Master of Science in Ecological Restoration Applied Research Projects | BCIT Institutional Repository

Master of Science in Ecological Restoration Applied Research Projects

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Alaksen National Wildlife Area: Reservoir suitability for the introduction of the endangered Western Painted Turtle
Alaksen National Wildlife Area located in Delta, BC is home to freshwater species in the former tidal marsh. The current agricultural landscape has left a legacy of high concentrations of heavy metals, trace amounts of organochlorine pesticides, and excess nutrients within the sediments and water of the brackish Fuller and Ewen Reservoirs. Arsenic and phosphorous exceeded Canadian water quality guidelines, while arsenic, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, nickel, and phosphorus exceeded sediment quality guidelines. There were trace pesticides known to be endocrine disrupters detected in the water and sediment, and combined low level toxicity effects are a concern. A preliminary ecological risk assessment on the metals was completed and the results indicate that there is a possibility of adverse effects for benthic invertebrates, but negligible risk for endangered Western Painted Turtles. However, compounding all the ecosystem stressors along with rising sea levels leads ANWA not an ideal place to introduce this species., © Darian Weber, 2019. All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright heron may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means – graphics, electronic, or mechanical including photocopying, taping, or information storage and retrieval systems – without written permission of the author., Western Painted turtles, ecotoxicology, risk assessment, agricultural reservoir, heavy metal, endocrine disruptors
Assessing the allelopathic effect of invasive phragmites australis on sida hermaphrodita and ammannia robusta; two species at risk in Southern Ontario
In Ontario, invasive Phragmites australis threatens to displace many species including the endangered species Sida hermaphrodita and Ammannia robusta. Germination and growth assays measured the effect of P. australis aqueous extracts from the leaves, rhizomes, and roots on S. hermaphrodita and A. robusta. Germination was inhibited by some of the treatments, but growth was not. The tissues inhibited germination differently for S. hermaphrodita (leaf> rhizome> root) compared to A. robusta (root> rhizome> leaf) indicating that the allelopathic effect was species-specific. However, the laboratory results show that allelopathic effects are weak. This result is consistent to the field study results showing an increase in S. hermaphrodita area and density over time. Results from this project inform management options by indicating which part of the plant needs to be targeted. In this case, all the tissues had some phytotoxic effects, indicating that biomass may need to be removed or long-term management implemented., Invasive Species, Species at Risk, Seed Germination, Seedling Growth, Allelopathy
Assessment of an urban floodplain reconnection project: A case study from the Mamquam River basin, BC.
Dikes and culverts have limited access to off-channel rearing habitats important to juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhyncus kisutch). This study assessed the success of a floodplain reconnection project in Squamish, BC, at providing rearing habitats. Recommendations on restoration priorities within the area were also provided. A single-season, multi-scale occupancy model was used to estimate the probability of occurrence and detection of juvenile coho during the summer. Regression models were used to assess water and habitat quality and identify relationships with juvenile coho metrics. Culverts were also scored for fish passage. The results of this study indicate that the reconnection project was overall successful. Coho non-detections occurred in areas with poor dissolved oxygen and culvert passage issues. Restoration actions should focus on improving water quality in these areas, and protection of areas of high CPUE. Positive relationships between stream productivity and coho metrics indicates the importance of future studies on macroinvertebrate supply., coho salmon, escape cover, rearing habitat, floodplain reconnection, urban channels, Mamquam River
Blanket Creek Provincial Park weedy field restoration plan
A key management concern for provincial parks is the establishment of invasive species due to their impacts on native biodiversity. Within Blanket Creek Provincial Park there is a 0.24 ha heavily invaded field dominated by hawkweed species and spotted knapweed which developed after a series of natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Restoration actions are required to renew the ecological process of natural succession and shift the vegetation community from its current state to one dominated by native species. The aim of this project was to determine the current site conditions which will inform a restoration plan for the site and act as baseline conditions for future monitoring. This site assessment focused on the characterization of the vegetation and soil conditions. Restoration recommendations focus on promoting the development of a deciduous forest characteristic of the Interior Cedar-Hemlock biogeoclimatic ecosystem classification zone. The restoration recommendations include invasive species management, decompaction, fertilization, mulching, and the planting of native trees and shrubs., restoration, alternative stable states, invasive species, forest succession
