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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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
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
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
The scale of ecological restoration: restoring steelhead habitat in the Oktwanch Watershed, Vancouver Island, B.C.
Forestry practices are thought to be the major cause of degraded salmonid habitat and declining steelhead populations in the Oktwanch River on Vancouver Island. Large woody debris installations and channel modifications were completed in Reach 1 of the Oktwanch River and adjacent side channels in 2001 to provide spawning and rearing habitat for multiple salmonid species and prevent further degradation, but were ultimately unsuccessful. This study investigated if watershed-scale restoration, rather than reach-scale, is necessary to restore this habitat for steelhead in the Oktwanch River indefinitely. This was achieved through an assessment of fish habitat in Reach 1 of the Oktwanch River and adjacent side channels and spatial analysis of the Oktwanch watershed using Landsat historical aerial imagery and i-Tree Canopy. The findings from this study suggest watershed-scale changes to forestry practices are required to restore steelhead populations in the Oktwanch River., forestry practices, watershed-scale restoration, reach-scale, woody debris installations, channel modifications
Simplified structure or fewer arthropods to eat?
In agricultural landscapes, hedgerows provide critical habitat for songbirds. Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus; HBB) is a widespread invasive species in the Pacific Northwest that has been linked to lower breeding songbird diversity. My study explored two possible explanatory mechanisms: educed structural complexity and lower arthropod abundance as a food source. I conducted avian point counts in 51 hedgerow segments at two locations in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. In these segments, I quantified vegetation structure using a Foliage Height Diversity (FHD) metric derived from LiDAR data. I sampled arthropod abundance on the foliage of woody understory vegetation. I used multiple regression to identify best fit generalized linear models. Songbird diversity decreased with HBB % cover and increased with FHD. However, arthropod abundance was unrelated to bird metrics, and similar between HBB and other native shrubs. This suggests that hedgerows should be managed to control HBB and maximize vegetation structure., songbird diversity, agricultural landscapes, Himalayan Blackberry, hedgerows, arthropods, LiDAR
Structural influence of old field on breeding summer songbirds, and overwintering raptor communities
Old field is a unnatural habitat that usually occurs as a result of agricultural land abandonment and is the product of early-stage natural succession on a previously managed field. In an agricultural setting with monoculture crops, old fields provide more vegetative complexity through ground cover diversity and shrubs and hedgerows. In Delta, British Columbia, several old-field sites are managed for wildlife and provide nesting habitat for songbirds over the summer, as well as foraging habitat for overwintering raptors during fall and winter months. I surveyed two old-field sites near Boundary Bay, and two field sites at the Vancouver Landfill to compare the influence of old-field vegetation on different bird communities and improve understanding on species using the landfill. I conducted fixed-radius point counts for songbirds, and standing counts for raptors. Comparing replicate field types (n=2) I found that overall diversity of songbirds was higher in old field, and also associated with structural features like shrubs and trees, while abundances of Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis) decreased with proximity to shrubs and trees. My results support the conclusion that installing structural vegetation features at the landfill would maximize breeding songbird diversity. I also found the landfill to support higher diversity of wintering raptor species, but old field supported consistently higher abundances. This suggests that the landfill is currently functioning as lower quality wintering habitat, and that different management techniques should be considered.

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