Recreation, Fish & Wildlife students at Selkirk College get the opportunity to take their classroom learning out into the community. Recently, students worked with Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society to Restore Beaver Creek Floodplain.
On October 7, 2019 second year students from the recreation fish and wildlife program at Selkirk College, joined the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society (CKISS) in a restoration project out at Beaver Creek Provincial Park, Southeast of the city of Trail. The area, run by BC Parks, is home to three blue listed species: the North American racer, the rubber boa, and the blue tailed skink.
Thanks to funding from Environment Canada’s Eco Action Community Funding Program and Columbia Basin Trust, CKISS conducted an assessment of the site to create a restoration plan to ensure ecological health and sustainable habitat for these three species.
Figure 1. Left to right: the North American racer (Coluber constrictor), rubber boa (Coluber constrictor), and blue tailed skink (Cryptoblepharus egeriae), three blue-listed species that call the Beaver Creek area home. Photos sourced from https://www.bcreptiles.ca
One of the main concerns on the site was the presence and takeover of invasive plant species. The seeds of multiple non-native invasive plants were brought into the area unknowingly with a load of fill years earlier. These species have since proliferated across the landscape where yearly flooding, erosion, and an old roadway has made the perfect substrate for these non-native invaders that thrive in disturbed soils. Invasive species such as spotted knapweed and common tansy are antagonistic meaning they release specific chemicals into the soil that prevent other plants from growing in close proximity to them. As these invaders spread, this chemical reduces the native plant population and thus the habitat for the native species that have adapted to their presence.
Figure 2. Invasive species present at Beaver Creek left to right: common tansy (Tanacetum arvense), spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe), garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa), and ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolate), October 2019. Photos sourced from https://bcinvasives.ca/ & https://www.wildfooduk.com
Ecological restoration is a hot topic and growing field in the environmental sciences. As humanity comes to realize how much damage we have done to ecosystems more and more work is being done to restore health to our landscapes in order to protect the diversity of living species who call them home. Selkirk instructor Doris Hausleitner has been working with students both in the field and in the classroom to learn the different invasive species that exist in our local landscapes, and the different methods being employed to mitigate and/or intervene in their proliferation. This project with CKISS was an opportunity for students to experience restoration in action and to discuss the different forms restoration can take with professionals working in the field.
Figure 3. Black Cottonwood seedlings planted by Selkirk students at Beaver Creek, October 2019.
At the site, Selkirk students, two CKISS employees, and one volunteer removed the invasive species and planted several native species. The site will be monitored over a two year basis to ensure the native species flourish and the invasive species begin to fade out on this site. The hope is that with restoration this area will return to a healthy state and be able to support the species adapted to the native ecosystem, including the three blue listed species.
All in all the day was a great success, everyone learned a lot and enjoyed the project at hand. It will be exciting to see what this site looks like in the coming years. Special thanks to CKISS and Dorris Hausleitner for organizing this learning experience!