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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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)
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
Groundwater elevation and chemistry at Camosun Bog, British Columbia, and implications for bog restoration
A bog is a type of wetland with a high water table, acidic soil and is nutrient poor. Camosun Bog is the oldest bog in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, and remained undisturbed until development of the surrounding residential neighborhood caused changes to its groundwater conditions, threatening its current persistence. The goal of this study is to provide an updated examination of Camosun Bog’s groundwater conditions and to discuss relevant bog restoration measures. Groundwater elevation and chemistry (pH, conductivity, nitrogen and phosphorus) were monitored for several months in 2019. Results indicate that current groundwater elevations are lower in Camosun Bog than they were thirty years ago, especially in the north and northeast regions. Locations in the north and center parts of the open bog experienced groundwater nitrogen enrichment and higher pH, indicating that raising the water table should be the main goal of restoration for Camosun Bog.
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
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
Marsh resiliency strategies in the face of sea-level rise: Pilot project opportunities for Fraser River delta tidal marshes
Coastal wetlands are naturally resilient to changing sea levels; however, as rates of sea-level rise increase, the interaction between changing sea-level and ongoing human impacts will be a major driver in future coastal tidal marsh stability. My goal is to provide decision makers with recommendations to increase the resilience of the Fraser River delta front tidal marsh communities over the twenty-first century. I conducted a literature review to (1) examine the current knowledge base regarding effects of sea-level rise on tidal marshes and (2) identify current ecosystem-based adaptation strategies for increasing tidal marsh resilience to sea-level rise. Based on this review, recommendations are made for strategies that could be used to increase tidal marsh resilience in the Fraser River delta. Recommendations include (1) initiating delta-wide marsh accretion modeling to assess tidal marsh vulnerability under possible sea-level rise scenarios and (2) implementing sediment augmentation pilot projects for both direct (e.g., layered sediment lifts) and indirect (e.g., mud motor) sediment augmentation strategies to test ecosystem based adaptive management strategies as part of an adaptive management framework.
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 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.
A riparian restoration plan for a construction site on the Brunette River
Urbanization has altered riparian ecosystems, resulting in the decline of species that depend on them. The Brunette River in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia is no exception; though it currently supports a range of biotas, many of them are at-risk. These impacts are further accentuated by the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which will result in the removal of a portion of critical habitat for the endangered Nooksack Dace. In light of the cultural significance of the basin to Kwikwetlem First Nations, the goal of this plan is to improve conditions at the project site post-construction through the establishment of culturally and ecologically important species and the addition of habitat features. I completed soil, vegetation, and water quality surveys to inform my prescriptions. Recommendations include the management of non-native species using manual and mechanical control methods and the planting of a native riparian community that fits within the confines of human infrastructure. A robust monitoring plan is also provided., critical habitat, exotic species, First Nations, restoration, riparian, urbanization
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

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