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.
Effects of logging-induced sediment loading on Chinook salmon rearing habitat in Tranquil Estuary, BC and implications for estuary restoration
Research on estuaries has increased in recent years, however, the effects of logging on estuaries and the effects of estuary habitat loss on Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Pacific northwest is limited. To address habitat loss associated with logging, I used an extensive aerial photo record for Tranquil Creek estuary and an unlogged control to analyze changes in salt marsh area, elevation and volume, supplemented with a grain size distribution analysis. While I failed to find evidence of a difference between a logged and an unlogged estuary, some negative trends in salt marsh area and elevation observed over the observational period were indicative of changes that are unfavorable for juvenile Chinook salmon. Analytical methods presented here to assess changes in two remote coastal estuaries has contributed to the current knowledge on the effects of logging on estuarine ecosystems in coastal BC and provide tools for innovative estuary habitat restoration., aerial photograph analysis, Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), salt marsh, estuary restoration, logging, sediment
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
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
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
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
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
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.

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