Two Birds with One Stone: Restoring a Wetland and Removing Invasives in Murrayville.

In 2011, the Langley Environmental Partners Society’s (LEPS) Stephanie Captein and the BC Wildlife Federation’s Neil Fletcher began concocting a plan to restore a wetland in Murrayville, BC. Just one short year later, the bulk of restoration is complete and the wetland is off to a great start.

Since 2004 LEPS has run the highly successful Murrayville Community Garden on property owned by the Township of Langley. Unfortunately, over the years other parts of the property have become overrun with invasive species like blackberry and reed canary grass. More recently, several large patches of Yellow Flag Iris have appeared. These patches rested on a fallow field, which most likely was drained at some point for agricultural practices. This led Neil and Stephanie to an ingenious solution: dig up the Yellow Flag Iris and create ephemeral wetlands where it used to be. Not only would this remove the invasive and its seed bank, it would also create habitat for species like Pacific Corus Frogs.

The Yellow Flag Iris Graveyard

The first steps to implementing this plan were removing the seed pods to prevent the excavators from spreading more seeds, and removing as much above-ground mass as possible. On August 31st, the BCWF staff strapped on their rubber boots, grabbed their garden shears, and went to work.

On September 26, Neil, Stephanie, and Jason Jobin, BCWF intern, tackled the remainder of the patches. As Jason sheared away the leaves, Stephanie and Neil collected the remainder of the seed pods for disposal. On the same day, an excavator (generously donated for the day from the Township of Langley) began peeling away the layers of Iris and piling them away from our proposed wetland site.

On October 4th, the BCWF’s Wetland Education Program hosted a Restoration Workshop in partnership with LEPS. The entire workshop was a condensed version of the 2.5 day Wetlandkeeper course so was chalk full of information regarding wetland types, their values, restoration methods, and soil and plant identification.   A total of 25 participants attended.

After a brief in-class session, participants donned their safety gear and headed on site. After learning about the dos and don’ts when working around excavators, Neil demonstrated how to identify soils using an auger. Though the site was dry, high levels of gleying and mottling demonstrated that the site is often wet and suitable for wetland restoration.

Using a dibble to plant plugs

A large portion of the day was spent collecting seeds from native plants including common rush and hardhack while an excavator dug the wetlands. Participants even turned it into a competition to see which group could gather more in their bucket! Collecting seeds from adjacent plants ensures that they are adapted to the local conditions so when they are spread in the new wetland they are more likely to survive. Some groups also removed seed heads from the invasive reed canary grass that surrounds the area in an attempt to prevent it from establishing in the new wetland.

After the excavator had completed a certain portion, participants used pickaxes to loosen the soil and then raked it into contours to make it more suitable for plant life. Putting their green-thumbs to work, they also planted tall manna grass, small flowered bulrush, saw beaked sedge, and water parsley. Finally, the hardhack and common rush seeds were spread around the site.  Though a long day, the work still wasn’t complete! The unyielding Neil and Stephanie returned the following day to finish up and  oversee an experimental technique designed to dispose of the Yellow Flag Iris rhizomes (which could propagate more plants). The Yellow Flag material was all buried in a large hole where invasive blackberry were rampant. Though this technique is not commonly used, the depth of the material combined with the drier location is expected to prevent any new growths.

To our surprise, in a matter of days the largest portion of the wetland was full of rainwater. A promising start to our restoration experiment.

Less than one week later

To see all the great photos taken during our workshop, click here!

This workshop was undertaken with the financial support of:
Ce project été réalisé avec l’appui financier de:
Wildlife Habitat Canada, The Province of BC, the Township of Langley, LEPS, and Environment Canada.

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