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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SWAMP is looking for wetlands to assess

Do you have a wetland on your property in the Slocan Valley? If so, we’d love to come check it out. We will inventory (identify plants, assess its condition, classify the wetland type, etc.) and map it, and add the data to our watershed-wide project. If the wetland is disturbed, we may be able to talk about restoration options as we are always looking for new projects. SWAMP is funded though grants from the Columbia Basin Trust, so there will no charge to the landowner.

For more information, please contact Ryan Durand at 250-359-7420 or rdurand @ durandecological.com.

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SWAMP Phase 1 & 2 science reports available here

The report “SWAMP Phase 2” from Durand Ecological is available for download here by clicking on the icon below. This report details the wetlands that were assessed during the summer of 2014. Earlier reports, “SWAMP Phase 1” and the “Manager’s Report” on the 2014 summer work are also available by clicking on the cover photos of those reports below. Funding has been received to continue our wetland assessments this summer and planning is underway. We will keep you updated here, or contact Richard Johnson at richard.slrc@gmail.com

Download by clicking cover above.

Phase 2 Science Report

Download by clicking cover above.

Phase 2 Managers Report

Download report by clicking cover above.

Phase 1 Report

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SWAMP status

The Slocan Wetland Assessment and Monitoring Program (SWAMP) is a group of active people that value the biodiversity and ecological value of wetlands. (See “Who we are”)

The long term goal of SWAMP is to utilize existing mapping and inventory data as base layers and to develop a detailed and comprehensive habitat assessment of flora and fauna of the watershed. SWAMP is a multi-year initiative to establish a community based monitoring program to assess the abundance, distribution, and ecological integrity/function of wetlands and riparian habitat throughout the Slocan watershed.

Phase 1 of the project (completed during the winter of 2013) involved collecting all existing information as to the type and extent of wetlands in the Slocan Valley, and developing an assessment method that was applicable for multiple levels of experience and education. Phase 2 (completed during the summer and fall of 2014) involved the assessment of 50 wetland plots from four wetland complexes and several other smaller wetlands. The assessments utilized a multi-disciplinary approach to classify each wetland and assess habitat suitability for mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. A separate, but integrated, assessment of invertebrate diversity to determine ecosystem health was also completed. In addition, two volunteer training workshops were held and numerous community outreach events were attended.

The focus of Phase 3 (to be completed in 2015) is to perform detailed assessments on additional wetlands and present the results to the communities, with a focus on wetland mapping and characterization. Assessments will incorporate lessons learned from Phase 2, including less reliance on professional specialists, and more emphasis on characterizing ecosystem functions. Target wetlands will include a wide distribution of sample sites, with a continued goal of attempting to inventory and classify the full range of wetlands that occur in the Slocan watershed, with a focus on private property. An improved community involvement and training program will be undertaken in Phase 3 to increase the knowledge of community members and the capacity of volunteers to contribute local knowledge of the location and importance of wetlands.

The phase 1 and phase 2 reports are public documents and will shortly be available for download from this website.
Beaver-forbe floodplain
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