Krajina lectures on the Biogeoclimatic Zones of BC

In his own voice: recordings of a series of lectures by Dr. Vladimir J. Krajina on the Biogeoclimatic Zones of British Columbia

Introduction and lecture transcriptions by Gary Bradfield, Professor Emeritus, Botany Department, UBC


At the beginning of the 1975 UBC Fall term, Dr. Vladimir J. Krajina was asked by Dr. Robert F. Scagel, then Head of Botany, if he would give a series of lectures on the Biogeoclimatic Zones of British Columbia to the Botany 426 (Plant Ecology I) class.  At the time, Dr. Krajina was Professor Emeritus of Botany, having retired in 1970 but still actively engaged in refining and promoting the two programs that would become his legacy – the Biogeoclimatic zonal system, which he developed during the 1950s and ‘60s, and the Ecological Reserves program, which had recently (1971) received formal recognition by Order-in-Council of the BC Legislature.  Dr. Krajina agreed to this request and recorded his lectures on cassette tapes so that they could be passed along to the newly hired plant ecologist, Gary Bradfield, who would be taking over the teaching in Botany 426 later in the Fall term. This arrangement was made as Mr. (later, Dr.) Bradfield was unable to arrive at UBC until October 1975 as he was working on his PhD thesis in Australia.  Under this arrangement, Botany 426 could start on schedule in September, and Dr. Krajina’s recorded lectures would provide Mr. Bradfield with a first-hand account of the material covered in the course prior to his taking over in October.

These recordings provide a glimpse into the mind and personality of one of British Columbia’s greatest environmental educators and champions of forest conservation and habitat protection. The lectures are a series of slide talks where Dr. Krajina takes the Botany 426 class on visual excursions to areas in the province that exemplify different biogeoclimatic zones as defined by climate, geology (primarily the soil, or ‘edaphic’ conditions of an area) and vegetation, the latter characterized by plant species composition and growth of the dominant tree species.

By today’s (i.e., early 21st century) standards, Dr. Krajina’s lectures would be considered quite challenging in the amount of information presented to students in an undergraduate class.  As an eminent field botanist and ecologist, Krajina spoke in the language of his subject, using Latin names of the numerous plant and fungal species shown in his slides.  His commanding oratory and Czechoslovakian accent, combined with his occasional rants on the misguided actions or shortsightedness of others (mainly some unnamed foresters and politicians) meant that his lectures were rarely boring. 

The recordings also capture the ‘essence’ of Krajina, from the energy and passion in his voice to his physical presence through the sounds of his footsteps on the lecture platform and his writing on the chalk-board when he occasionally paused to spell-out the Latin name of a plant or fungal species illustrated in his slides. 

 It is truly a privilege to have these recordings of someone who played such a pivotal role in laying the scientific foundation for nature conservation and management in British Columbia during the 20th century.  Dr. Krajina’s legacy lives on through the many Ecological Reserves (150 at the time of writing) established throughout the province, one of which bears his name, and the Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) system that continues to provide scientific guidance for managerial decisions on BC’s forests and grasslands.

Summary of recordings

[Note: The original recordings were made by Dr. Krajina on three, double-sided cassette tapes, each side containing approximately 60 minutes of his lectures. The tapes were digitized and transferred to CDs by UBC AudioVisual Services, and subsequently converted to mp3s by G. Bradfield]

Link to the recordings:

Tape 1- side A (two lectures)

–          Dr. Krajina speaks about the coastal subalpine Mountain Hemlock (MH) zone, starting on Vancouver Island, then proceeding to mainland areas around Prince Rupert and Terrace, and finishing with examples from Garibaldi and Manning Parks.  He comments on the use of his “edatopic grid” to portray the growth of trees in relation to soil moisture (“hygrotopes”) and soil nutrients (“trophotopes”). 

Tape 1- side B (two lectures)

–          Dr. Krajina talks about the two northern biogeoclimatic zones – Boreal White and Black Spruce (BWBS), and Sub-Boreal Spruce (SBS) – and the three Canadian Cordilleran Montane zones – Cariboo Aspen-Lodgepole Pine (CALP, no longer recognized), Interior Western Hemlock (IWH), and Interior Douglas Fir (IDF).  He speaks about how factors such as photoperiodism, soil nutrients, and climate, especially the effects of cold air drainage and unusually cold winters, can influence the distributions and growth of tree species (Engelmann and white spruce, subalpine fir, Douglas fir).

Tape 2- side A (two lectures)

–          Dr. Krajina continues from his previous lecture on the Boreal zone (first 39 minutes of tape); the next lecture (remainder of tape) is on the Sub-Boreal zone, ending with comments on the zone he refers to as Cariboo-Aspen-Lodgepole Pine-Douglas fir, abbreviated as CALP [note: subsequent work by forest ecologists have led to major revisions in the boundaries and naming for this zone; as a result, CALP is no longer recognized).  Krajina is noticeably energized in these lectures, using his “pictures” as a backdrop to convey his formidable ecological knowledge of the plants and soil conditions of northern BC.  Students would no doubt have been challenged to keep pace with the flow of Latin species names in these lectures.

Tape 2- side B (two lectures)

–          Dr. Krajina speaks on the main biogeoclimatic zones of the BC Interior, including the Cariboo Zone (name has since been changed), Interior Western Hemlock (IWH) and Interior Douglas fir (IDF) zones.  The first 28 minutes are from the lecture before leaving on the weekend field trip to the BC interior. The lecture includes comments about the differences between the two ‘wet’ zones in BC (Coastal and Interior), and remarks on some of the main fungal pathogens that affect coniferous trees in BC (Indian paint fungus, white pine blister rust, Fomes (=Phellinus) pini).  The second part continues after the field trip.  There is a noticeable change in Krajina’s voice, possibly from a cold or tiredness from the long road trip. He talks about the species and ecological conditions seen on the field trip and comments on his own research showing effects of calcium deficiency on root development in conifers (especially, Pinus monticola). There is also a deepened sadness as he reminisces about the great losses of productive forest lands brought about by the construction of dams on the Columbia River.

Tape 3- side A (one lecture)

–          Dr. Krajina talks about the drier interior biogeoclimatic zones, mostly grasslands of the Interior Douglas Fir (IDF) and Ponderosa Pine Bunchgrass (PPBG) zones as seen on the recent field trip.  In typical fashion, Krajina fills the lecture with ecological anecdotes about the climate and soil conditions that determine the vegetation characteristics.  The lecture is punctuated with his colourful rants about the abuse of grasslands from overgrazing and motorcycle damage. 

Tape 3- side B (one lecture)

–          This is Dr. Krajina’s final lecture to the Botany 406 class.  [Note: his opening comments about the possibilities for quantitative studies on biogeoclimatic zones, and reference to the PhD theses of his former students, are directed towards the newly hired plant ecologist in Botany, G. Bradfield, who was present at this lecture]. He provides some background on the use of climate data for distinguishing between biogeoclimatic zones, especially those of the semi-arid region around Kamloops, Lytton and Oliver. He talks briefly about Ecological Reserves, and reminisces briefly on some of his own struggles in promoting his ecological message in BC.  Examples in this lecture are taken from the dry zones of the southern Interior and the Coastal Douglas Fir (CDF) zone. The lecture ends with information about the upcoming weekend field trip to Tofino.