Blue carbon dynamics across the Metro Vancouver region
This research project aims to assess the carbon sequestration dynamics of three tidal marshes under different environmental conditions in the Metro Vancouver region. By identifying the site conditions that influence carbon sequestration, areas can be prioritized, and restoration activities can be adapted to increase or maintains the marsh’s ability to do so. This project was done in partnership with Parks Canada and will contribute to a larger study of ‘blue carbon’ across British Columbia. For this project, I collected sediment cores from the eastern portion of Boundary Bay in Delta, BC, Brunswick Point in Ladner, BC, and a constructed salt marsh in Tsawwassen, BC, to assess soil carbon content and carbon stocks. Porewater salinity, vegetation data and depth measurements were collected at these sites as well. Percent carbon content ranged between 3.98 ± 1.48% and 5.78 ± 5.93% between the three marshes and the marsh carbon stock ranged between 93.95 Mg C and 2,994.51 Mg C. Across the three marshes, core carbon stock for the high marsh cores was found to be significantly higher than the core carbon stock for the low marsh cores, suggesting that marsh zonation influences carbon stock. The data analysis and literature review determined that vegetation and porewater salinity had the greatest influence on a marsh’s ability to sequester and store carbon. The results indicate that the high marsh with low salinities and a diverse plant community have the highest carbon sequestration potential. As marshes with conditions similar to that of the Boundary Bay marsh as well as polyhaline marshes should be prioritized for restoration. These findings will aid in the development and implementation of restoration projects to increase a marsh’s ability to sequester carbon., blue carbon, tidal marsh, carbon stock, British Columbia, coastal management, restoration, marsh restoration
A contrast of two novel deterrents of goose herbivory at Westham Island foreshore tidal marsh
Since the 1980s, at least 160 ha of marsh vegetation has died off in Sturgeon Bank and Westham Island, located within the Fraser River Estuary. Proposed causes for this marsh recession include sediment deficit, relative sea-level rise, increased salinity, and goose herbivory. At Westham Island, the loss of tidal marsh vegetation is locally distinct in that it occurs in a closed polygon shape versus along the leading edge of the marsh, suggesting that goose herbivory is a principal cause. Goose herbivory on tidal marsh vegetation has become a global problem as many geese populations are becoming hyperabundant. In the Fraser River Estuary, Canada goose (Branta canadensis) and snow goose (Anser caerulescens) numbers have been increasing exponentially. I conducted a field experiment, testing two novel goose herbivory deterrents at Westham Island’s foreshore tidal marsh: metal and snow fencing placed flat against the substrate. I used a randomized complete block design with six replicates and three treatments: metal fencing, snow fencing and control (no fencing). Each treatment's effectiveness was assessed by monitoring changes in common three-square bulrush (Schoenoplectus pungens) every two weeks throughout the summer season (June-September 2022) in terms of stem density, percent cover, and percent of stems grazed. Results indicated that there was no difference in stem density, percent cover, and percent of stems grazed between the two fencing types. However, compared to bulrush in the controls, both snow and metal fencing treatments yielded a higher stem density and percent cover (x̄% difference = 82.9%, 53.1%, respectively) as well as a lower percent of stems grazed. These results suggest that both fencing materials are equally effective at deterring goose herbivory in a tidal marsh. Additional assessments are needed to clarify whether this technique can be scaled up to promote marsh recovery throughout the entire area of recession., tidal marsh recession, goose herbivory deterrents, goose management, Canada geese, common three-square bulrush, snow fencing, chain-link fencing
Determining the Accuracy of the Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool for Identifying North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) Habitat in the Central Interior Cariboo Region of British Columbia
Perennial watercourses in British Columbia are becoming intermittent from climate change. North American beaver (Castor canadensis) dams retain perennial flow while providing other ecosystem services. The Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (BRAT) estimates a stream’s dam capacity by evaluating the vegetative, physical, and hydrological habitat. This research project surveyed 15 streams in the Cariboo region to assess the accuracy of the BRAT’s outputs. Climate data were used to model changes in flow. Overall, the BRAT outputs generally correlated with field measurements. However, the non-vegetation outputs contributed minimally to dam capacity, and higher dam capacity did not always indicate higher habitat quality. Climate projections also indicate most streams will lose nival flow by 2041-2071. Therefore, using the BRAT with other models can determine both dam capacity and overall habitat quality to increase successful beaver restoration chances. When vegetation and physical stream conditions are met, higher watershed/channel size may indicate higher-quality habitat.
