Top 10 Wetlands Stories of 2013

It’s that time again. The time for holiday decor, new years resolutions, baked goods, and top 10 lists! And it was certainly another exciting year for wetlands around the world and in Canada. Here is our top 10 list with a wetland twist (and bonus points awarded to BC stories).  _

Revelstoke airport wetlands. Image courtesy of
Revelstoke airport wetlands. Image courtesy of

#10. Revel”stoked” About Wetlands

This September, BC Hydro announced a new project to protect the Revelstoke airport wetlands. Over the past few years, the flow of the Columbia River along with snowmelt and reservoir operations have resulted in a 111-metre long y-shaped erosion channel that is continuously expanding towards the wetlands. If it keeps eroding, the channel may drain the wetland and result in the loss of habitat for many birds and wildlife. BC Hydro’s project will prevent further erosion , as well as enhance and expand the existing wetland.

For the full store, read here.

_ _


Genstar wetlands. Image courtesy of
Genstar wetlands. Image courtesy of

#9. Protecting Fraser Valley Wetlands

In April, Ducks Unlimited Canada and partners Genstar, BC Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, District of Mission, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Fraser Valley Regional Watershed Coalition purchased 42 acres (17 hectares) of ecologically significant wetlands along the Fraser River to be called the Genstar Wetlands. The purchase of this area is important since the wetlands are rare and at high risk of urban development and draining. 

For the full store, click here.



Sandhill crane's new prosthetic leg. Image courtesy of
Sandhill crane’s new prosthetic leg. Image courtesy of

#8. Sandhill Crane Gets a New Leg

In March, Abbotsford’s Ken Macquisten made a prosthetic leg for a Sandhill Crane whose leg was injured by a golf ball. The crane was found on the Richmond Country Meadows Golf Course and then brought to the Whatcom Road Veterinary Hospital where its lower right leg was amputated. Although Sandhill Cranes are very common in North America, they are rare to this part of the Lower Mainland. They’re mostly found in freshwater wetlands and there are presumably only five mating pairs in the Lower Mainland. It is thought that wetland loss in the Fraser Valley is forcing these cranes into new – and often dangerous – areas. 

For the full story, click here. _



Part of the Great Bear Rainforest. Image courtesy of
Part of the Great Bear Rainforest. Image courtesy of

#7. Canadian Wetlands for Climate Change

Early this year, Canada’s boreal peatlands gained attention for its significance in climate change mitigation. Recent research shows that Canada’s boreal peatlands may hold an impressive 147 billion metric tonnes of carbon, which is equivalent to 280 years’ worth of Canada’s annual human-induced carbon emissions. And using wetlands to sequester carbon has more than just environmental benefits. First nations groups are using the Great Bear Rainforest to sell carbon offsets through the absorptive power of trees and wetlands, in hopes of creating a greener economy.

For the full story, click here.

For more on the Great Bear Rainforest carbon farming, click here.

_ _


A family of capybaras in the Bolivia wetlands. Image courtesy of
A family of capybaras in the Bolivia wetlands. Image courtesy of

#6. A Very Happy World Wetlands Day

On February 2nd, Bolivia celebrated World Wetlands Day by designating over 6.9 million hectares of the Llanos de Moxos to the Ramsar Convention’s Wetlands of International Importance. Bolivia now holds the largest Ramsar site to date, with over 14.8 million hectares of protected wetlands – congrats! Hopefully this inspires other nations to keep raising the bar. 

For the full story, click here.



Students studying sediment levels in a New Jersey marsh. Image courtesy of
Students studying sediment levels in a New Jersey marsh. Image courtesy of

#5. Coastal Wetlands in Global Change

A year after mega-storm Hurricane Sandy touched down in 2012, researchers found that coastal marshes were crucial for protecting the area from flooding during the hurricane. However, research has shown that these wetlands are disappearing from human-induced and natural processes. While urban development has been the historical cause of wetland loss in the area, wetlands can be negatively impacted by natural factors. Hurricane Sandy deposited large amounts of sediments into these marshes, which has filled up many of the wetlands. This process is common with strong storms and was also seen during Hurricane Irene in 2011.

Globally, coastal wetlands are threatened by sea level rise brought on by climate change. In March, the World Bank found that a meter rise in sea level may destroy over 60% of the developing world’s coastal wetlands – leading to an estimated loss of $630 million annually. The hardest hit areas are predicted to be the Middle East and North Africa (losing 99% of all the area’s coastal wetlands), sub-Saharan Africa (losing 77%), East Asia (losing 66%), and Latin America and the Caribbean (losing 39%). 

For more on the Hurricane Sandy story, click here.

For more on the World Bank study, click here.



