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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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 of salmonid spawning habitat in the Upper Serpentine River
Over the past half century, urbanization has caused drastic changes to the hydrology and geomorphology of streams and rivers. The Serpentine River is a low-elevation, rain-dominant river located in the City of Surrey, British Columbia. Over the years, urbanization of the watershed, particularly in the upper reaches, has degraded what once was high quality spawning habitat for five salmonid species. The current project is an evaluation of previous restoration efforts at seven study sites and a restoration plan to effectively increase spawning habitat in the Upper Serpentine River. Grain size analysis of the study sites found up to 57% fine sediment in the subsurface particles, attributing to siltation rates of 1.2-1.6 kg/m2/day. Erodible grain sizes at the study sites ranged from 29-164 mm, which mostly exceeded the median size of spawning gravel. These results were verified with a tracer rock study, which together concluded that instream structures were required to reduce tractive forces and increase gravel retention. Newbury weirs, or constructed riffles, were proposed as treatments because their hydraulic characteristics increase flow resistance, promote gravel retention, and create intergravel flows. Newbury weirs involve large diameter rocks spanning across the entire stream, causing accumulation of gravel on the upstream side and pool formation downstream side. Substrate scoured at the pool will be deposited at the tail end of the pool, creating spawning habitat in accelerating and downwelling waters. Bank stabilization using dense live staking with a protective rock toe key was prescribed to reduce further channel incision and siltation. In the longterm, watershed-level priorities including passage through the Serpentine sea dam, monitoring for urban contaminants, and installation of green infrastructure was recommended. The proposed treatments are relatively inexpensive, and if successful, will reduce repeat addition of spawning gravel and increase salmonid production in the Serpentine River. However, the value of the current project extends beyond fish productivity estimates. Monitoring data from restoration works can be used to inform future urban stream restoration projects and contribute to the continual improvement of restoration techniques. The effects of restoration on not only sediment form (ie. gravel depth and size) but also processes (ie. sediment scour and fill) should be investigated in the field to verify theoretical models.
A restoration strategy to avert the projected ecological, social and economic risks of Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park, British Columbia
The coastal saltmarsh that once made up Lost Lagoon was isolated into a freshwater impoundment to enable the construction of the Stanley Park Causeway in 1916. Water chemistry, water nutrients, and subsurface sediment were collected in August to October 2017, and it was concluded that Lost Lagoon is experiencing, low DO (average 6 mg/L), high salinity (0.9 ppt), high nutrient loading (TP 0.1 mg/L and TN 0.9 mg/L) and has elevated heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn). A general biotic inventory was conducted and results indicated a lack of native species diversity and presence of invasive species, for both flora and fauna. Projected future conditions concluded that Lost Lagoon is prone to stratification and higher temperatures, which is expected to further water impairment including, increases in NH3 and toxic algae blooms. To mitigate this trajectory, a systematic restoration plan was developed to reintroduce tidal flushing into Lost Lagoon from Coal Harbour’s western basin, thereby restoring the degraded ecosystem into a diverse coastal saltmarsh. Hydrogemorphology and flow rates were estimated and as a result a 1.3-m wide water channel was recommended. A planting and long-term monitoring plan that will aid in revitalization of a coastal saltmarsh was developed, alongside a preliminary project budget and schedule. The project feasibility and public response were discussed as constraints, with emphasis on furthering this proposed restoration plan with professional engineering, and First Nations and public consultation., ecological projections, restoration, urban wetland, saltmarsh, intertidal ecosystems
Restoring a culturally eutrophic shallow lake: Case study on Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan, British Columbia
Quamichan Lake is a culturally eutrophic shallow lake located in North Cowichan on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. My research project examined the current trophic status and water quality of Quamichan Lake and investigated a number of watershed and in-lake restoration methods to return the lake back to mesotrophic (nutrient rich) conditions. Based on the data collected, Quamichan Lake is currently in a hypertrophic state caused by excess phosphorus inputs that leads to Cyanophyte phytoplankton species (cyanobacteria) to dominate during the summer. Eutrophication is both an environmental and human health issue as cyanobacteria algal blooms can disrupt the lake ecology and are toxic to most mammals. The goal of my research was to provide the Municipality of North Cowichan and Vancouver Island Health Authority with a comprehensive restoration plan to contribute to the restoration of Quamichan Lake and other lakes in southern Vancouver Island that are experiencing cultural eutrophication., © Kathleen E Moore, 2019. All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright heron may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means – graphics, electronic, or mechanical including photocopying, taping, or information storage and retrieval systems – without written permission of the author., Eutrophication, Limnology, Watershed Management, Cyanobacteria, Restoration
Restoring hydro-impacted wetlands for secretive marsh birds
