as its urban counterpart. However, if detailed mapping is essential
or required, SHIM methods can be adopted for use in any watercourse
across British Columbia.
Anonymous 1997. Red and Blue Listed Species.
Brown. 1997. Federal study identifying lack of mapped smaller streams in the
Fish and Fish Habitat Inventory Standard for Urban Watersheds.
Michalski, T.A., G.E. Reid and G.E. Stewart. 2000. Urban Salmon Habitat Program
Assessment Procedures for Vancouver Island. Ministry of Environment,
Lands and Parks.
Resources Inventory Committee. 1997. Reconnaissance (1:20,000) Fish and Fish
Habitat Inventory Procedures.
Resources Inventory Committee. 1995. Lake and Stream Inventory Standards and
Slaney, T.L., K. D. Hyatt, T.G. Northcote, and R. J. Fielden. 1996. Status of
anadromous salmon and trout in British Columbia and Yukon. Fisheries
Taccogna, G. and K. Munro (eds.). 1995. The Streamkeeper's Handbook: A
Practical Guide to Stream and Wetland Care. Salmonid Enhancement
Program, Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Module 1 - 9
Existing Information Review
The purpose of this SHIM module is to collect, review, and synthesize existing
information. The objectives of this module are to:
ɷ Identify and obtain existing (known) information and sources about
the watercourse and watershed from municipal, regional, provincial
and federal planning and fisheries agencies.
ɷ Identify local knowledge through discussion and documentation from
regional fisheries professionals and local/community “experts”.
ɷ Ensure that collected background information is distributed back to
the Fisheries Information Summary System (FISS);
ɷ Identify and schedule the SHIM inventory and component office and
field tasks required to complete your specific inventory project.
Note: that in some projects or locations, a high level of detail on a watercourse
already exists as background or known information. In some of these instances,
it may not be necessary to complete subsequent SHIM modules. However, the
reader should be aware that fish distribution, watercourse, and fish habitat
characteristics experience considerable change over time. In these instances
SHIM should be used to augment and update existing information to help
identify and measure spatial changes in the watercourse.
1.2 Final Products
ɷ A completed background information review should generate the
following products: An understanding of known credible and reliable
fish, fish habitat and spatial data for the subject watercourse and
ɷ An understanding what information may be conflicting or inadequate
to properly describe and map the watercourse.
ɷ A summary or list of recent information to be added to the Fisheries
Information Summary System.
ɷ The summary of updated information to be sent to the Ministry of
Fisheries, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Module 1 - 10
A thorough review of existing information, prior to conducting additional field
inventory, is a required starting point for understanding and examining a
specific watercourse. Past information will highlight previous projects, and
potentially the physical and biological characteristics of the watercourse. This
review can also be used to identify information gaps and how new inventory
information can augment these sources. Subsequent SHIM modules can be used
separately or together to provide a coherent methodology to collect new
This SHIM module can often be considered the office phase of the project. Both
Module 1 (Existing Information Review) and Module 2 (Watershed Overview)
should be used to help identify, review and assemble information from a variety
of sources and information types.
1.4 Inventory Review Procedure
The steps and discussion below outline the recommended procedure for review
of background (existing) information.
Background Information Collection.
Identify credibility and reliability of information
(How good and reliable is this information?).
Background Information Review
FISS , MELP Files, FOC Files, Local
Streamkeepers etc. other sources
Communication: information collection from
informed Local “experts” and resource
List and summarize existing background
Contact MELP/FOC for updates to FISS, and local
and regional management files.
Figure 1.1 Flow chart of the potential process for reviewing existing or
Step 1. Collection and Review of Existing Information
Historic or existing watercourse information for a proposed inventory location
should be thoroughly examined to determine its utility and reliability.
Professional judgement and common sense should also be applied e.g. past data
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