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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Factors limiting the expansion of black-tailed prairie dog colonies at their northern extent
Prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are considered a keystone species due to their ecological role in maintaining the prairies. In Canada, they are federally listed as a threatened species. This study was conducted to identify the limiting factors to the expansion of prairie dog colonies in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan. I tested different hypotheses to compare landforms, vegetation, and soil characteristics in three treatments: consistently occupied (Consistent), inconsistently occupied (Inconsistent), and never occupied (Buffer) by prairie dogs. I sampled four prairie dog colonies (blocks) from 17 July 2019 to 28 August 2019 using a randomized complete block design. I used ANOVA to test variables for significant differences among treatments. My results showed that hills, water channel, shrublands, grass cover, shrub cover and vegetation height classes (>30 cm) were significantly higher (p <0.05) in Buffer compared to Consistent and Inconsistent. Shrubs and tall vegetation should be mowed down to enhance the expansion of prairie dog colonies for restoring their population., restoration, prairie dogs, Cynomys ludovicianus, colony expansion, barriers, habitat use
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
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
The impacts of exotic Typha on benthic invertebrate communities in the South Arm of the Fraser River Estuary
In recent decades, the exotic cattail Typha angustifolia and its hybrid Typha x glauca have invaded the Fraser River estuary. The impacts from this invasion on benthic macroinvertebrate communities, however, are yet to be studied. Macroinvertebrates play important roles in food chains, trophic dynamics, and nutrient cycling and are potentially at risk from this invasion. In this study, I compared the benthic invertebrate communities between exotic cattail stands and native vegetation stands at 25 paired sites. Sediment cores were analyzed for invertebrate abundance, biomass, and Shannon Wiener diversity index, and it was found that biomass and abundance were lower in exotic cattail when compared to native vegetation, however, there was no difference in diversity. Given the proximity to side channels, tidal inundation time would be a logical explanation for the differences in the benthic communities; however, it was not found to be a significant predictor. Given the invasive nature of exotic cattail and the correlations that were found, cattail should be removed in restoration projects where possible., Fraser River, Typha x glauca, Estuary, Invasive species, Typha angustifolia
Impacts of roads and cranberry agriculture on bog wetland hydrology with restoration recommendations for Langley Bog
Bog wetlands store a disproportionate amount of carbon for their size, making their conservation an important part of climate change mitigation. The goal of this project is to investigate how roads and agriculture impact the hydrology and vegetation composition of Langley Bog and to provide restoration recommendations. Langley Bog, in Langley Township, BC, is a formerly mined peatland with a fill road running through the center and surrounded to the north and west by cranberry farms. From November 2020 to November 2021, depth to water table and pH were measured monthly at nine wells. Twelve vegetation transects were completed in July 2021. Sites adjacent to the road were correlated with a decrease in summer water level, while sites adjacent to the cranberry farms were correlated with an increase in spring pH levels. A positive relationship was found between an increase in water-table level and percent cover of wetland obligate species. Roads may be lowering the water table through subsidence and drainage. The cranberry farms may be increasing the pH through the deposition of fertilizer. These impacts may have been exacerbated by the unusually dry 2021 summer season. To raise the water table, tree and road removal is recommended to restore lateral flow and decrease evapotranspiration. Culverts installed under the primary fill road will provide additional hydrologic connectivity. Building a berm at outlet points will also help prevent water loss, keeping a higher water table. To increase carbon sequestration, Sphagnum mosses are to be reintroduced to denuded areas in Langley Bog. Tree removal will help in moss establishment by maintaining open bog conditions free from shading. Existing rare ecosystems present in Langley Bog would benefit from the removal of point source pollutants and invasive species on the site. Given the urgency of climate change, restoring the functionality of Langley Bog and protecting the existing stored carbon is a practical and achievable way to move Metro Vancouver a step closer to carbon neutrality., peatlands, ecological restoration, water levels, pH, sphagnum
Investigating regeneration in a raised ombrotrophic bog after peat extraction
