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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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
The effects of canopy closure on precipitation throughfall
Since the 1860s the watershed of Spanish Bank Creek has experienced many ecological disturbances due to extensive old-growth logging and urban development. Most notably, these disturbances have altered the vegetative composition and hydrology throughout the watershed. The historic old-growth forest has been replaced by species typical of earlier seral stages, as well as invasive species such as English ivy (Hedera helix). This disturbed vegetation mosaic is characterized by an arrested ecological trajectory that perpetuates degraded conditions. Urban development has eliminated over a third of the historic length of Spanish Bank Creek and storm drains were installed to direct residential drainage into the stream. The combination of a disturbed forest and degraded hydrology intensifies runoff and associated sediment transport, and decreases the hydraulic retention time of the watershed. This has led to a significant decline in abundance of chum, coho, and cutthroat salmonids in Spanish Bank Creek. Previous research has established how trees partition precipitation into throughfall, stemflow, and interception, however there are few studies examining the effects of canopy closure on throughfall within the context of ecological restoration. Thus, the objective of this paper is to determine if increasing canopy closure can be used as a restoration model to decrease throughfall, and consequently increase the hydraulic retention time of the watershed. Results indicated that greater canopy closure was associated with decreased precipitation throughfall. From these results I formulated a restoration goal and several treatments that would increase canopy closure, and also ameliorate the degraded vegetative composition and hydrology of the watershed. The restoration treatments prescribed in this paper constitute five years of physical enhancements from which self-sustaining biological processes will continue to restore ecosystem function and structure. Successful implementation of these restoration treatments will positively affect regional biota, as well as users of the Pacific Spirit Regional Park who come to recreate, learn, and connect.
The effects of tree thinning and broadcast burning on the quality of ungulate winter range: a case study within a Southern Interior Forest in British Columbia
Food limitation on ungulate winter range (UWR) has been a suspected factor in the regional declines of Odocoileus hemionus (mule deer) in the Pacific Northwest. Accordingly, enhancing browse resources in this critical habitat is increasingly recommended. At a dry forest site in Southeast B.C. called Fiva Creek (IDF dm1), I investigated the effects of two commonly prescribed methods for enhancing browse production: tree thinning and prescribed burning. Treatments were implemented between 2005–2008 and included three levels of thinning (all burned) and control areas (uncut and unburned). The response variables I measured included browse cover, canopy closure, security cover, visibility, and pellet abundance. I also evaluated browsing pressure on the indicator plant, Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia). Using linear mixed-effects ANOVA tests, I assessed how thinning (with follow-up burning) influenced forest and vegetation properties. There was no evidence of a treatment effect on browse production; however, browsing pressure was very high across the site (i.e., > 80% of A. alnifolia twigs showed evidence of browsing). Additionally, canopy cover was below recommended levels in all thinned treatments. My results suggested that restoration treatments actually diminished the quality of UWR at Fiva Creek. Further investigations are needed to develop effective UWR restoration methods., Mule deer, ungulate winter range, thinning, prescribed fire, restoration ecology
Experimental control of Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) within critical habitat of the endangered Half-moon Hairstreak Butterfly (Satyrium semiluna)
Spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) is a non-native invasive forb found throughout North America that suppresses native vegetation and reduces biodiversity. The designation of Blakiston Fan (Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta) as critical habitat for the endangered half-moon hairstreak butterfly (Satyrium semiluna) brought forward concerns of the effects of knapweed management practices on the hairstreak and its native larval and nectar host plants. This pilot study used a randomized complete block design to examine the within-season change in cover of spotted knapweed and silky lupine (Lupinus sericeus) in response to herbicide application and two timings of manual removal (i.e., mid-June and late-July). This study also examined changes in the vegetation community and relative abundance of hairstreak butterflies across the fan. Significant treatment effects (p= 0.006, f3, 12= 6.89) were seen in the change in percent cover of spotted knapweed two weeks post-treatment between herbicide and control plots. There was no significant difference in the change in lupine percent cover among treatments (p= 0.075, f3, 12= 2.96). Cover of native host plants and hairstreak abundance were greatest in the south fan. Increases in knapweed cover were lowest in the south fan. Based on these results, a triaged management plan was recommended with restoration efforts focused on the south fan. Recommendations for the south fan include selective herbicide application to limit spotted knapweed distribution, closure of horse trails, and a native planting and seeding experiment. Management of the north and central fan was recommended to focus on the control of knapweed monocultures through intensive herbicide application and establishing biological control agents for long-term control. Further research of the hairstreak lifecycle is needed to understand the primary mechanism of decline, as well as, research into the response of native nectar host plants to knapweed control. Monitoring the response of the vegetation community and relative abundance of hairstreaks following the Kenow fire of 2017 is key in prioritizing restoration actions for Blakiston Fan., vegetation mapping, species at risk, host plant, invasive species, ecological restoration, Aminopyralid
Exploring the relative effects of different wetland restoration sites on functional connectivity for the northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora)
Amphibian species are globally at risk, with a leading cause of decline attributed to habitat loss and fragmentation. The northern red-legged frog (NRLF) is one such species and listed as a Species of Special Concern by the Species at Risk Act. The Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project is creating new wetland habitat on the Sechelt Peninsula. In this research, I provide a tool to explore the relative effects on the functional connectivity of different potential restoration sites. A habitat suitability model (HSM) was created to describe the landscape in terms of conductance, or ease of movement for NRLF. Using this conductance map, I analysed the functional connectivity between wetlands by using Circuitscape, a software grounded in circuit theory. Three potential restoration options were compared against the existing landscape. Of the three options, one had a much greater effect in increasing the overall wetlands and its connectivity to the existing network of wetlands., Functional connectivity, wetland habitat restoration, northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora), circuit theory, Circuitscape, habitat suitability model (HSM)
Geochemical and biological response of an intertidal ecosystem to localized restoration efforts
Geochemical and biological attributes of three intertidal areas in the Squamish Estuary with different levels of disturbance (low, medium, and high) were assessed to determine short-­term ecosystem responses to localized restoration efforts conducted one year previously on a former log handing site. Sediment and macroinvertebrate variables were analyzed among sites to characterize the ecosystems response and provide insight on the nature and process of an assisted successional trajectory. Invertebrate composition and biomass were lowest on the site with the highest level of disturbance. The high disturbance site also contained the highest percentage of fine sand (0.0067 mm to 0.25 mm). This confirms that in the short term there are distinct site responses to disturbance and ameliorative restoration efforts – even in a highly dynamic estuarine environment. The medium site contained more invertebrates than the low disturbance site indicating that something other than localized disturbance is affecting the invertebrate community on the low site. All sites exhibited a less-­rich and less diverse invertebrate community than that of historical records (circa. 1970-­1980). Invertebrate community in the east delta today is more typical of estuarine environments with higher salinity levels -­ which indicates more widespread levels of disturbance throughout the Estuary is affecting the study sites. This study highlights the importance of considering temporal and spatial scales when setting restoration goals, objectives and creating monitoring plans. Additional monitoring of sediment, invertebrate, and other variables on restored and reference sites is recommended to characterize typical recolonization and reassembly attributes of restoring intertidal estuaries in coastal British Columbia. This would provide evidence and rigor in determining effective restoration techniques and management strategies for a critical and increasingly threatened ecosystem., Macroinvertebrates, Restoration, Sediment, Benthic ecology, Estuaries, Intertidal flats
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
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.
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

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