Amphibian Habitat, Lost Streams of Vancouver and Crocheted Invasives

Over the past week, Neil and I have attended a few events worth mentioning on this blog. In the cold weather, when wetlands are going to sleep for the season, the only related activity we can really do as wetland stewards is network, educate ourselves and share the information.

With an invitation from Paul Berlinguette (of the North Shore Wetland Partners), we attended a talk held by the Vancouver Natural History Society in a nearby church basement. The speaker, John S. Richardson, a UBC professor in the Forestry department, gave a talk on our Coastal Amphibian Habitat (and the threats to it).  He spoke of development, hydro damming and climate change and their effect on wetland/stream habitat for amphibians who rely on the connectivity of watercourses. The drying up of this habitat in summer months is predicted to continue and possibly worsen, and with the increased demand for power from a growing population more of our watersheds are being dammed. This creates the flooding of some habitat and the redirection of water from others. These are only a few of the concerns for our small amphibians who often go unnoticed or are neglected from policy and protection efforts. The professor brought examples of some of the threatened amphibians we house in BC: the red-listed Coastal Giant Salamander, the Oregon Spotted Frog, the blue-listed Tailed Frog and the Western (“boreal”) Toad. While each of these amphibians has its own particular challenges in our changing environment, Prof. Richardson stressed the idea of “safety margins” in our outmoded provincial Water Act and policy. He stated that “its the minimum that counts” when it comes to water and how much of it we’re left with.

Another interesting event attended was the Community Arts Council of Vancouver’s “The Future of Community Arts”, an event that featured many local environmentally-driven community groups with an artistic bent. The Arts Council has a mandate to promote what it calls “Eco-Arts” and this event largely revolved around the bridging of arts and environment. The groups in attendance  included the Stream of Dreams Mural Society, The False Creek Watershed Society and the Environmental Youth Alliance, among others.

We were impressed by the innovative Vancouver map that the False Creek Watershed Society sells for $25 that features all the old wetlands and streams of the area along with the animals sighted by early explorers. Imagine mountain goats on Goat Mountain, or Cougars near Main St! It was a great reminder of how an urban environment such as Vancouver can hold wildlife, but also how fragile an ecosystem is in the face of development. This group has been working on a community mapping project of streams and wetlands in the area.

Also of great interest to us was the interactive project that the Environmental Youth Alliance featured at their table. Using a technique from the artwork of Sharon Kallis, invasive English Ivy was brought in from the park and crocheted onto a garden rake. While this is a time-consuming and difficult task, it produces large nets that utilize the plant matter that is often hauled to the dump in a restoration project or invasive species clean up. In one case, this technique has been used by the artist to produce a blanket for a hillside that combats erosion! Imagine the site of a constructed wetland with crafters alongside weaving Ivy for the bare dirt!

To see photos taken of this activity, visit our Flickr album.

There are so many community-based groups and events worth attending and many of these will feed into the wetland project(s) that we plan for the upcoming spring. Consider looking into or hosting your own event to get the word out and think creatively about how to unite those around you in conservation.

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