Burns Bog is a raised ombrotrophic bog in Delta, British Columbia and faced with myriad disturbances. This study is focused on the impact and restoration of peat extraction by the Atkins-Durbrow Hydropeat method. Depth to water table, relative abundance and distribution of vegetation, and the degree of peat decomposition at consistent-depth intervals were investigated to elucidate the status of passive and active ecological restoration in three fields previously harvested for peat approximately one decade apart and compared to a fourth unharvested field. Summary statistics, Redundancy Analysis, and regression were used to compare restoration status and trends in hydrology, vegetation composition, and peat accumulation. A lag period between cessation of harvest and implementation of restoration, coupled with rapid anthropogenic climate change, serve as impediments to restoration here. Intervention in the form of improved rainfall retention, assisted recolonization, and the introduction of nurse species are recommended to improve bog function and resiliency., Atkins-Durbrow Hydropeat method, Ditch blocking, Ecological restoration, Peat extraction, Raised ombrotrophic bog, Burns Bog
Investigating the effect of salinity, elevation, redox potential, and geese herbivory on planting success in a Pacific Northwest salt marsh
The MacKay Creek Estuary, is a severely altered estuarine ecosystem located within an active international port in Vancouver, British Columbia. Several elevated salt marsh terraces were constructed as part of a larger restoration project within the MacKay Creek Estuary. Site visits conducted in 2018 revealed 75% of the terrace surface area failed to establish salt marsh vegetation. Significant difference in soil pore-water salinity, oxidation reduction (redox) potential and tidal elevation were found between vegetated and unvegetated portions of the terraces. Additionally, exclusion from Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) herbivory increased total percent cover and colonization of the adjacent unvegetated area. The combination of soil parameters and herbivory, as well as potential interactions between factors may be responsible for the lack of vegetation progression within the constructed salt marsh terraces at MacKay Creek Estuary., restoration, salt marsh, redox potential, pore-water salinity, MacKay Creek, Fraser River, estuary, Canada geese
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
Mapping floodplain fish habitat in the heart of the Fraser River and restoration options for impacted attributes on selected large mid-channel islands
The purpose of this project is to develop an ecological restoration plan for degraded habitats on mid-channel islands in the lower Fraser River. The study focuses on Herrling, Carey, and Strawberry islands, large mid-channel islands located in the gravel reach between Mission and Hope, British Columbia. These islands are known to be critical off-channel rearing habitat for many fish species including the threatened White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) and interior and lower Fraser watershed Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) populations. These islands are also home to many riparian plant and animal species. The flood-pulse concept (FPC) states that seasonal fluctuations in water levels for streams such as the Fraser River contribute substantially to the ecological function of the floodplain ecosystem where this phenomenon occurs. This often results in improved growth and survival rates for fish species that rely on a laterally-moving littoral zone of inundation. This phenomenon is thought by many to be the key to a properly functioning ecosystem in the lower Fraser River. Using a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) for the Fraser River between Hope and Mission, British Columbia, freshet flows (high water elevations) are presented to define the spatial extent of over-bank watering of Strawberry, Carey and Herrling islands. This over-bank watering provides lateral connectivity to floodplain islands. Based on extensive sampling in other studies, this lateral movement results in the creation of high-quality juvenile fish rearing habitat. A restoration plan is presented for those areas of Strawberry, Carey and Herrling islands degraded by recent land clearing for agriculture where they overlap sections defined as fish habitat from the spatial analysis., gravel reach, mid-channel islands, floodplain fish habitat, flood pulse concept, juvenile Chinook Salmon, lower Fraser River, White Sturgeon
Phytoremediation of contaminated soils
Phytoremediation poses an ecologically friendly and cost-effective alternative to other remediation methods such as chemical or thermal treatment. However, in contaminated sites such as retired oil wells and brine spills, it is common to have a co-contamination of salt and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The co-contamination of salt and PAHs may decrease the rate and effectiveness of bioremediation. Here we investigated the effect soil salinity has on the rate of phytoremediation, plant survivability and biomass. A 90-day greenhouse study was performed, growing alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) in soils treated with varying salt (NaCl) concentrations in the presence of pyrene and benzo[a]pyrene. No significant differences were observed in the presence or absence of PAHs. Salt treatments has significant affects on plant biomass, nodulation, and successful germination., Bioremediation, Polyaromatic hydrocarbons, Alfalfa, Salt, Phytoremediation
