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
Breeding waterfowl use of restored wetlands in the Cariboo region of British Columbia
This study investigated effects of wetland size and emergent vegetation cover on breeding waterfowl and young at 12 restored wetlands in the Cariboo region of British Columbia. Repeated ground surveys were conducted throughout summer 2019 to determine total abundance, density and species richness of waterfowl. Surveyed wetlands varied in size and emergent cover. Large (16-19 ha) wetlands had greater breeding total abundance and lower breeding and brood densities than smaller wetlands. Total abundance of breeding waterfowl and young were highest when wetlands had less than 60% emergent cover. Previous studies suggest that high densities of waterfowl decrease young survival. Restorations created to benefit several species of breeding waterfowl may want to restore wetlands that are large (>16 ha) and have less than 30% emergent vegetation cover. These wetlands had higher total abundances and lower densities than other categories studied, however, certain species may depend on smaller wetlands which should be researched further., Cariboo region, wetland restoration, breeding waterfowl, emergent vegetation
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.
A climate adaptation plan: Identifying thermal refugia for salmonids in the Tsolum River
Stream temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are increasing due to climate change, resulting in thermal stress for salmonids. Groundwater is a cooler source of water into streams, providing thermal refugia. The goal of this Applied Research Project was to identify groundwater input areas in the Tsolum River, using temperature loggers to trace the thermal signal of groundwater. A total of 28 water temperature loggers and 2 air temperature loggers were deployed within the watershed in the summer of 2019. Results showed that 12 sites may be influenced by groundwater input. Restoration/management actions such as riparian planting, gravel bar live staking, and restrictions on groundwater withdrawal are recommended to decrease stream temperatures. This study demonstrated that temperature loggers can be deployed within streams to identify areas of groundwater input. The identification of thermal refugia within the Tsolum River and other salmonid-bearing streams will help to protect salmonids from climate change impacts., climate adaptation, thermal refugia, Tsolum River, groundwater
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
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
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
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)
Identifying temporal trends and mechanisms for successful reforestation on former agricultural land
This study investigates the outcomes of restoration efforts completed on retired agricultural land in Southwest Ontario. Sites acquired by the Nature Conservancy of Canada were planted to kickstart succession to native deciduous forests, but the results of the plantings are mixed. Analysis of soil conditions indicated that low levels of soil organic carbon were correlated to low water content and high density unfavourable for plant growth. Analysis of remotely sensed imagery was done to assess and compare vegetation cover to reference conditions at Walpole Island First Nation. Analysis revealed that successful restoration was dependent on multiple soil characteristics, but conditions correlated to higher total organic carbon favoured greater vegetation cover. Remote sensing data revealed that succession towards tree canopy development was accelerated compared to passive restoration, and a shaded understory was established approximately 8-12 years following restoration. Future work can expand on succession and the effects of other restoration treatments., Soil, Reforestation, NDVI, Agriculture, Restoration, Secondary succession
Investigation of the effects of soil and biochar in a rain garden on stormwater quality improvement
Stormwater runoff from parking lots often contains a variety of elements and compounds in different forms and concentration that may pose risks to biota in receiving aquatic systems. Heavy metals including lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are of particular concern in such runoff due to their prevalence, toxicity to aquatic organisms and persistence in environment. The ability of commercially available biochar to remove pollutants of concern through column treatments was assessed in this research. Different treatments of biochar were considered and their ability to remove pollutants was compared to soil. The biochar (Emergent and Cantimber) used in this study showed a significant higher molecular weight PAHs removal ability compared to soil and followed the order of Cantimber > Emergent > soil. The effects of heavy metals and PAHs on aquatic organisms and plants degradation can be mitigated by amending the soil media with biochar in the bioretention cells such as raingarden. This could be applied in real world where stormwater runoff can be treated before entering into river or stream therefore cutting the need of future restoration., Emergent Biochar, Cantimber Biochar, Parking lot stormwater, Low impact development, Heavy metals, PAHs, Constructed wetlands
A meta-analysis of North Shore streams: maximizing the effect of installed rain gardens through strategic placement