Secretive marsh birds can be difficult to detect and are dependent on wetlands, leaving them vulnerable to wetland loss or alteration. This study examines the influence of management-altered hydrological regimes on five secretive marsh bird species in the West Kootenay and Columbia Wetlands in British Columbia, Canada. Focal species occupied wetlands with less frequently altered hydrological regimes more often and in greater numbers. Occupancy models suggested that woody vegetation, tall vegetation, and open water are important drivers of occupancy for these species. Wetlands most frequently experiencing heavily altered hydrological regimes had more open water and less tall vegetation, both of which were negatively associated with wetland occupancy. Water management operations may be promoting altered vegetation communities within these wetlands, in turn promoting lower occupancy of secretive marsh bird species. Restoration recommendations include: prioritizing lower elevation wetlands, limiting woody vegetation encroachment, and experimentally restoring the hydrological regime of affected wetlands., © Ashleigh M. Westphal 2019. All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright heron may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means – graphics, electronic, or mechanical including photocopying, taping, or information storage and retrieval systems – without written permission of the author., secretive marsh bird, Kootenays, British Columbia, hydro, water management, wetlands
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
Splendor without spoil: restoring tidal channel habitat on Swishwash Island
Restoration of estuarine and tidal marsh habitats in Canada’s Fraser River estuary is imperative for the conservation and recovery of select depressed Pacific salmon populations and the many species that depend on them. In the 1930’s through to 1940’s, dredge spoils were deposited on East Swishwash Island, permanently altering the small delta island’s geomorphology and ecology. The purpose of this study was two-fold: 1.) Confirm and describe fish use of remnant tidal channel habitat on Swishwash Island, using juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) as a focal species and 2.) Quantify the historical tidal channel loss on East Swishwash Island and potential for restoration. Tidal channels and adjacent marshes were sampled for realized fish use, plant distributions, basic water parameters, and large woody debris (potential predator refugia). Remote data sets (historical and present-day) were used to quantify historic, current, and future tidal channel density scenarios. Swishwash tidal channels were utilized during the sampling period by Chinook salmon with comparable relative abundances and fork lengths. Tidal channel capacity and marsh habitat have been reduced by 50% on East Swishwash Island due to spoil deposition and marsh erosion. Based on reference conditions derived from undisturbed and historic marsh islands, restoring island elevations could facilitate the addition of 1 km of marsh edge while increasing tidal channel area on East Swishwash Island by nearly 200%. This would provide important habitat in a fragmented distributary of the Fraser River estuary to species of fish and wildlife, including 3 ecotypes of juvenile Chinook salmon., © Kyle Armstrong, 2019. All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright heron may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means – graphics, electronic, or mechanical including photocopying, taping, or information storage and retrieval systems – without written permission of the author., Estuaries, Chinook, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, rearing, restoration, mitigation, tidal channels
Structural influence of old field on breeding summer songbirds, and overwintering raptor communities
Old field is a unnatural habitat that usually occurs as a result of agricultural land abandonment and is the product of early-stage natural succession on a previously managed field. In an agricultural setting with monoculture crops, old fields provide more vegetative complexity through ground cover diversity and shrubs and hedgerows. In Delta, British Columbia, several old-field sites are managed for wildlife and provide nesting habitat for songbirds over the summer, as well as foraging habitat for overwintering raptors during fall and winter months. I surveyed two old-field sites near Boundary Bay, and two field sites at the Vancouver Landfill to compare the influence of old-field vegetation on different bird communities and improve understanding on species using the landfill. I conducted fixed-radius point counts for songbirds, and standing counts for raptors. Comparing replicate field types (n=2) I found that overall diversity of songbirds was higher in old field, and also associated with structural features like shrubs and trees, while abundances of Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis) decreased with proximity to shrubs and trees. My results support the conclusion that installing structural vegetation features at the landfill would maximize breeding songbird diversity. I also found the landfill to support higher diversity of wintering raptor species, but old field supported consistently higher abundances. This suggests that the landfill is currently functioning as lower quality wintering habitat, and that different management techniques should be considered.
Sturgeon Bank marsh recession: A preliminary investigation into the use of large woody debris as a tool for restoring a degraded foreshore marsh
Large woody debris removal has been ongoing in the Fraser River Delta since the late 1800’s. I investigated how offshore winds and the absence of large wood may have contributed to the recession of the Sturgeon Bank Marsh. I suggest large wood increases marshland resilience and promotes new marsh establishment by attenuating wave energy, decreasing sediment mobilization, deterring herbivory, and promoting the establishment of vegetated islands from which the marsh can expand. I analyzed historical wind data for patterns in offshore wind duration and installed several pieces of large wood onto the tidal flats of the Sturgeon Bank. I developed a technique for anchoring wood in the intertidal and give my recommendations for further development. Finally, I conclude the recession of the Sturgeon Bank Marsh was the result of multiple interacting stressors and coin the term keystone structural element to describe the function of large wood within a foreshore marsh., large woody debris, keystone structural element, marsh recession, ecological restoration, wave sheltering, coastal marsh

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