Plant facilitation effects as a potential restoration tool in riparian ecosystems in Southwestern British Columbia
This study began to investigate potential facilitative effects among shrub species in riparian ecosystems in southwestern British Columbia. I ran two concurrent studies. Six plots for each of four treatments were established at the Coquitlam River Wildlife Management Area. The first two treatments compared the survival, growth, flowering, and herbivory rates of planted twinberry seedlings in plots where the shrub layer was removed to plots where it was not. The other two treatments compared the survival, growth, leaf loss, flowering and herbivory rates of snowberry plants in plots where the salmonberry upper shrub layer was removed to those where it was not. No significant differences between the measured parameters in any of the treatments were found. These results are discussed in the context of the riparian forest ecosystem and current facilitation theory. The results are then used to inform an ecological restoration plan for the Suwa’lkh School Forest., Facilitation, Riparian forests, Native vegetation, Symphoricarpos albus, Lonicera involucrate, Rubus spectabilis, Ecological restoration
A prey-based approach to restoration
Forestry in British Columbia’s old-growth forests has reduced critical foraging and breeding habitat for the coastal northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis laingi) and restricted population growth. Now at-risk, efforts to recover this subspecies have focused on establishing suitable habitat and a well-distributed population within the province. However, regional diets and associated dynamics are also critical to goshawk recovery and remain poorly understood. Including a synchronous predator-prey recovery approach to current plans can bridge these knowledge gaps. A new model and methods were developed to translate prey biological requirements into structural surrogate features that could be parameterized and ranked within GIS software. Applying these ranks to known goshawk territories in the South Coast allowed for the visualization and quantification of areas with subpar predicted prey abundances. This provided insight on links between prey and forest structure and can be used to direct future restoration and research decisions for coastal goshawk prey-based recovery.
Restoration of the upper Salmon River watershed: projected effects of diversion removal on salmonid abundance
The Salmon River, located within the Laich-kwil-tach First Nations’ traditional territory on Vancouver Island, supports a diverse community of anadromous and resident salmonids despite having cumulative effects from historical resource development (Burt 2010a). Currently, BC Hydro’s diversion dam and transfer canal on the Salmon River provides water for hydroelectric power production in Campbell River, but restricts the upstream and downstream movement of native salmonids (Anderson 2009, BC Hydro 2012). This report addresses removing the Salmon River diversion and providing coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and steelhead trout (O. mykiss) unrestricted access into the upper Salmon River watershed. This restoration project will mitigate projected effects of climate change on freshwater life stages of the Salmon River salmonids by addressing increasing stream temperatures and seasonal low flows. Completing this restoration project is the first step in recovering the salmonid productivity of the upper Salmon River., salmonid productivity, Salmon River, coho salmon, steelhead trout, ecological restoration, dam removal
Restoration options for Nicomekl River anadromous salmonids – Elgin Road Bridge Sea Dam
The Nicomekl River flows through historic Katzie First Nation territory in Surrey, British Columbia. The river provides salmon the linkage between their upland spawning and rearing grounds and the Pacific Ocean where they mature. Anthropogenic development has reduced habitat connectivity along the river, denuded the banks of vegetation, removed instream complexity, constrained the channel, regulated flow, and altered the water chemistry. A tidally controlled 7-gate sea dam is the source of the critical connectivity bottleneck on the river. It impairs free longitudinal migrations of adult and juvenile salmonids and increases adult and juvenile predation. Through literature review and site assessment, this study suggests a suite of restoration treatments to restore connectivity and site-based habitat attributes to the Nicomekl River. The study then considers management options in light of climate change, sea level rise, and how to generate public involvement to support the proposed treatments. The study concludes that urban stream restoration faces challenges as it must find a balance between the environmental and social needs of the Nicomekl River beyond simply repairing ecosystem damage and degradation., riparian restoration, salmonids, migration bottlenecks: connectivity
