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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An ecological restoration plan for a weedy field at the University of British Columbia Okanagan
Grassland ecosystems are rare, in decline, and support a multitude of at-risk species in British Columbia. At the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna BC, a 3.3 ha site at the entrance of the campus is outlined as Okanagan grassland in campus design plans but currently lacks native bunchgrass communities. The goal of this restoration plan is to return grassland plant communities to the site despite the pervasiveness of noxious weeds. I characterised site conditions through soil and vegetation surveys. Restoration recommendations include managing noxious weeds through mowing, hand-pulling and some herbicide application. The site will be replanted with bunchgrass vegetation, two pockets of ponderosa forest, and two types of shrub communities. A walking path, signage, and two xeriscape gardens will also be included to control human use of the landscape. Long-term monitoring will be incorporated into classroom curricula to tie monitoring to learning opportunities., Grassland, exotic plants, Noxious weeds, urban restoration, restoration plan
The effect of mowing and hand removal on the regrowth rate of Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus)
Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus Focke) is an invasive species in the Pacific Northwest. Mowing and hand removal are two of the common treatments used for controlling Himalayan blackberry. I examined the effectiveness of mowing, hand removal, and control treatments by measuring the mean number of stem and mean stem length during a growing season. Treatments were applied on March 2017. Bi-weekly sampling was from April to August 2017. Data were analyzed with a two-factor split-plot Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) test. The overall trend showed no statistically significant difference between mowing and hand removal treatments in one growing season. Integrated treatments (e.g. mowing + hand removal + planting) are recommended to be used to effectively reduce Himalayan blackberry cover because one removal treatment showed to be insufficient to eliminate Himalayan blackberry., Himalayan blackberry
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
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.
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
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.
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
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

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