“Glow” calls our attention to the radiance of an early fall sun. Cresting the hillside of the Fraser Canyon, the white hot orb transforms Cheam Wetlands south of Harrison Hot Springs into a mellow, golden wonderland. Our photographer, Tracey Friesen, has captured a moment when the vegetation that makes up a wetland environment has the opportunity to really shine.

What is involved in this relationship between the sun and wetland flora? Beyond the aesthetics of a sun-kissed contouring in a population of invasive Himalayan Blackberries and Reed Canary Grass at the foreground of our image… inside of the back-lit trees in behind this raised hillock, a chemical process is at work. A wetland, one of the most productive ecosystems on earth, has a wide diversity of plant and animal life that is accounted for by the processes of photosynthesis and decomposition. Through these two processes, massive amounts of dissolved organic matter is created, and this is critical to the larger food web. 

When we see this glowing wetland, what we are truly seeing is the foundation of energy production for all of life. When the plants capture this light energy, they transform it into chemical energy used to grow, reproduce and feed other organisms. Without this glow, the wetland, the plants, the birds, invertebrates, all the hidden amphibians & reptiles, wandering animals and our photographer herself- these would not exist.

The Cheam wetlands are rehabilitated and constructed from the aftermath of an old Marl Clay mine. Since its designation as a protected and managed site it has become home to a wide array of plant and animal life, including 184 species of birds (read more about what has been found here in the 2008 bioblitz report). In a constructed wetland site, photosynthesis is very important for creating the organic substrate layer that we expect to find in a healthy marsh. Both vascular (higher plants) and non vascular (algae) plants are also important to treating waste water by increasing the dissolved oxygen content of the water and filtering runoff.

As our final photograph in the photo-of -the-week series, we thank Tracey Friesen for contributing something so fundamental and beautiful. We are now transitioning to a photo-of-the-month series that will begin at the end of November. Stay tuned for upcoming features and keep posting your glorious representations of nature’s biodiversity hotspots in BC! 

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