Restoration planning for urban salmonid habitat
Restoration of salmonid habitat has been completed in many urban areas; however, the success of these projects may be limited without consideration of water quality. Urban watersheds are affected by stormwater runoff which transfers toxic substances such as heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and fine particles from impervious surfaces into streams. Previous research has documented impacts of stormwater causing premature death in spawning coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch), and related extent of impervious surfaces to impacts on benthic invertebrates. This research aims to expand our knowledge on the effects of stormwater runoff on water quality and benthic invertebrate communities, and make recommendations for restoration of Mosquito Creek, in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Stream water quality was monitored, site habitats were assessed, and impervious surfaces were mapped. Benthic invertebrate samples were collected and analyzed for abundance, diversity, and pollution tolerance, comparing upstream and downstream of a stormwater inflow and two sites on a reference stream. Average water quality measurements showed minor impacts related to elevated temperatures. However, benthic invertebrate metrics revealed chronic water quality issues, reflecting cumulative impacts. Pollution tolerance index and abundance were reduced at the downstream Mosquito Creek site suggesting impacts from the stormwater inflow, while the Ephemoptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera (EPT) to total ratio and overall stream health (Streamkeepers Site Assessment Rating) were significantly lower at Mosquito Creek overall suggesting watershed impacts from impervious surfaces and point-source pollution events. Restoration recommendations including a rain garden are discussed to improve water quality for salmonids., Restoration, Urban streams, Salmonids, Benthic invertebrates, Water quality, Stormwater
Restoring hydrological connectivity in the Guichon Creek watershed through wetland creation
Urbanization of areas alters the natural hydrology of the land through the creation of impervious surfaces, removal of vegetation, and construction of storm sewer systems. These alterations impact physical processes and the biological communities of our waterways through the introduction of pollutants, creation of uncharacteristic hydrological regimes, and habitat loss and fragmentation. Integration of natural areas in our built environments will mitigate some of these effects and reduce the degradation of streams in urbanized watersheds. Guichon Creek flows through an urbanized environment, which includes the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Burnaby campus. A tributary flows into Guichon Creek at the south end of campus and the majority of its flow is from a stormwater sewer which receives runoff from the residential area east of campus. The tributary is approximately 150 metres and runs between a community garden and a small gravel parking lot before entering Guichon Creek. This project proposes restoration of a 2,000 m2 parcel of land between Guichon Creek and the tributary. Restoration activities involve removal of an existing parking lot, management of invasive hybrid Japanese knotweed (Fallopia x bohemica) and Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus), creation of an off channel wetland, and addition of natural in-stream structures to the tributary. Wetlands provide important hydrological and ecological functions that will contribute to the restoration efforts on Guichon Creek. This wetland will improve hydrological functions of the Guichon Creek floodplain through increased groundwater infiltration, creation of a storage area, and pollutant filtration. Improving these functions is also an important component of making stream ecosystems more resilient to climate change. The wetland will also provide ecological benefits such as improved water quality and creation of amphibian habitat. This project focuses on the creation of habitat for northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora) and the Pacific chorus frog (Psuedacris regilla). Another important component of restoration in an urban environment is creating a connection between people and the environment. Restoration of this space provides opportunities for public involvement and environmental education and awareness. This creates a forum to discuss the effects of urbanization on streams and show people where the runoff from their neighbourhood ends up. Forming that connection between people and their environment is an important step to creating interest and involvement in environmental issues.

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