A meta-analysis using pre-existing data was done for streams in the North Shore of Vancouver, British Columbia. Parameters considered were chemical concentrations from stormwater input including: heavy metals concentrations (Copper (Cu), Zinc (Zn), Cadmium (Cd), Lead (Pb)) and nutrient concentrations (Nitrate (N03-) and Orthophosphate (P04 3-))_ Chronic toxicity guideline exceedance based on the British Columbia Approved Water Quality Guidelines was found in all 94% of stream systems for Cu and 44% of stream systems for Zn. Heavy metal concentrations were found to be positively correlated with percent impervious surface cover in the watershed, with the strength of the correlation being metal-dependent. Three sites within the study had the highest levels of both Cu and Zn. These watersheds (Upper Keith Creek, Maplewood Creek, and Mackay Creek) were prioritized for rain garden installation. Rain garden building specifications to remediate for Zn and Cu were recommended and included addition of mulch layer, minimum depth of topsoil (30 cm), and vegetating with plants with high potential for biofiltration and/or phytoremediation., Impervious surface cover, Stormwater, Rain garden, Green infrastructure, Heavy metal analysis
A mitigation plan for salmonid spawning habitat in the Lower Seymour River, North Vancouver
Salmonids are a very important species to British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. They are an icon of British Columbia’s heritage and they hold many ecological, economical, recreational, and cultural values. Unfortunately, Pacific salmonid populations have been declining over the last century due many reasons including degradation of freshwater habitat used for spawning and rearing. This degradation is largely due to expanding urbanization and the installation of dams for flood control, hydropower and water supply. The Seymour River is a mountainous river located in North Vancouver. Over the past century, this river has been subjected to many anthropogenic activities that have cumulatively altered the natural flow and sediment regime. The Seymour Falls Dam, located in the middle of the watershed, intercepts gravel transport from the upper watershed into the lower reaches. This combined with the intense channelization within the lower 4 km of the river, which has created conditions incapable of gravel deposition and retention, has led the lower reaches to become gravel deficient. This gravel deficiency has caused the degradation of traditional spawning grounds of chum (Oncorhynchus keta), and pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha). This study aims to: 1) determine if there is a gravel deficiency for chum and pink salmon spawning in the lower 1.5 km reaches and, 2) provide recommended mitigative treatments of gravel addition to increase suitable spawning area, and therefore increase salmon productivity of the Seymour River. A site assessment was conducted on the lower 1.5 km of the Seymour River and included sampling of the five key parameters that define spawning habitat (i.e., water depth, velocity, dissolved oxygen, water temperature and substrate). A particular focus was given on analysing the substrate as it was expected to be deficient for spawning due to the predetermined conditions in the watershed such as the dam and the channelization. Results of the site assessment confirmed that substrate is the limiting factor for chum and pink salmon spawning in this area as the bed surface is composed of large cobbles and boulders too large for these specific species to move to dig a redd. Therefore, a xi mitigation plan of gravel addition is proposed to increase spawning habitat and conserve these salmon runs. Two gravel placement sites were selected between Mt. Seymour Parkway and Dollarton Bridge. A gravel mobility analysis determined that suitable-sized gravel will not be deposited or retained naturally on the channel bed due to the slope and water depth at high flood events. Therefore, gravel catchment structures are proposed to dissipate energy, thereby promoting deposition and reducing scouring. Each site contains a different design tailored to the specific characteristics of that reach. To retain gravel, spurs composed of the surface cobbles and boulders are proposed along with imbedded gravel pads composing of suitably sized gravel brought in from a local source. In total these two sites could provide about 1,925 m2 of additional spawning habitat which could support 209-836 pairs of chum or 3,208 pairs of pink salmon. Through long-term monitoring, this project in the Seymour River could provide strategies of gravel placement in large, urbanized, gravel-deficient rivers, in which current research is limited. Many rivers in North Vancouver (i.e., Capilano River, Lynn Creek, McKay Creek and Mosquito Creek) may be experiencing a gravel deficit similar to the Seymour River, and the strategies outlined in this project could be adapted to the specific conditions of those rivers. The cumulative effect of adding spawning gravel in each river within the Burrard Inlet, as well as elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, could reduce stress in their freshwater phase and aid in rebuilding salmon populations from their precipitous decline in which they are on currently on track for. The strategies provided will also become important as more rivers become sediment deprived due to the construction of hydropower dams in response to a change from fossil fuels to renewable energies as climate change continues. The need for more innovative habitat mitigation strategies will be necessary to keep salmon from becoming a relic of the past.

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