Pipelines and parks: Evaluating external risks to protected areas from the proposed northern gateway oil transport project

Christina N. Service, Trislayn A. Nelson, Paul C. Paquet, Will S.S. McLnnes, Chris T. Darimont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Protected areas increasingly face degradation from both internal and external stressors. One increasingly relevant external threat is oil contamination, which has well documented negative impacts on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. To evaluate such potential threats in environmental management, risk analysis has expanded as a discipline. Here, we derive a risk index for protected areas in British Columbia, Canada, that are located downstream from the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline along its 680 km route across the province. Using a Geographic Information System (GIS) approach, our risk model incorporates both the probability of oil once spilled contaminating a park and the consequence of such exposure. We identified 34 protected areas located downstream and potentially at risk. Two were within 50 meters of the proposed pipeline route. Of downstream parks, we found that some were at twice the risk of others. In general, higher risk parks were not any closer to the pipeline but were, on average, of larger areas. The Fraser River watershed, which hosts British Columbia's most economically valuable salmon runs, contained the most parks at risk. From an environmental impact assessment and park management perspective, our results can help identify and evaluate the potential adverse effects of pipeline ruptures. The information can be used to determine, systematically, which parks most urgently require spill response plans and where baseline environmental monitoring might be best deployed. Given that oil transport, a rapidly growing enterprise, is only one of many stressors that threaten natural areas, decisions concerning industrial proposals benefit appreciably from risk analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-376
Number of pages10
JournalNatural Areas Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Enbridge Northern Gateway Project
  • External threats
  • Oil pipeline
  • Protected areas
  • Risk analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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