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.

Belastomatidae

Belostomatidae

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

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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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Dragonflies and Damselfies

Over the last couple weeks we have been seeing large numbers of dragonflies and damselflies in the wetlands. Members of the insect order Odonata, there are more than 5,000 species and 23 families worldwide. In BC, there are 87 species known to occur. In general, dragonflies are larger, faster and most land with their wings spread. Damselflies are generally smaller, slower flying, and partially or fully close their wings when landing.

Numerous incidental observations have resulted in the start of a decent species list, along with some great photos. Below are a few of the species observed so far.

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Emerald spreadwing (Lestes dryas)

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Whitefaced meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum)

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Striped meadowhawk (Sympetrum pallipes).

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Female common whitetail (Plathemis lydi).

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Male common whitetail (Plathemis lydi)

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Bluets mating (Enallagma sp.)

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Bluet (Enallagma sp.) – Potentially a Marsh Bluet. Close up of its face stuck on a sundew leaf.

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Four-spotted skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata)

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Fascinating Fungal Finds in Slocan Valley Wetlands

Mushrooms are often overlooked. They are exceedingly diverse, occupy a wide range of habitats and only appear for short periods of time throughout the year. There are not a lot of people looking for them and as such our knowledge of species distributions is lacking. SWAMP has provided an opportunity to expand our knowledge of mushrooms that are unique to wetlands.

We have made some interesting discoveries:

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Psathyrella typhae is a little brown mushroom that makes its living decomposing the fronds of cat-tail (Typha latifolia) and sedges (Carex sp.). It fruits in the spring at the water level. It has been found in three wetlands in the Slocan valley, Bonanza marsh and two sites near Winlaw. This is the first record for the species in BC.

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Vibrissea truncorum is a tiny orange aquatic ascomycete that has previously only been documented in BC from Vancouver Island. We found it at a high elevation swamp on Slocan Ridge. It fruits on wood under water in slow moving mountain streams.

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Lichenomphalia umbellifera is a basidio-lichen in which the mushroom is the reproductive stage of a fungus that is associated with a lichen. It is not necessarily exclusive to wetlands, though it has been turning up frequently in many of our sites.

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This colourful mushroom is a waxy cap in the genus Hygrocybe. Waxy caps are very numerous and notoriously difficult to identify to species. This might be Hygrocybe coccineacreata or a related species. It was found fruiting on a small ‘island’ of vegetation in a swamp up in the Winlaw Creek Woodlot.

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This tiny mushroom was about .5 cm tall and found fruiting on a floating stem of reed-canary grass (Phalaris arundinacae).

References for wetland fungi are scarce in general. One of the most comprehensive inventories of wetland fungi in Canada was done in the early 1980’s by Scott Redhead, a prominent Canadian mycologist and research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.

REDHEAD, S. A. 1981. Agaricales on wetland Monocotyledoneae in Canada. Can. J. Bot. 59: 574-589.
http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/pdf/10.1139/b81-083

REDHEAD, S. A. 1984. Additional Agaricales on wetland Monocotyledoneae in Canada. Can. J. Bot. 62: 1844-1851.
http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/pdf/10.1139/b84-251

Tyson Ehlers is a local ecologist and mushroom expert who has been working in the field with the SWAMP team. He has recently co-authored a book: Mushrooms to Look for in the Kootenays.

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Benthic sampling underway

We have had a great start to the invertebrate component of SWAMP.  Darcie Quamme of Integrated Ecological Research, Rhia MacKenzie and Tysen Ehlers carried out the field assessment and benthic sampling for four sites including: Upper Winlaw (2 sites), Schneider’s cattail marsh, and a site near Fomi’s just off the Rails to Trails.  Tyson and Ryan Durand have been a big help with the plant identifications and Rhia and Darcie are getting into the swing of things.  We are excited to collect the water/sediment samples next week at these sites and continue benthic invertebrate collection at other sites including upper Pedro.  Visit our new page, Bioassessment to see what this is all about!

Giant Waterbug eating a frog.

Giant Waterbug eating a frog

Darcie Quamme also took South Nelson School out to Grohman Narrows Wetland for a morning of exploring wetland invertebrates.  Highlights included observing long-toed salamander larvae, turtles, dragonflies, mayflies, damselflies, common backswimmers, and caddisflies that made cases out of wetland plants.

Outreach day in South Nelson

Outreach day in South Nelson for Grades 4/5

Data form - Outreach day at South Nelson.

Data form – Outreach day at South Nelson.

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New rare species and wetlands identified in the Slocan Valley

The SWAMP crew (Ryan Durand, Rhia MacKenzie, Tyson Ehlers, Marcy Mahr, and Darcie Quamme) has been hard at it, exploring wetlands from valley bottom to the sub-alpine. We’ve surveyed about 30 wetlands so far, documenting plant and animal species along with soils, hydrology and general conditions in each wetland we visit. Along the way we found some really interesting species, and some new and exciting rare species as well.

Large water-starwort (Callitriche heterophylla ssp. heterophylla) is a blue-listed aquatic to semi aquatic plant found in still, sluggish water such as ditches and ponds. There was an old record of this species from the 1970s in the valley, so it was great to confirm it in Appledale.

P6220394_Callitriche maybe heterophylla ssp. heterophylla

Western toad (Anaxyrus boreas) is a blue-listed and special concern amphibian. While it is well known to occur in the watershed, the SWAMP crew has found numerous occurrences of large breeding sites, where 10s or 100s of thousands of tadpoles were seen!

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Snails! Two rare snails were recently discovered. The blue-listed (and Federal candidate for special concern status) Banded tigersnail (Anguispira kochi) was found in Crescent Valley and was previously not known to occur in the watershed. The blue-listed Coeur D’Alene Oregonian (Cryptomastix mullani)  is known to occur in the watershed, but two new element occurrences were found in Crescent Valley and near the Bonanza MarshIMGP1449_Anguispira kochi

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One new rare wetland may have been found, but we need to re-visit it to confirm. A blue-listed hard-stemmed bulrush deep marsh (Wm06) at the north end of Slocan Lake. Multiple blue-listed cattail marshes (Wm05) have been mapped and inventories throughout the watershed.

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Pedro Creek Wetlands

The SWAMP team was hard at it today exploring wetlands in the Pedro Creek area. We sampled a high bench and mid bench flooplain forest and a willow-alder swamp. We identified over 50 species of vascular plants, and have a pile in the office to ID using floras and a dissecting microscope. Of interest were several species of sedges (Carex sp.) that need to be keyed out in addition to several that were easy to ID in the field (Carex aurea, C. aquatilis, C. interior (?), C. lenticularis var. limnophila, and C. utriculata) one Eleocharis sp. that has the potential to be a rare species, common mare’s-tail (Hippuris vulgaris) and a giant pin cherry! The cherry tree was over 15 metres tall and had a diameter of 25cm.

It was great to get out and put in the first plots of the 2015 season, and to beat floodwaters and mosquitoes!

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