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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Investigating the effect of salinity, elevation, redox potential, and geese herbivory on planting success in a Pacific Northwest salt marsh
The MacKay Creek Estuary, is a severely altered estuarine ecosystem located within an active international port in Vancouver, British Columbia. Several elevated salt marsh terraces were constructed as part of a larger restoration project within the MacKay Creek Estuary. Site visits conducted in 2018 revealed 75% of the terrace surface area failed to establish salt marsh vegetation. Significant difference in soil pore-water salinity, oxidation reduction (redox) potential and tidal elevation were found between vegetated and unvegetated portions of the terraces. Additionally, exclusion from Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) herbivory increased total percent cover and colonization of the adjacent unvegetated area. The combination of soil parameters and herbivory, as well as potential interactions between factors may be responsible for the lack of vegetation progression within the constructed salt marsh terraces at MacKay Creek Estuary., restoration, salt marsh, redox potential, pore-water salinity, MacKay Creek, Fraser River, estuary, Canada geese
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.
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.
Restoration options for Nicomekl River anadromous salmonids – Elgin Road Bridge Sea Dam
The Nicomekl River flows through historic Katzie First Nation territory in Surrey, British Columbia. The river provides salmon the linkage between their upland spawning and rearing grounds and the Pacific Ocean where they mature. Anthropogenic development has reduced habitat connectivity along the river, denuded the banks of vegetation, removed instream complexity, constrained the channel, regulated flow, and altered the water chemistry. A tidally controlled 7-gate sea dam is the source of the critical connectivity bottleneck on the river. It impairs free longitudinal migrations of adult and juvenile salmonids and increases adult and juvenile predation. Through literature review and site assessment, this study suggests a suite of restoration treatments to restore connectivity and site-based habitat attributes to the Nicomekl River. The study then considers management options in light of climate change, sea level rise, and how to generate public involvement to support the proposed treatments. The study concludes that urban stream restoration faces challenges as it must find a balance between the environmental and social needs of the Nicomekl River beyond simply repairing ecosystem damage and degradation., riparian restoration, salmonids, migration bottlenecks: connectivity
Restoration planning for urban salmonid habitat
Restoration of salmonid habitat has been completed in many urban areas; however, the success of these projects may be limited without consideration of water quality. Urban watersheds are affected by stormwater runoff which transfers toxic substances such as heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and fine particles from impervious surfaces into streams. Previous research has documented impacts of stormwater causing premature death in spawning coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch), and related extent of impervious surfaces to impacts on benthic invertebrates. This research aims to expand our knowledge on the effects of stormwater runoff on water quality and benthic invertebrate communities, and make recommendations for restoration of Mosquito Creek, in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Stream water quality was monitored, site habitats were assessed, and impervious surfaces were mapped. Benthic invertebrate samples were collected and analyzed for abundance, diversity, and pollution tolerance, comparing upstream and downstream of a stormwater inflow and two sites on a reference stream. Average water quality measurements showed minor impacts related to elevated temperatures. However, benthic invertebrate metrics revealed chronic water quality issues, reflecting cumulative impacts. Pollution tolerance index and abundance were reduced at the downstream Mosquito Creek site suggesting impacts from the stormwater inflow, while the Ephemoptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera (EPT) to total ratio and overall stream health (Streamkeepers Site Assessment Rating) were significantly lower at Mosquito Creek overall suggesting watershed impacts from impervious surfaces and point-source pollution events. Restoration recommendations including a rain garden are discussed to improve water quality for salmonids., Restoration, Urban streams, Salmonids, Benthic invertebrates, Water quality, Stormwater
Restoring hydrological connectivity in the Guichon Creek watershed through wetland creation
