About Us
Northwest Boreal LCC
Contact Us

University of Alberta

Laval University


Memorial University


Regional Planning Units

Regional Planning Units (RPUs) stratify the boreal into ecologically-defined units based on hydrologic flow and terrestrial composition.

Fig 1. Regional Planning Units
We stratified the boreal into smaller, ecologically-based Regional Planning Units (RPUs) to enable finer spatial representation of natural variability and promote dispersion of land-use options (Fig 1). We disregarded political boundaries and used ecological processes as the basis for delineation. To decide which ecological processes to use to delineate RPUs, we used first principles of ecological processes that indicate that larger, slower ecological processes generally have greater influence on smaller, faster ecological processes.We identified 15 RPUs that range in size from 83,160 to 968,236 km2. RPUs are delineated by the intersection of Ocean Drainage Areas and Ecozones. 

Fig 2. Ocean Drainage Areas

Ocean Drainage Areas are distinct hydrologic units defining the area of land that directs the flow of precipitation and surface water to a particular ocean and delineate ecological patterns that reflect the effects of ecological processes of plate tectonics and glaciation (Fig 2).  



Fig 3. Ecozones of the Boreal

Ecozones are generalized ecological units that are characterized by similar abiotic and biotic factors and represent the cumulative effect of ecological processes such as soil formation, nutrient cycling, photosynthesis, and population dynamics (Fig 3).




Conservation planning and the design of reserves for large areas, such as the boreal region of Canada, is facilitated by dividing the area into smaller planning units. How we define planning units and at what scale are important considerations that have been demonstrated to influence the location and size of conservation networks, and ultimately, the efficiency with which conservation goals are met.

Often, conservation planning units are defined by political boundaries (i.e., provinces, territories, resource management units, or parks) because these units have economic and administrative meaning. These units are often defined with little consideration to the ecological context of the unit and do not recognize ecological boundaries. They are often much smaller than the geographic range of species or the spatial extent over which processes operate, and thus are not ecologically defensible and can result in an inefficient selection of conservation sites with higher area requirements and disproportionate protection of the periphery of species ranges. For these reasons and others, there has been increasing recognition for the need to incorporate ecological factors such as watersheds, climate, geology, and vegetation, to name a few, into the design of conservation planning units.

Examples of other ecologically-based planning units that intersect the boreal region of Canada are Natural Regions, Freshwater Ecoregions of the World, Bird Conservation Regions, and Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World.

Download shapefile from



Feb 14 2018
Northwest Boreal Benchmark Analysis Released

Nov 20 2017
BEACONs' Webinar Tuesday Nov 28

Jul 24 2017
BEACONs' Website - New content coming soon!

...see all



home | about us | conservation planning | research | tools | datasets | documents| web links| contact us
english | français