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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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
Carbon sequestration and storage potential along the Trans-Canada Highway corridor in Chilliwack, BC
As of 2017, more than 4 billion people live in urban areas (Ritchie 2018). As people continue to move from rural to urban areas, the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in urban areas will continue to rise. However, this may be mitigated by increasing carbon sequestration by expanding urban forests (Baines et al. 2020). While the BC government has implemented reforestation projects on logged, provincial land, and has released a Community Toolkit for municipalities to increase their treed environments, there is still available land to be planted between the provincial and municipal land (Cullington et al. 2008). Trees are an important tool for CO2 sequestration and storage. The open landscapes of the Trans-Canada Highway right-of-ways presents an underutilized opportunity to increase the treed environment for carbon sequestration and storage along this open vehicle corridor. This project seeks to model the current carbon sequestration level and the carbon sequestration potential for different vegetation types along the Trans-Canada Highway and develop recommendations for revegetation plans to increase carbon sequestration along this heavily used vehicle corridor. The study site resides along a 20 km stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway in Chilliwack, British Columbia. This area was chosen as it is an agricultural community with very few treed areas. The area was split into the Chilliwack North Polygon (CNP) and the Chilliwack South Polygon (CSP) on ArcMap, on which a grid of 20 m by 20 m squares were laid, which is necessary for transferring the data collected in the field into i-Tree Eco v6.0 (n.d.). The program i-Tree Eco uses measurements, such as diameter at breast height (DBH) and ground cover class, taken in the field to estimate ecosystem services and structural characteristics of the Chilliwack area. Throughout the CNP and CSP areas, 12 were selected based on accessibility, safety, and site representation. The program i-Tree Canopy v7.0 (n.d.) was also used to bolster this information by estimating tree cover and tree benefits for the Chilliwack area through satellite imagery by randomly selecting 500 sampling points throughout the CNP and CSP areas. Grass surveys were conducted in 1 m by 1 m quadrats placed in an area representative of the selected 20 m by 20 m quadrat (i.e. a homogenous area that represents the majority of the vegetation in the plot). Grasses were identified on site to genus or species whenever possible, and their percent cover measured. Soil samples were also taken within the 1 m by 1 m quadrat within the first 15 cm. As these sample sites house anthroposols, sampling within the first 15 cm was selected to capture conditions in the root zone for plant growth. The soil samples taken were used to determine soil texture and soil pH for planting purposes. Finally, a review of highway management practices was done to identify areas where improvements can be made to increase carbon sequestration. Practical management suggestions are based on the results from the above-mentioned analyses. The program i-Tree Eco v6.0 (n.d) indicated that the CNP had the greatest carbon storage of 172,787.3 kg/ha, while the CSP had 15,270.8 kg/ha. The CNP is able to store 11,554.2 tonnes of carbon while the CSP was only able to store 546.1 tonnes of carbon. However, the CNP had an annual net carbon sequestration of - 57.2 tonnes/yr while the CSP has 2.5 tonnes/yr. Red alder (Alnus rubra) comprised 52.3% of tree species recorded and had the highest carbon storage of 6,322.7 tonnes, followed by bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) with 3,186.0 tonnes, black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) with 1416.3 tonnes, western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) with 1155.6 tonnes, and paper birch (Betula papyrifera) with 19.7 tonnes. The annual net carbon sequestration of red alders however was - 2.2 tonnes/yr, while bigleaf maple had the highest with 3.7 tonne/yr. The program i-Tree Canopy v7.0 (n.d.) indicated that overall, there was 125.37 tonnes of carbon sequestered annually in trees within the CNP and CSP, with 3,734.34 tonnes stored. The ground cover composition of the CNP had a greater composition of shrub (61.1%) and tree (16%) compared to the CSP, while the CSP had greater plantable space (65.4%). This data was used to characterize the study area and model the current carbon sequestration and storage. New management strategies were proposed and native vegetation suitable for the study area was identified.
Comparing soil nematode composition in bluebunch wheatgrass P. spicata root to the occurrence of invasive plants C. stoebe and L. dalmatica
The viability of native bunchgrass ecosystems throughout the PPxh BEC subzone and in Kenna Cartwright Park (KCP) in Kamloops B.C. are under threat by invasive plants. Once established, invasive plants are difficult to eradicate and can predominate the landscape. I collected soil samples from a relatively undisturbed bunchgrass reference site composed of native bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), and I collected soil samples from a bunchgrass site occupied by the invasive plants, spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) and dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica), to compare the soil nematode communities. My results reveal differences in the community-level biodiversity and abundance of soil nematodes between sites. The Maturity Index and the Plant Parasitic Index indicate that the native bunchgrass site had a “Structured” soil food web and that the site occupied by invasive plants had a “Basal” soil food web. My results indicate soil nematodes are useful as bioindicators of soil properties and these data provide useful criteria to help prioritize sites for ecological restoration., Nematology, Invasive plants, Pseudoroegneria spicata, Biological indicators, Ecological 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
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 nitrogen fertilization on the physiology and morphology of Sphagnum capillifolium in an ombrotrophic bog
