Species-at-Risk in the Slocan Watershed

The Slocan Wetland Assessment and Monitoring Project (SWAMP) is pleased to announce that a report on species-at-risk in the Slocan watershed has been completed. The report describes the occurrence of 47 species-at-risk that have been found through a literature search as well as two years of SWAMP field work. An additional 11 species have been identified as having a high potential to occur here. The BC Conservation Data Centre only has 20 species listed in its database for this area.

This report shows that more field work, beyond the 154 locations that have been visited, is needed and will probably uncover more threatened species. Wendy Castellanos, a student at Selkirk College, is currently investigating several methods of identifing the location of more wetlands. Preliminary results indicate the potential for 345 wetlands over 0.3 hectares in size exist in the Slocan watershed. Since wetlands often contain several assemblages of vegetation and the associated ecosystems, the potential to identify more species-at-risk is high. SWAMP plans to continue mapping and classifying wetlands in the Slocan watershed.

The research for this report was funded by Columbia Basin Trust.

Click here to download the full report.


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SWAMP Integrated Community Priorities for 2016/17




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The Swamp Beacon – (Mitrula elegans)

Read the report: The Swamp Beacon


The Swamp Beacon – Mitrula elegans

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Want to learn more about your wetland?

If you have a wetland and want to be part of an innovative study, we are looking for wetlands on private land to be included in our study on wetland health!  SWAMPinvertebrateEducationflyer-2016-06-26

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SWAMP’s Marcy Mahr wins environmental education award

Marcy Mahr CBEEN award

“Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN) awards of Environmental Education Excellence recognize environmental educators and organizations which demonstrate excellence in environmental education in the Canadian Columbia Basin.   Marcy Mahr was recognized for her experience and dedication to environmental education.”


Marcy is an ecologist, environmental educator and conservation strategist. Based out of both New Denver and Revelstoke, SWAMP’s Marcy Mahr has organized many of the wetland days in the Slocan Valley and is involved with both SWAMP’s technical team and Steering Committee.  She has also co-authored the Columbia Basin Trusts’s Environmental Education Opportunities Assessment and is on CBEEN’s Environmental Education Leadership Clinic Facilitation team.  Congratulations Marcy!

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SWAMP presentation in New Denver

The SWAMP presentation on March 5, 2016 was well described in a report in the Valley Voice newspaper. Here is some excerpts from the article.

The Bosun Hall in New Denver was packed on March 5 for the ‘Secrets of the SWAMP Science Showcase’ presented by the Slocan Wetland Assessment and Monitoring Project (SWAMP). “SWAMP is a beautiful acronym for what we are doing,” said SWAMP steering committee member Richard Johnson. SWAMP’s field team has explored many wetlands in the Slocan Valley, categorized them, and assessed the flora and fauna in each.

Ryan Durand, Slocan Valley biologist, manages the SWAMP field team and designed the project’s science parameters. He gave a slide show with fascinating photos of Slocan Valley wetlands, and the vegetation, insects, and other wildlife found in them. Darcie Quamme, aquatic ecologist on the SWAMP field team, spoke about her invertebrate and water quality research in Slocan Valley wetlands. The main goal of invertebrate monitoring is to assess wetland health – has the wetland been affected by human activity such as mining, forestry, agriculture? Invertebrates respond to a wide range of human stressors, so are good indicators of wetland health. Quamme has sampled 24 wetlands to date, and has sent the samples to a taxonomist in Montana. The Royal BC Museum has agreed to house the collection in perpetuity.

Margaret Hartley, also a SWAMP steering committee member, described wetlands as “little hotspots of food and breeding places for many species. It’s like a supermarket for the ecosystem.” She said there is no “real protection” for wetlands in laws or regulations. “The Forest Practices Code says you’re supposed to go around them, but they often get logged,” she said. Durand said that all the SWAMP data has been given to the local forest ecologist at the Ministry of Forests office in Nelson, and is being built into their classifications.”