Drivers of humpback whale movement in Boundary Pass, British Columbia
The Salish Sea is critical habitat for several whale species including the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Boundary Pass is part of the Salish Sea and connects the Pacific Ocean to several commercial shipping ports in the Pacific Northwest Region of North America. Since 1997, the number of Humpback whales continues to increase in this area, meanwhile the number of vessels is also increasing such that Boundary Pass is among the busiest shipping routes in the region. This high vessel traffic in the area leads to acoustic disturbances that degrades whale foraging opportunities for humpback whales. Commercial vessels transporting goods through whale habitat causes an increased risk of vessel collisions with humpback whales. Humpback-whale movements in Boundary Pass was recorded through systematic scan surveys conduction from a vantage point between June and August. Whale occupancy was compared to oceanographic variables and vessel presence. We found humpback whales were most likely to be present during ebb tides of speeds of -2 m/s under the influence of low tides and also whales were active in areas overlap with shipping lane in the area. Based on our founding in the area about humpback whale connection with biophysical properties of region I hypothesized that whale distribution in area and it relation to low tide and ebb current is most probably under the influence of food abundance in those periods of time. This study concludes with policy recommendations for improving humpback whale foraging grounds by reducing acoustic harassment and risk of ship strikes in the Boundary Pass., Humpback whale, movements, oceanographic variables, Boundary pass, Salish sea, Vessel strike, tide, currents, SST, salinity
Eco-cultural restoration of wetlands at Tl’chés (Chatham Islands), British Columbia, Canada
My research project examined the restoration possibilities for two culturally important wetland ecosystems at Tl’chés (Chatham Islands, British Columbia, Canada). The first wetland is a sacred bathing pool and holds cultural significance, the second is a remnant silverweed and springbank clover (Potentilla anserine ssp. pacifica and Trifollium wormskjoldii) root garden. These wetlands are necessary ecosystems for the wildlife on Tl’chés as wetlands are rare, but also an integral part of Songhees’ cultural practices. My work was done at the invitation from elder Súlhlima (Joan Morris) who was one of the last resident of the islands and retains hereditary rights there, and Songhees Chief Ron Sam and band council. The goal of my project was to develop a restoration plan to restore the wetlands to pre-abandonment conditions, so cultural practices can continue, and to benefit the islands native plant and animal species. The project highlights the value of combining traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and traditional resource and environmental management (TREM) practices with ecological restoration., Eco-cultural restoration, wetland ecosystems, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), traditional resource and environmental management (TREM), estuarine root gardens, Songhees First Nation
Ecocultural restoration of a Coastal Root Garden on Tl’chés (Chatham Island), B.C.