Degraded peatlands release 100-200 g-CO2 eqv. m-2 yr-1 in net emissions and account for more than 10% of global CO2 emissions. The success of bog restoration is dependent on creating suitable moisture conditions for the donor material to establish, propagate, and develop a new layer of Sphagnum that has hydrophysical and water retention properties similar to natural peatlands. Techniques to improve moisture retention during the transplant process and increase water holding capability of the restored Sphagnum layer have been identified as an area of bog restoration that requires more research. Samples were collected from plots fertilized with six different nitrogen treatments at Mer Bleue Bog in Ottawa, Canada. Net CO2 assimilation, fresh weight, dry weight, water content, and dissolved nutrient measurements were made to determine the potential effectiveness of incorporating nitrogen fertilization into the North American approach to peatland restoration. High levels of nitrogen fertilization exerted deleterious effects on individual morphology, growth density, water holding and retention capacity, CO2 assimilation, and nutrient dynamics and decomposition. Fertilization with 1.6 g m-2 yr-1 of ammonium has the potential to ameliorate water retention capacity through more robust individual morphology and denser growth patterns and increases carbon assimilation and photosynthetic capacity. The results indicate integrating low levels of ammonium fertilization into bog restoration techniques can potentially increase restoration success., water content, carbon dioxide assimilation, growth density, peatland restoration, ammonium, nitrate
The effect of time-since-burning and hand-pulling on the growth and stem density of Centaurea stoebe and Linaria dalmatica
Prescribed burning and hand-pulling are used to manage invasive plants but treatments can deferentially affect species. My objective is to determine the effect of time-since-burning and hand-pulling on stem density and growth of Centaurea stoebe (spotted knapweed) and Linaria dalmatica (Dalmatian toadflax). Prescribed burns occurred in March 2015 and 2016, while hand-pulling occurred in April and May of 2017. I conducted vegetation surveys in May, June, and July 2017. Growth rates differed among treatments and by species. Centaurea stoebe was not detected in the prescribed burn treatments. Hand-pulling increased stem density of C. stoebe, but individuals were smaller and 60% remained as basal rosettes compared to control. Linaria dalmatica were significantly taller in the burn treatments, and the stem density of L. dalmatica was greater in the prescribed burn and hand-pull treatments compared to control. The tallest L. dalmatica occurred in the 2-year post-burn site, indicating a time-since-burning interaction., invasive plants, prescribed burning, hand-pulling, Cetaurea stoebe, Linaria dalmatica
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
Experimental control of Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) within critical habitat of the endangered Half-moon Hairstreak Butterfly (Satyrium semiluna)
Spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) is a non-native invasive forb found throughout North America that suppresses native vegetation and reduces biodiversity. The designation of Blakiston Fan (Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta) as critical habitat for the endangered half-moon hairstreak butterfly (Satyrium semiluna) brought forward concerns of the effects of knapweed management practices on the hairstreak and its native larval and nectar host plants. This pilot study used a randomized complete block design to examine the within-season change in cover of spotted knapweed and silky lupine (Lupinus sericeus) in response to herbicide application and two timings of manual removal (i.e., mid-June and late-July). This study also examined changes in the vegetation community and relative abundance of hairstreak butterflies across the fan. Significant treatment effects (p= 0.006, f3, 12= 6.89) were seen in the change in percent cover of spotted knapweed two weeks post-treatment between herbicide and control plots. There was no significant difference in the change in lupine percent cover among treatments (p= 0.075, f3, 12= 2.96). Cover of native host plants and hairstreak abundance were greatest in the south fan. Increases in knapweed cover were lowest in the south fan. Based on these results, a triaged management plan was recommended with restoration efforts focused on the south fan. Recommendations for the south fan include selective herbicide application to limit spotted knapweed distribution, closure of horse trails, and a native planting and seeding experiment. Management of the north and central fan was recommended to focus on the control of knapweed monocultures through intensive herbicide application and establishing biological control agents for long-term control. Further research of the hairstreak lifecycle is needed to understand the primary mechanism of decline, as well as, research into the response of native nectar host plants to knapweed control. Monitoring the response of the vegetation community and relative abundance of hairstreaks following the Kenow fire of 2017 is key in prioritizing restoration actions for Blakiston Fan., vegetation mapping, species at risk, host plant, invasive species, ecological restoration, Aminopyralid
Exploring the relative effects of different wetland restoration sites on functional connectivity for the northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora)
Amphibian species are globally at risk, with a leading cause of decline attributed to habitat loss and fragmentation. The northern red-legged frog (NRLF) is one such species and listed as a Species of Special Concern by the Species at Risk Act. The Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project is creating new wetland habitat on the Sechelt Peninsula. In this research, I provide a tool to explore the relative effects on the functional connectivity of different potential restoration sites. A habitat suitability model (HSM) was created to describe the landscape in terms of conductance, or ease of movement for NRLF. Using this conductance map, I analysed the functional connectivity between wetlands by using Circuitscape, a software grounded in circuit theory. Three potential restoration options were compared against the existing landscape. Of the three options, one had a much greater effect in increasing the overall wetlands and its connectivity to the existing network of wetlands., Functional connectivity, wetland habitat restoration, northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora), circuit theory, Circuitscape, habitat suitability model (HSM)
A historical marsh vegetation composition comparison between five Fraser River foreshore marshes
A full composition study of some key Fraser River foreshore marshes, Boundary Bay, Brunswick Point, Westham Island, Lulu Island, and Sea Island, had not been done in several decades, during which a large-scale marsh recession event occurred at two of the marshes. The vegetation composition is measured in this study with relation to soil water, soil pore water salinity, and elevation. The results in this study show a shift in the vegetation composition in some areas of the Lulu Island marsh, with the other marshes remaining relatively similar to historical data. The plant species’ tolerance to soil water, soil salinity, and elevation vary in each marsh, illustrating the need for individualized restoration plans for each marsh. Conserving and restoring these marshes is critical in light of the many changes in the Fraser River delta, including sea level rise, increased geese populations, altered sediment regimes, and urbanization., Fraser River, brackish marsh, salt marsh, vegetation composition, salinity, elevation

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