To read the full article see page 7 of the Valley Voice Online at http://www.valleyvoice.ca/_pdf_2014/ValleyVoice160309web.pdf

Our thanks to Walter Popoff, Area H representative, RDCK. We also want to thank our other supporters who funded the studies: National Wetland Conservation Fund, Columbia Basin Trust, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Regional District of Central Kootenay, BC Wildlife Federation and the Royal BC Museum.

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Valley Voice Presentation Description

The following is an excerpt from the Valley Voice newspaper announcing the SWAMP presentation event. Funding for this event was provided by RDCK, Walter Popoff Area H.

This is an opportunity for the public to talk to a number of scientists and researchers from different disciplines who will, with beautiful pictures and great stories, tell us about their work in our watershed. Our Member of Parliament, biologist Dick Cannings, will attend the event and has been invited to say a few words.

More than 150 wetlands have been mapped, and exciting finds of rare and unusual flora, fauna and wetland types have been documented. Hidden assets in our watershed, wetlands are pockets of high biodiversity. They may be major complexes along a river, or tiny alpine basin fens, but they all provide breeding and feeding habitat to myriad flora and fauna. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are seriously undervalued; considered boggy, wet and buggy nuisances they are drained for development and agriculture, mined for soil and peat, or flooded for hydroelectric installations. But it is by their ability to retain and purify water that wetlands serve the watershed as a whole, insuring our clean domestic water sources, abundant wildlife resources and mitigating against the effects of climate change. Data from this project will be added to a growing body of knowledge about the Slocan Watershed. This information is then available to land managers, private property owners and government agencies for conservation or restoration decision making.

Funding is available for wetland restoration on private land and this summer, Streamkeepers, SWAMP technicians and a land owner are planning a restoration project adjacent to the Slocan River.

For the full article please see page 23 of the Valley Voice Online at http://www.valleyvoice.ca/_pdf_2014/ValleyVoice160224web.pdf


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Rare Species of the Slocan Watershed

SWAMP is pleased to release a new report on the Species-at-Risk in the Slocan Watershed. The report summarizes the species-at-risk that the SWAMP field team identified during the 2014 and 2015 field seasons. These observations were mainly incidental in that while we were actively identifying all the species of flora and fauna in wetlands are riparian areas, we were not specifically searching for rare species.

The type and extent of species-at-risk in the Slocan Watershed is currently understudied. Current data (October, 2015) in the BC Conservation Data Centre (CDC) lists 20 occurrences of species-at-risk in the Slocan Watershed. One of the occurrences, crested woodfern (Dryopteris cristata), was observed and submitted during the 2014 SWAMP field program. Eight of the 20 records are over 30 years old and their current condition and viability is unknown. No ecosystems-at-risk have been identified in the watershed.

During the 2014 and 2015 SWAMP field seasons biologists identified 8 species-at-risk  in 56 locations in the Slocan Watershed, as well as 5 locations outside of the watershed. Some of these locations would constitute groups of individuals or sub-populations that would be combined by the CDC into single Element Occurrences (EO).  Some were targeted surveys while completing wetland inventory plots and others were incidental sightings while traveling to and from wetlands. In addition to species-at-risk tracked by the CDC, we identified multiple locations of fungal species that are either new to BC, or have very few known records (pers. comm. Kroeger, 2015). As fungi have yet to receive official conservation status designations, the species we identified are assessed in terms of relative frequency of occurrence based on expert knowledge. Voucher specimens were collected for all fungal species and submitted to the UBC herbarium to add to the provincial data base. This work will support future initiatives to assign conservation status to fungal species. We also identified multiple wetland ecosystems that are considered to be ecosystems-at-risk in other biogeoclimatic subzones. Recent discussions with CDC staff indicate that they are interested in these data and our submission may lead to having them ranked as listed ecosystems in the Slocan (pers. comm. Stacy, 2015).

Download the full report here: 13Nov2015_SWAMP_Rare_Species


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Summer Mapping and other news

The field work on the 2015 field season has been completed. The map below shows the location of the 50 plus ecosystem plot sites and 24 invertebrate sites mapped by Ryan Durand this year. When the final reports are published, early next year, they will be sent to our partners and available here for download.