The Great Barrier Reef. Image courtesy of
The Great Barrier Reef. Image courtesy of

#4. The Wetlands of the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef has been under constant threat due to port developments that result in habitat loss. Recent proposals for port expansion have the potential to create irreversible damage to the reef and its surrounding – and equally important – estuarine wetlands. The wetlands provide habitat for many endangered and iconic species, such as the rare snub fin dolphin. In July, the Queensland Government published the “State Planning Policy 4/11: Protecting Wetlands of High Ecological Significance in Great Barrier Reef Catchments” (found here). This report seeks to prevent the loss or degradation of high ecologically significant wetlands around the reef. We will have to wait until 2014 or later years in order to determine the success of this strategy, but it’s clear that the stakes are high since the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system on Earth. 

For the full story, click here


#3. BC Wetland Communities and Stewards (YOU!)

The BCWF’s Wetlands Education Program had one of our busiest years, so of course this had to make the list. This year we had the privilege to travel to many BC communities and teach hundreds of individuals about the techniques and importance of wetlands conservation. Here’s just a quick overview of the communities that we worked with in 2013:

  • Burnaby (Map our Marshes) Blog: here Photos: here
  • Castlegar (Schoolyard Wetland build) Blog: here Photos: here
  • Chase  (Wetlandkeepers) Blog: here Photos: here
    ______(Wild Kidz Camps) Photos: here
  • Duncan (Map our Marshes) Photos: here
  • Grand Forks (Wetlandkeepers) Blog: here Photos: here
  • Kitimat (Wild Kidz Camps) Blog: here Photos: here
  • New Denver (Wetlandkeepers & BioBlitz) Blog: here Photos: here
  • Passmore (Map our Marshes) Blog: here Photos: here
  • Peachland (Map our Marshes) Blog: here Photos: here
  • Salmo (Wetlands Institute & Updates) Blog: here Photos: here
  • Slocan Valley (Wetlands Symposium) Blog: here Photos: here
  • West Kootenays (Wetlands Institute) Blog: here Photos: here



Okanagan Lake. Image courtesy of
Okanagan Lake. Image courtesy of

#2. Okanagan Wetlands

Nearly 85% of the Okanagan wetlands have disappeared. This summer, the Okanagan Basin Water Board outlined a project that will implement a water data collection program for a valley-wide wetlands protection strategy. The significance of this project has been recognized by Environment Canada and the Union of BC Municipalities’ Gas Tax Innovations Fund, who have awarded the Water Board with $65,000 and $95,000 respectively, which is being used to support the Okanagan Wetlands Strategy. In December, the Water Board and the BCWF hosted the Okanagan Wetlands Strategy in order to connect wetland loss with endangered species. The public workshop taught participants about the many birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, molluscs, and other wetland species that are threatened by habitat degradation. In doing so, the BCWF and many organizations and individuals are determined to improving and enhancing the area for the benefit of all (human and non-human) communities. 

For the full story, read here.

For the Global News video, click here.



A toppled over tanker lies next to Lemon Creek. Image courtesy of
A toppled over tanker lies next to Lemon Creek. Image courtesy of

#1. Lemon Creek Jet Fuel Spill

In July, Slocan Valley residents were evacuated from their homes and neighbourhoods as a toppled-over tanker carrying jet fuel dumped 35,000 liters of fuel into the waterway. A ban was quickly placed over swimming, floating, watering, bathing, drinking, or using the water from the creek, Slocan River, and Kootenay River. As well, it released large amounts of toxic fumes into the surrounding atmosphere, creating adverse health effects. Residents noticed pools of dead fish and invertebrates immediately after the spill, which influenced legal action. While Environment Canada has released test results and environmental data, residents and scientists fear that the extent of the environmental damage will not be known for several years. Furthermore, many locals are skeptical about the validity of the methods used to interpret and collect the data.

Hundreds of Slocan residents attend a meeting in Winlaw Hall. Image courtesy of
Hundreds of Slocan residents attend a meeting in Winlaw Hall. Image courtesy of

This story may not be a positive one, but it does show the strength and resiliency of communities in the wake of environmental disaster. Communities in the West Kootenays are a stronghold for stewardship and grassroots conservation, and this was demonstrated by the immediate local response and the timely emergence of the conservation initiatives such as SWAMP. The Slocan Wetland Assessment & Monitoring Program (SWAMP) is a collaboration of several members in the community who are working for the protection of healthy, intact functioning wetlands and riparian areas. The BCWF had the privilege to help establish this initiative by hosting several events in the Slocan Valley this summer, including the Wetlands Symposium, Wetlands Institute, Wetlandkeepers workshop, and the Map our Marshes workshops. We look forward to hearing about all of the outcomes of this meaningful and significant project.

For updates on the Lemon Creek spill, click here.

For more on SWAMP, read here.

_  _

Wishing everyone a relaxing and safe new year! 

What was your favourite wetlands story of 2013? Leave a comment on this blog, Facebook us or send us a Tweet (@BCWFWetlands).

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