Botany: UNBC Biodiversity Assessment of the Saltmarsh within the Skeena Estuary

Cassiar Cannery is located within the estuary of the Skeena River in Northwestern British Columbia. Technically Inverness Passage is considered part of the Pacific Ocean, but the proximity of the Skeena River, pouring millions of litres of fresh water daily, creates a rare and unique habitat home to an outstanding selection of flora and fauna.

Estuarine ecosystems are scarce, comprising only 2.3% of BC’s coastline. The mixing of the salt and fresh water, coupled with the silt deposited along the foreshore from the Skeena River, has created a wonderfully fertile shoreline for a huge range of botanical species. The protein rich grasses support a large population of resident birds, forage fish and larger mammals such as bears and deer.

Renowned University of Northern British Columbia professor, Dr. Darwyn Coxson, has been leading a team of research assistants and students studying the unique salt marsh ecosystem every summer since 2011. Focusing on the salt marsh along Inverness Passage, Dr. Coxson has established permanent transects and plots running from the treeline to the edge of the mudflats.

Below is an outline of annual activity. For more information, please visit the individual pages.


2011: Students from the UNBC Systematic Botany field course (Biology 301) were hosted at Cassiar Cannery, establishing permanent marker plots for long-term studies on estuarine biodiversity.

2012: Pilot project measurements were taken on productivity and biomass of the Skeena River salt marsh communities. Cassiar Cannery laboratories were used to sort and process biomass samples.

2013: Students in the UNBC Systematic Botany field course (Biology 301) re-examined plant diversity within permanent marker plots.

2014: In their first full season of summer fieldwork UNBC researchers expanded the network of long-term monitoring plots and conducted associated measurements of field environmental parameters.

2015: The UNBC Systematic Botany field course will be hosted again at Cassiar Cannery. UNBC researchers are returning for a second season of summer field work on salt marsh biodiversity.

Check the press release issued by UNBC and Dr. Coxson highlighting the environmental importance the carbon stores of BC’s estuaries in additional to providing critical habitat for salmon, birds and mammals.

This study is open for sponsorship. For more information, please contact Dr. Darwyn Coxson at UNBC Prince George Campus or the Cassiar Cannery.