In light of the Shell Fuelling Change competition that is now underway, I thought that it might be a good time to start reiterating the importance of what we’re here for. While we’re all aware of the threatened status of many species across BC, it is easy to forget the connection between each individual creature and the disappearance of their habitat. Wetlands cover only about 5.6% of British Columbia’s map, which makes these areas special and important in their rarity. However, when we look at the fact that nearly all species (including us, humans) use these spaces at some point during their life cycle, it is clear that they’re worth educating ourselves about, monitoring, and conserving.
We might commonly associate wetlands with turtles, frogs and waterfowl, but there are so many other animals that count this habitat as important. Large animals such as the Boreal Caribou and the Wood Bison are under threat from many directions, including the loss of habitat which includes wetlands. Interesting animals such as the red-listed Pallid Bat of the South Okanagan require wetted areas for drinking and foraging, while the blue-listed Beaver Pond Basket tail spends its whole lives zipping around lakes, boggy streams and peatlands. The Swamp Fingernail Clam, another tiny red-listed animal, is under imminent threat from run-off, infilling, development and pollution of swamps, ponds, lakes and streams in Southeast BC but is currently not being protected. There are animals that we all find cute when we admire pictures of them that are also in great danger of extinction from the loss of wetland habitat. These include the Least Chipmunk Selkirki, where not many more than 500 remain in their home of Eastern BC’s Purcell Mountains where they use alpine wetlands (affected by mining projects) for food and water. The Snowshoe Hare Washingtonii and Nuttall’s Cottontail enjoy shrubby areas for feeding and hiding, but also rely on the plants (and sometimes even small animals!) that require wetlands. When we understand this food chain, it is clear how critical waterholes, streams and soggy ground are to a variety of life.