Tl’chés is the Lekwungen name for the Chatham Islands — an archipelago located southeast of Victoria, British Columbia. Tl’chés is a central place in the traditional territory of the Lekwungen peoples, and today it is reserve land of the Songhees First Nation. This landscape was traditionally managed by prescribed burning and the cultivation of native plants. However, in the early 1950's, Lekwungen peoples left the archipelago, due to a lack of potable water and since then, the landscape has degraded drastically. The introduction of non-native plants has resulted in threats to the ecological, cultural resilience, and diversity of the landscape. My research focuses on developing a restoration plan for springbank clover in the coastal root garden. My restoration approach focuses on incorporating a Songhees-informed approach to restoration by integrating past practices and knowledge with the aim of answering: how to best restore the springbank clover population on Tl’chés?, Eco-cultural restoration, coastal root gardens, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), Songhees First Nation, cultural keystone place (CPK)
Ecological restoration options for Clear Lake and South Lake (Riding Mountain National Park), Manitoba
Options for ecological restoration are discussed for the Clear Lake – South Lake complex of Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. This project consisted of a) a review of studies conducted on Clear Lake and South Lake and b) a stream water quality sampling program. The review of previous studies was to gain an in-depth understanding of historical processes which shaped Clear Lake and South Lake. Previous condition, current condition and ecological stressors are all identified based on literature from Riding Mountain National Park. The stream water quality sampling program identifies major sources of nutrients into Clear Lake. Ecological restoration options pertain specifically to the Clear Lake – South Lake complex. South Lake restoration options include supplemental planting, dredging and chemical treatments. A novel technique designed to disrupt wind driven nutrient loading is also discussed. These methods are designed to return the South Basin to a macrophyte dominated system. Addressing hypolimnetic oxygen deficiency, two forms of hypolimnetic aeration are discussed to improve water quality in Clear Lake including a ‘Full lift’ design as well as a Speece Cone. Three options regarding the isthmus and connectivity between Clear Lake and South Lake are examined including a fishway installation and a wattle fence installation.
An ecological restoration plan for a weedy field at the University of British Columbia Okanagan
Grassland ecosystems are rare, in decline, and support a multitude of at-risk species in British Columbia. At the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna BC, a 3.3 ha site at the entrance of the campus is outlined as Okanagan grassland in campus design plans but currently lacks native bunchgrass communities. The goal of this restoration plan is to return grassland plant communities to the site despite the pervasiveness of noxious weeds. I characterised site conditions through soil and vegetation surveys. Restoration recommendations include managing noxious weeds through mowing, hand-pulling and some herbicide application. The site will be replanted with bunchgrass vegetation, two pockets of ponderosa forest, and two types of shrub communities. A walking path, signage, and two xeriscape gardens will also be included to control human use of the landscape. Long-term monitoring will be incorporated into classroom curricula to tie monitoring to learning opportunities., Grassland, exotic plants, Noxious weeds, urban restoration, restoration plan
The effect of mowing and hand removal on the regrowth rate of Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus)
Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus Focke) is an invasive species in the Pacific Northwest. Mowing and hand removal are two of the common treatments used for controlling Himalayan blackberry. I examined the effectiveness of mowing, hand removal, and control treatments by measuring the mean number of stem and mean stem length during a growing season. Treatments were applied on March 2017. Bi-weekly sampling was from April to August 2017. Data were analyzed with a two-factor split-plot Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) test. The overall trend showed no statistically significant difference between mowing and hand removal treatments in one growing season. Integrated treatments (e.g. mowing + hand removal + planting) are recommended to be used to effectively reduce Himalayan blackberry cover because one removal treatment showed to be insufficient to eliminate Himalayan blackberry., Himalayan blackberry
The effect of vegetation structure and abiotic variables on oviposition-site selection by amphibians
