Wetlands can help to minimize or even remediate environmental problems by providing habitat for a rich variety of plants and animals in spite of their relatively small representation across the landscape (Wetland Stewardship Partnership 2010b). Unfortunately, our wetlands have little to absolutely no information available (especially smaller unappreciated wetlands), and this lack of knowledge can lead to the degradation and/or loss of these important ecosystems. The New Beginnings Benevolent Society (NBBS) collaborate with project partners every year on a number of project surrounding the development of the wetland ponds, riparian planting and educational programs.
The Okanagan Basin Water Board are assisting The New Beginnings Benevolent Society in raising awareness of the role of small wetlands in BC by offering hands-on, interactive, on-site wetland education to youth who will have the opportunity to become Watershed Ambassadors and promote wetland conservation. Ecological literacy needs to begin close to home, encouraging learners, especially youth, to understand how conserving wetlands can mitigate the impact of climate change. The Secwepemc community have voiced concerns over the effects of climate change on culturally important native plants at the Shuswap Lake/Salmon River Delta. Soapberry, Huckleberry and Saskatoon all ripen at the same time, making it difficult to utilize the berries before they spoil. There are fewer tules (broad leaf bulrush) growing in the area. Ethnobotanists working at the delta report the survival rate of green willow and red osier dogwood live stakes is 25% less year over year and that Invasive species are overtaking second and third year riparian planting.
It is difficult to find any wetlands close to human/agricultural/forestry activities that haven’t been either drained or taken over by aggressive/invasive plants. References suggest that greater than 95% of the original wetland surface areas in the Okanagan Valley have been destroyed by road construction and urban development in the valley. One extensive cattail marsh wetland that disappeared was at the north end of Vernon, as part of the BX Creek drainage — where the sprawling malls/parking lots and residential developments are located.
Through our cultural ecological outreach program we are studying enclosed ecosystems – the physical, chemical, and climatic environment, and the processes that control the dynamics of the system. We want to improve biodiversity by creating and conserving a habitat that will provide long-term protection to plants and wildlife. We hope to establish a duck colony and we have attracted many amphibians and a wide variety of birds. We are planting over one hundred traditional native plants into the wetland area and starting in 2017, youth have the opportunity to participate in hands on workshops that will include both Secwepemc traditional ecological knowledge and modern science. A contribution from the Public Conservation Assistance Fund will enable participants to construct birdhouses and bat boxes, help with riparian planting, and assist in the development of a climate change monitoring program with a consulting biologist. Youth are creating interpretive signs for the plants with the assistance of a traditional ecological knowledge expert, an ethnobotanist and volunteers from the local community.
Wetland Program Objectives:
- Phytoremediation through transplanting bulrushes and cattails into the wetland
- Riparian planting of native species, including green willow, red osier and cottonwood
- Creating an interpretive trail with traditional native shrubs, plants and trees, with signage that includes Secwepemc names and traditional uses
- Climate change monitoring of carbon sequestration and other indicators
- Attract habitat mosquito predators through the construction of bat boxes and swallow boxes
- Provide a wetland habitat that attracts a healthy amphibian population
- Add the wetland location to the BC Map
Plans are underway to add the constructed wetland in Spallumcheen and a small wetland at the Shuswap Lake/Salmon River Delta to the BC map. Smaller wetlands are highly productive for a diversity of species as well as flood control and water filtration capacities. Development and threats to wetland across BC signify the importance of mapping small wetlands and securing the information online. As users of the environment, we need to know what ecosystems are in our backyards to help determine conservation mandates as development continues at a rapid increase. (Community Mapping Network).
As with all strategies to reduce atmospheric carbon, terrestrial carbon sequestration has many economic, social and ecological trade offs. But done well, climate change mitigation as well as other benefits can be achieved. For example, converting marginal farmlands to forests or wetlands may increase carbon sequestration, enhance wildlife habitat and water quality.
Riparian planting and management is the restoration, enhancement and the construction of wetlands, rivers or streams inside a property. It plays an important part because it stabilizes the land in many ways. Some of the benefits of riparian planting include:
- Protects riparian systems from livestock. It acts as a deterrent from any cattle that could destroy or pollute its waterways.
- Filters the water. Riparian plants help clean the water running through the property.
- Prevents erosion. It minimizes erosion problems, especially if you plant native trees, it helps strengthen the land.
- Filters pollution. Riparians systems can carry pollutants along the way, plants help filter out most of these pollutants.
- Moderates water flow. Using a riparian system moderates flow of water in your property, which helps prevent flooding.
- Riparians also moderate water temperature. Improved water condition allows fishes and other water creatures to thrive.
- They also provide food to aquatic insects and fishes.
Riparian planting not only helps boost the look of the land, it also sustains it. Aside from the aesthetic benefit, it has environmental and developmental benefits as well. Many subdivision owners use wetlands for their wastewater treatment management system. They use wetlands to control the effects of livestock productions or some damages from septic tanks.
Steps that we need to do with riparian planting.
- First fencing, particularly with the riparian margin. This will protect the riparian area, as well as the plants and other creature living in that area.
- Establish the appropriate vegetation for the wetland. as these plants not only help improve the look of the wetland but also provides the soil added nutrients to support the growth of other native plants.
- After planting the native plants, we will be sure to have a maintenance plan in place. The wetland will have constant monitoring to ensure that the plants and the environment around it are thriving.
- We also have to minimize any adverse effect on the pond area, especially around the margin. This means minimizing or avoiding any development around the area or keeping livestock away from the margins during planting.
- Install protective measures or any controlling system for us to manage the wetland. This may mean asking for support from our local government for added protections, especially if our riparian area supports protected animal and/or plant species.