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
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)
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
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
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
Marsh resiliency strategies in the face of sea-level rise: Pilot project opportunities for Fraser River delta tidal marshes
Coastal wetlands are naturally resilient to changing sea levels; however, as rates of sea-level rise increase, the interaction between changing sea-level and ongoing human impacts will be a major driver in future coastal tidal marsh stability. My goal is to provide decision makers with recommendations to increase the resilience of the Fraser River delta front tidal marsh communities over the twenty-first century. I conducted a literature review to (1) examine the current knowledge base regarding effects of sea-level rise on tidal marshes and (2) identify current ecosystem-based adaptation strategies for increasing tidal marsh resilience to sea-level rise. Based on this review, recommendations are made for strategies that could be used to increase tidal marsh resilience in the Fraser River delta. Recommendations include (1) initiating delta-wide marsh accretion modeling to assess tidal marsh vulnerability under possible sea-level rise scenarios and (2) implementing sediment augmentation pilot projects for both direct (e.g., layered sediment lifts) and indirect (e.g., mud motor) sediment augmentation strategies to test ecosystem based adaptive management strategies as part of an adaptive management framework.
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
A prey-based approach to restoration
Forestry in British Columbia’s old-growth forests has reduced critical foraging and breeding habitat for the coastal northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis laingi) and restricted population growth. Now at-risk, efforts to recover this subspecies have focused on establishing suitable habitat and a well-distributed population within the province. However, regional diets and associated dynamics are also critical to goshawk recovery and remain poorly understood. Including a synchronous predator-prey recovery approach to current plans can bridge these knowledge gaps. A new model and methods were developed to translate prey biological requirements into structural surrogate features that could be parameterized and ranked within GIS software. Applying these ranks to known goshawk territories in the South Coast allowed for the visualization and quantification of areas with subpar predicted prey abundances. This provided insight on links between prey and forest structure and can be used to direct future restoration and research decisions for coastal goshawk prey-based recovery.

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