Assessing restoration success for pond-breeding amphibians frequently focuses on hydrology, water quality and vegetation, while neglecting the requirements of amphibians that use the restored areas for breeding. Both biotic and abiotic conditions can influence oviposition-site selection of amphibians that do not provide parental care. This study examines how vegetation structure and abiotic variables affect oviposition-site selection by amphibians. The goal of my study was to better understand the requirements of pond-breeding amphibians. In 2017, I surveyed egg masses in four ponds at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden in Sechelt, B.C. I identified 667 egg masses of four native amphibian species that varied in abundance and species richness among ponds. I recorded five biotic variables (i.e., vegetation cover, vegetation type, stem density, stem diameter, and canopy closure) and two abiotic variables (i.e., water depth and solar radiation) at egg-mass sites and random sites where no egg masses were detected. Logistic regression analysis with backward elimination revealed that stem count (p = 0.008) and water depth (p = 0.0001) significantly influenced oviposition-site selection. The results also showed that higher stem density and shallower water depth increased the likelihood of egg masses being present. My study indicated that quantifying stems in the water column characterized vegetation density better than estimating percent cover of vegetation. Shallow areas that have structurally complex vegetation might provide an advantage for the offspring by increasing refuge, food resources, and favourable thermal conditions for egg development. Hence, restoration projects could incorporate vegetation structure and shallow areas in their pond designs to potentially increase the abundance and diversity of amphibian communities, thereby contributing to successful restoration projects., ecological restoration, amphibians, oviposition, Rana aurora, Pseudacris regilla, Ambystoma gracile, Amystoma macrodactylum, vegetation structure, abiotic variables
Effects of Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) and Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) herbivory on tidal marsh recession at the Westham Island Marsh
In the Fraser River Estuary of British Columbia, tidal marshes have been receding and converting into unvegetated mudflats since the 1980s. While there are many hypotheses for this recession, the effect of avian herbivory is poorly understood. This study assessed how Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) and Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) herbivory affected cover of tidal marsh vegetation that was comprised mainly of three-square bulrush (Schoenoplectus pungens) in the Westham Island tidal marsh. I conducted two field-based exclosure experiments, marsh edge and mudflat, that used exclosure plots to reduce specific goose herbivory in a randomized block design. Each experiment consisted of four blocks each of which was comprised of four treatments: open to goose herbivory, excluded all goose herbivory, primarily excluded Canada Goose herbivory, or primarily excluded Snow Goose herbivory. The marsh edge experiment used exclosures centered on the vegetated edge of the marsh, while the mudflat experiment was conducted in the unvegetated mudflat and were transplanted with S. pungens. Based on results from July to October of 2020, percent cover of tidal marsh vegetation was about 20% lower in plots open to Canada Goose herbivory versus those that excluded geese. Snow Goose herbivory could not be accurately assessed as they arrived when S. pungens were dormant. Thus, deterring goose herbivory may be an important consideration for land managers in restoring tidal marshes. Additionally, I compared percent cover from drone-derived remote sensing to traditional ground-based visual estimates of percent cover of S. pungens in the tidal marsh. One per month, from July to October of 2020, I used a drone to take photos of the exclosures from the previous experiments, and used pixel counts to calculate the percent cover of S. pungens. I then used a t-test to compare the drone-derived percent cover to the ground-based estimates and found no significant difference (t = 0.58, p = 0.56). I then plotted a linear regression model and found a strong correspondence between both methods (R² = 0.99, p = 1.3e-139). So, remote sensing using drones appears to be an effective alternative to visual estimates of percent cover of tidal-marsh vegetation in the Westham island tidal marsh., Tidal marsh recession, Goose herbivory, Canada Goose, Snow Goose, Schoenoplectus pungens, Drones
The effects of tree thinning and broadcast burning on the quality of ungulate winter range: a case study within a Southern Interior Forest in British Columbia
Food limitation on ungulate winter range (UWR) has been a suspected factor in the regional declines of Odocoileus hemionus (mule deer) in the Pacific Northwest. Accordingly, enhancing browse resources in this critical habitat is increasingly recommended. At a dry forest site in Southeast B.C. called Fiva Creek (IDF dm1), I investigated the effects of two commonly prescribed methods for enhancing browse production: tree thinning and prescribed burning. Treatments were implemented between 2005–2008 and included three levels of thinning (all burned) and control areas (uncut and unburned). The response variables I measured included browse cover, canopy closure, security cover, visibility, and pellet abundance. I also evaluated browsing pressure on the indicator plant, Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia). Using linear mixed-effects ANOVA tests, I assessed how thinning (with follow-up burning) influenced forest and vegetation properties. There was no evidence of a treatment effect on browse production; however, browsing pressure was very high across the site (i.e., > 80% of A. alnifolia twigs showed evidence of browsing). Additionally, canopy cover was below recommended levels in all thinned treatments. My results suggested that restoration treatments actually diminished the quality of UWR at Fiva Creek. Further investigations are needed to develop effective UWR restoration methods., Mule deer, ungulate winter range, thinning, prescribed fire, restoration ecology

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