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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The effect of nitrogen fertilization on the physiology and morphology of Sphagnum capillifolium in an ombrotrophic bog
Degraded peatlands release 100-200 g-CO2 eqv. m-2 yr-1 in net emissions and account for more than 10% of global CO2 emissions. The success of bog restoration is dependent on creating suitable moisture conditions for the donor material to establish, propagate, and develop a new layer of Sphagnum that has hydrophysical and water retention properties similar to natural peatlands. Techniques to improve moisture retention during the transplant process and increase water holding capability of the restored Sphagnum layer have been identified as an area of bog restoration that requires more research. Samples were collected from plots fertilized with six different nitrogen treatments at Mer Bleue Bog in Ottawa, Canada. Net CO2 assimilation, fresh weight, dry weight, water content, and dissolved nutrient measurements were made to determine the potential effectiveness of incorporating nitrogen fertilization into the North American approach to peatland restoration. High levels of nitrogen fertilization exerted deleterious effects on individual morphology, growth density, water holding and retention capacity, CO2 assimilation, and nutrient dynamics and decomposition. Fertilization with 1.6 g m-2 yr-1 of ammonium has the potential to ameliorate water retention capacity through more robust individual morphology and denser growth patterns and increases carbon assimilation and photosynthetic capacity. The results indicate integrating low levels of ammonium fertilization into bog restoration techniques can potentially increase restoration success., water content, carbon dioxide assimilation, growth density, peatland restoration, ammonium, nitrate
The effect of prescribed burns on soil characteristics and plant communities in Garry Oak ecosystems. A case study on a three-year post-burn site on Tumbo Island, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
This research project evaluates the outcomes of returning prescribed fire to endangered Garry oak meadows as a restoration treatment. This project was done in partnership with Parks Canada and involved a case study on a three-year post-burn site on Tumbo Island in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Soil chemical properties were analyzed three years post burn in the summer of 2019 and compared to pre and post-burn vegetation survey results. Analysis identified beneficial changes in soil chemistry still present three years post treatment. Invasive species occurrences increased across the site, regardless of treatment, and around half of the invasive species occurrences were recorded on burn treatments areas in 2018. Prescribed burns on shallow soil Garry oak meadow sites showed beneficial outcomes for soil chemistry, reduced conifer encroachment, increased diversity and Arbutus (Arbutus menziesii) seedling recruitment. These findings aid in determining restoration plans for shallow soil Garry oak meadows, highlighting the numerous benefits from prescribed fire, while also suggesting that additional treatments in conjunction with prescribed fire will be needed to control invasive plants when planning to restore these ecosystems., shallow soil, Garry oak meadows, restoration, prescribed fire, soil nutrients, invasive plant species
The effect of vegetation structure and abiotic variables on oviposition-site selection by amphibians
Assessing restoration success for pond-breeding amphibians frequently focuses on hydrology, water quality and vegetation, while neglecting the requirements of amphibians that use the restored areas for breeding. Both biotic and abiotic conditions can influence oviposition-site selection of amphibians that do not provide parental care. This study examines how vegetation structure and abiotic variables affect oviposition-site selection by amphibians. The goal of my study was to better understand the requirements of pond-breeding amphibians. In 2017, I surveyed egg masses in four ponds at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden in Sechelt, B.C. I identified 667 egg masses of four native amphibian species that varied in abundance and species richness among ponds. I recorded five biotic variables (i.e., vegetation cover, vegetation type, stem density, stem diameter, and canopy closure) and two abiotic variables (i.e., water depth and solar radiation) at egg-mass sites and random sites where no egg masses were detected. Logistic regression analysis with backward elimination revealed that stem count (p = 0.008) and water depth (p = 0.0001) significantly influenced oviposition-site selection. The results also showed that higher stem density and shallower water depth increased the likelihood of egg masses being present. My study indicated that quantifying stems in the water column characterized vegetation density better than estimating percent cover of vegetation. Shallow areas that have structurally complex vegetation might provide an advantage for the offspring by increasing refuge, food resources, and favourable thermal conditions for egg development. Hence, restoration projects could incorporate vegetation structure and shallow areas in their pond designs to potentially increase the abundance and diversity of amphibian communities, thereby contributing to successful restoration projects., ecological restoration, amphibians, oviposition, Rana aurora, Pseudacris regilla, Ambystoma gracile, Amystoma macrodactylum, vegetation structure, abiotic variables
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
Evaluating stream degradation in Villa De Allende, Mexico
