UVic research reveals new insights into the geological evolution of Canada’s west coast

UVic research published today in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences reveals new geological ages and clues about how Queen Charlotte Sound, Hecate Strait, and offshore Vancouver Island were formed, helping understand some of the potential impacts on coastal communities.

The multidisciplinary study explored the geology of the Queen Charlotte and Tofino basins, the largest two in offshore British Columbia. Microfossils and strontium isotopes using thousands of samples from 14 offshore wells drilled in the 1960s provide novel insights into the geological history of the area. Precise dating of many samples allowed the correlation of significant geological events in both basins, which coincided with uplift of the Olympic and Coast Range mountains. 

 “We integrated these refined microfossil and strontium isotope ages with other well and offshore data to better interpret the evolution of the basins and their relationship to the complex tectonics and plate motions of the last 40 million years,” says Professor Emeritus Chris Barnes, of UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, co-author for the study. 

“These past processes provide some indication of the potential magnitude and variability of events that could impact coastal communities,” adds lead author Marji Johns, a geoscientist and collections manager with the Royal BC Museum. “Multidisciplinary analyses were important to understand the geology of the two basins and provide a timeline for their evolution. We explored many data sets and documented changes in sub-basin development, sediment transport, ancient water depths, sea levels, and climate.” 

The research was initiated as part of the UVic’s and Memorial University’s earlier Coasts Under Stress Project where social and natural scientists collaborated to generate new knowledge on the social and economic development and resources of coastal communities, to better understand risks, threats, and opportunities on Canada’s east and west coasts.

Recognized for its importance and potential impact for interpreting the geological evolution of both basins, the work is the next “Editor’s Choice” article in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.

The article “Neogene strontium isotope stratigraphy, foraminifer biostratigraphy, and lithostratigraphy from offshore wells, Queen Charlotte Basin, British Columbia, Canada,” is available at http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/cjes-2014-0159 as is the complementary Tofino Basin study.