Note the Wetland Days page that shows some our community outreach activities.

Also, note the Bioassessment page that continues to be updated with data from this groundbreaking work being done with benthic invertebrate sampling by Darcie Quamme. We have just received word that the National Wetland Conservation Fund would like to provide additional funding of about $11,000 for this work.

In addition, the Royal BC Museum has agreed to hold our reference collection in perpetuity because collection priorities include identification, research and monitoring aquatic invertebrate species from areas of British Columbia where information or coverage is meager. This includes interior British Columbia, the Kootenays and the Slocan Valley.   The Royal British Columbia Museum holdings will be available in perpetuity for further research and public inquiry thus ensuring verification, taxonomic consistency, and repeatability .  This is a great acknowledgement of the importance of this work.

Assessed Wetland Map

Location of Assessed Wetlands.

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Giant Water Bug named Chompy!

 Chompy!: Article by Tyson Ehlers and Rhia Mackenzie. Photos by Tyson Ehlers.

Photo T. Ehlers

Photo T. Ehlers

Giant Water Bugs aka Toe-biters are in the family Belostomatidae but we like to call them Chompy, the name my 10 year-old son gave one that he kept as a pet.

It was early winter and my son and his friend were doing what little boys who live around here should do- they were exploring the frozen ponds down at the river when they came across a giant water bug partially frozen in the ice. They brought it home and set up an aquarium and we were amazed to watch this huge insect come to life. Chompy lived up to his name:  a fierce predator, he would lie in wait for a small fish to swim by then aggressively lunge out and grasp his prey with his large forearms. A needle like mouth (rostrum) injects toxic enzymes into the prey and the digested insides are sucked out. You can’t make this stuff up! We fed Chompy small fish, but they will also prey on amphibians, snails, crustaceans and other invertebrates.

Rhia MacKenzie sampling macroinvertebrates

Rhia MacKenzie sampling macroinvertebrates

Darcie Quamme is leading the benthic invertebrate sampling program1 and she has encountered giant water bugs in many of the wetlands in the SWAMP study area. They are surprisingly common, turning up frequently in the kick net.

The basic procedure is to sample invertebrates using a dip the net in and around the emergent vegetation over a set distance and time. Critters are filtered out into a small clear container affixed to the net. The contents are emptied into a sorting tray and it is always     exciting to see a Chompy turn up in the sample.



There are over 100 species worldwide, some reaching up to 150 mm long. They are “true bugs” within the order Hemiptera  (related to stink bugs). Apparently only members of the subfamily Belostomatinae show parental care in which the eggs and developing larvae are carried on the male’s back.

These bugs are also known as toe-biters because they can inflict an extremely painful bite. When threatened they will often play dead, emit a foul gas from their anus and can suddenly ‘recover’ and bite the offending threat.

Chompy in goldfish bowl positioned to use breathing tube

Chompy in goldfish bowl positioned to use breathing tube

Adult giant water bugs breathe through a tube that projects out the rear of their abdomen, and they often lie in wait for prey with just the tube projecting out of the water.  They can fly as we learned with our pet Chompy. One day he disappeared from his aquarium and later turned up under the sofa. If you do keep one as a pet, you need to have a lid on the tank!

Darcie Quamme sampling for macroinvertebrates

Darcie Quamme sampling for macroinvertebrates


The Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) under Environment Canada provides a standardized sampling protocol used to assess the health of streams.  CABIN uses methods that result in comparable, and scientifically credible biological assessments of streams. Water quality and other meta-data are also collected along with the diversity and abundance of benthic “bottom-living”) invertebrates (animals with no backbone).

Screening sample

Screening sample

Darcie Quamme in collaboration with Environment Canada is working to develop a standardized biomonitoring protocol for wetlands.  Although wetland protocols exist south of the border this is brand new territory for British Columbia. This is the second year of the sampling program and by the end of the field season Darcie and the SWAMP team will have sampled 24 wetland sites. The data will be analyzed in conjunction with SWAMP wetland ecosystem classification data over the fall and winter and a report will be available in March 2016.

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