I examined the anthropogenic effects on the water quality of headwater streams in the western mountains of the state of Mexico. Rural development has negative effects on the ecology of local streams by diverting and pumping surface and groundwater, removing riparian forests for the construction of buildings, roads, and agricultural fields, and dumping refuse in stream channels. Local development, construction, roads, and agriculture also are sources of pollution that enter the streams during rain events. These negative ecological effects are common to many streams in the watershed of the Chilesdo dam. The combined effects of human development negatively affect the quality of surface water and groundwater aquifers. The issue of anthropogenic effects on the water quality of headwater streams is relevant ecologically because of likely effects on flora and fauna that depend on these streams and because of the role of headwater streams in the context of the larger watershed. Effects on upstream areas directly affect people, animals, and plants downstream. This issue is relevant economically because rural communities depend on the availability of water of suitable quality for agriculture and livestock. In addition, local water quality directly affects the cost of water purification downstream at dams that feed the Cutzamala system, a major source of Mexico City’s drinking water. This issue is relevant socially because the local community depends on this water for domestic consumption. Compromising water quality and abundance could destabilize the lives of local people because poor water quality and water contamination are a public health concern. Additionally, climate change is likely to make this resource scarcer. Projections for all major scenarios used by the International Panel on Climate Change indicate elevated year-round temperatures and decreased overall precipitation in the region (IPCC 2013). I addressed concerns over water quality by testing differences among streams with anthropogenic alterations and a stream that had few anthropogenic alterations. I sampled benthic macro-invertebrate communities as indicators of water quality within the streams. Benthic invertebrates are a useful bio-indicator for water quality and environmental disturbances in river systems because different taxonomic groups of invertebrates have different tolerances to water pollution. I measured the abundance and taxonomic richness of invertebrates that exhibit different sensitivities to water quality. My results revealed that taxonomic richness was lower in streams that had anthropogenic alterations. My results also revealed that the abundance of “sensitive” and “somewhat sensitive species” were lower and that the abundance of “pollution-tolerant species” was higher in streams with anthropogenic alterations. The stream with few anthropogenic alterations had the highest taxonomic richness and largest number of sensitive and somewhat sensitive species. These results indicate that human activities are having negative effects on water quality. Given my results, I suggest that restoration of degraded streams should reduce water diversion, riparian encroachment, and refuse disposal. I propose solutions to guide these restoration efforts. My data suggests that a coordinated local and regional effort is required to reduce the negative effects of human development and to restore local streams to an ecological condition that will sustain water quality and quantity to enable local communities and the local environment to thrive.
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
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
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.
Hypolimnetic upwelling in coastal embayments of Lake Ontario; implications for restoration
Coastal wetlands are an important ecosystem in the Great Lakes basin, providing spawning grounds and warm-water refuge for numerous fish and benthic invertebrate species during cold water upwelling events. Urbanization along the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario has led to a depletion of coastal wetlands, replacing them with artificial embayments. Three artificial embayments, the Credit River estuary, and one coastal marsh in Mississauga, ON were studied to determine if the artificial embayments function as warm-water refuge during upwelling events. Temperature loggers were placed in each study site and temperature was recorded every 15 minutes from July to October 2017. Upwelling events were isolated from the data, and frequency, magnitude, and duration of upwelling was determined. Most study sites had a frequency of 4 upwelling events throughout the study period. The average duration of upwellings varied from 30 to 70 hours, and the average temperature change ranged from -7.1ᵒC to -11.9ᵒC. All of the study sites seemed to buffer upwellings by reducing the magnitude of temperature change and increasing the duration of upwelling events to varying degrees. These results will inform the creation of future wetlands, restoration of existing embayments, and conservation of Great Lakes coastal wetlands., ecological restoration, coastal embayments, coastal marsh, upwelling, warm-water refuge, Lake Ontario
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
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 role of elevated salinity in the recession of a large brackish marsh in the Fraser River estuary
At least 160 ha of the Sturgeon Bank low marsh in the Fraser River delta died off between 1989 and 2011. Humans have heavily modified the Fraser River estuary since the late 1800’s, including installing a series of jetties throughout the leading edge of the delta to train the course of the river. I established a reciprocal transplant experiment to determine the role of elevated salinity in the marsh recession and generate information needed to eventually revegetate areas of receded marsh as part of an intergovernmental collaboration to investigate the causes of this marsh recession. I propose specific actions to better monitor, maintain, and restore the Fraser River delta foreshore brackish marshes in response to ongoing ecological degradation of the estuary. The predicted effects of climate change and sea-level rise may cause us to rethink options for restoring the Sturgeon Bank marsh., Restoration, Fraser River, Schoenoplectus pungens, Reciprocal transplant experiment, Marsh recession, Brackish marsh
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

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