Wetland Habitat Conservation, Restoration and Enhancement in Coastal BC

Project by Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project.

Location: Sunshine Coast, B.C.

For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Michelle Evelyn, Gibsons, B.C.

Purpose

The freshwater wetlands and estuaries of BC’s Sunshine Coast provide vital habitat to foraging, breeding and overwintering waterfowl. These essential habitats are now threatened by rapid human population growth; ours is one of the fastest growing regions in the province (Sechelt’s population jumped 10% from 2006-2011). Wetlands are being drained, diked and dammed to make way for housing settlements, particularly along the coastal lowlands and around the region’s freshwater lakes and estuaries. Remaining wetlands are often degraded, heavily impacted by humans, and lack critical habitat features needed to sustain waterfowl species. As development intensifies, action is urgently needed to conserve vital waterfowl habitats on the Sunshine Coast.

Our multifaceted project will conserve, restore and enhance over 250 acres of habitat and increase community support for stewardship efforts. We will restore wetland habitat by creating new ponds in a high-priority watershed. We will enhance wetland habitat at 10 sites by removing invasive plants, planting native vegetation, and installing nest boxes, floating logs, fencing and signage.  We will work with landowners to conserve habitat on 50 private properties through voluntary written agreements.

To increase public awareness and participation in stewardship efforts, we will provide workshops, presentations, outreach tables and volunteer work parties, and publicly celebrate conservation successes. Between 2008 and 2014, we surveyed and assessed over 200 wetlands and we will make our wetland database widely available to planners.  We will use the database, together with ongoing inventory efforts and site visits, to prioritize sites for conservation, restoration and enhancement. Since 2006, the Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project has been working with the community, government, industry and non-profit partners to identify, protect, restore and enhance wildlife habitat in our region.

Long-term conservation impacts and benefits

This project offers a multitude of long-term conservation benefits, including:

  • Increased total area of wetland habitat through creation of new wetland ponds;
  • Increased habitat quality, health and ecosystem function through wetland enhancement at priority sites;
  • Increased waterfowl nesting habitat availability through addition of nest boxes for cavity-nesting species;
  • Increased conservation of priority wetland habitat through private land stewardship agreements;
  • Increased knowledge of priority areas for wetland protection, enhancement and restoration through inventory efforts, site visits and analysis of Sunshine Coast Wetland Database;
  • Increased capacity for community to take action to conserve/enhance habitat through training workshops;
  • Improved management of municipal land through development of plans and implementation of BMPs;
  • Increased knowledge of waterfowl abundance and distribution through surveys of priority wetlands;
  • Increased landowner participation in conservation efforts through assisting stewardship on private land;
  • Increased coordination and effectiveness of planning for conservation of wetlands through collaboration and joint conservation endeavors between government, community and conservation organizations;
  • Increased public awareness of, and support for, wetland and waterfowl conservation and stewardship through outreach activities and stewardship opportunities.

New tools, methodologies, landscape practices or protocols

Wetland restoration and enhancement activities will make use of the latest best practices for hydrologic restoration for wetland pond creation, best invasive plant removal methods (under guidance from Coastal Invasive Plant Committee), and best practices for waterfowl nest box design and installation. 

Wildlife and habitat assessment and monitoring protocols and data analysis techniques and models will follow best practices under guidance from expert scientists, recovery teams, and BC Ministry of Environment, BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Canadian Wildlife Service staff. 

Novel monitoring methods will include monitoring of nest boxes with GoPro cameras mounted on extendable poles and monitoring amphibian occupancy of wetlands using environmental DNA (eDNA) to search for rare species at risk.

All field data will be collected digitally in the field using online forms that connect directly to databases, mapped using GIS, and made available through a publicly accessible website. 

Our community engagement program includes award-winning youth experiential learning programs.

Stewardship

Community members will be offered a multitude of opportunities to participate in stewardship, including:

Private Land Stewardship Agreements: opportunities for landowners to conserve habitat on private land through long-term (>10 year) voluntary stewardship agreements

 Wetland Enhancement and Human Impact Mitigation: volunteer opportunities to assist with wetland enhancement activities including invasive plant removal, planting of native vegetation, construction and installation of waterfowl nest boxes, and installation of floating logs, signage and fencing

 Monitoring: volunteer opportunities to monitor populations of waterfowl and other wildlife species in restored, enhanced and conserved wetlands.