Urbanization of areas alters the natural hydrology of the land through the creation of impervious surfaces, removal of vegetation, and construction of storm sewer systems. These alterations impact physical processes and the biological communities of our waterways through the introduction of pollutants, creation of uncharacteristic hydrological regimes, and habitat loss and fragmentation. Integration of natural areas in our built environments will mitigate some of these effects and reduce the degradation of streams in urbanized watersheds. Guichon Creek flows through an urbanized environment, which includes the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Burnaby campus. A tributary flows into Guichon Creek at the south end of campus and the majority of its flow is from a stormwater sewer which receives runoff from the residential area east of campus. The tributary is approximately 150 metres and runs between a community garden and a small gravel parking lot before entering Guichon Creek. This project proposes restoration of a 2,000 m2 parcel of land between Guichon Creek and the tributary. Restoration activities involve removal of an existing parking lot, management of invasive hybrid Japanese knotweed (Fallopia x bohemica) and Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus), creation of an off channel wetland, and addition of natural in-stream structures to the tributary. Wetlands provide important hydrological and ecological functions that will contribute to the restoration efforts on Guichon Creek. This wetland will improve hydrological functions of the Guichon Creek floodplain through increased groundwater infiltration, creation of a storage area, and pollutant filtration. Improving these functions is also an important component of making stream ecosystems more resilient to climate change. The wetland will also provide ecological benefits such as improved water quality and creation of amphibian habitat. This project focuses on the creation of habitat for northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora) and the Pacific chorus frog (Psuedacris regilla). Another important component of restoration in an urban environment is creating a connection between people and the environment. Restoration of this space provides opportunities for public involvement and environmental education and awareness. This creates a forum to discuss the effects of urbanization on streams and show people where the runoff from their neighbourhood ends up. Forming that connection between people and their environment is an important step to creating interest and involvement in environmental issues.
A riparian restoration plan for a construction site on the Brunette River
Urbanization has altered riparian ecosystems, resulting in the decline of species that depend on them. The Brunette River in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia is no exception; though it currently supports a range of biotas, many of them are at-risk. These impacts are further accentuated by the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which will result in the removal of a portion of critical habitat for the endangered Nooksack Dace. In light of the cultural significance of the basin to Kwikwetlem First Nations, the goal of this plan is to improve conditions at the project site post-construction through the establishment of culturally and ecologically important species and the addition of habitat features. I completed soil, vegetation, and water quality surveys to inform my prescriptions. Recommendations include the management of non-native species using manual and mechanical control methods and the planting of a native riparian community that fits within the confines of human infrastructure. A robust monitoring plan is also provided., critical habitat, exotic species, First Nations, restoration, riparian, urbanization
The scale of ecological restoration: restoring steelhead habitat in the Oktwanch Watershed, Vancouver Island, B.C.
Forestry practices are thought to be the major cause of degraded salmonid habitat and declining steelhead populations in the Oktwanch River on Vancouver Island. Large woody debris installations and channel modifications were completed in Reach 1 of the Oktwanch River and adjacent side channels in 2001 to provide spawning and rearing habitat for multiple salmonid species and prevent further degradation, but were ultimately unsuccessful. This study investigated if watershed-scale restoration, rather than reach-scale, is necessary to restore this habitat for steelhead in the Oktwanch River indefinitely. This was achieved through an assessment of fish habitat in Reach 1 of the Oktwanch River and adjacent side channels and spatial analysis of the Oktwanch watershed using Landsat historical aerial imagery and i-Tree Canopy. The findings from this study suggest watershed-scale changes to forestry practices are required to restore steelhead populations in the Oktwanch River., forestry practices, watershed-scale restoration, reach-scale, woody debris installations, channel modifications
Simplified structure or fewer arthropods to eat?
In agricultural landscapes, hedgerows provide critical habitat for songbirds. Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus; HBB) is a widespread invasive species in the Pacific Northwest that has been linked to lower breeding songbird diversity. My study explored two possible explanatory mechanisms: educed structural complexity and lower arthropod abundance as a food source. I conducted avian point counts in 51 hedgerow segments at two locations in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. In these segments, I quantified vegetation structure using a Foliage Height Diversity (FHD) metric derived from LiDAR data. I sampled arthropod abundance on the foliage of woody understory vegetation. I used multiple regression to identify best fit generalized linear models. Songbird diversity decreased with HBB % cover and increased with FHD. However, arthropod abundance was unrelated to bird metrics, and similar between HBB and other native shrubs. This suggests that hedgerows should be managed to control HBB and maximize vegetation structure., songbird diversity, agricultural landscapes, Himalayan Blackberry, hedgerows, arthropods, LiDAR

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