The following ecosystem priorities and project ideas were identified through our Ecosystems Enhancement Program with a thorough review of regional plans and research and by seeking input from community groups, First Nations representatives, government agencies and subject matter experts. Ecological priorities and emerging issues are listed in random order; no ranking is intended. Species and habitats are not limited to those listed below.
- Conservation, restoration, and enhancement of aquatic habitat
- Priority Habitat: Columbia River, Salmo River, Tributary streams spawning, rearing, overwintering valley bottom to upper basin headwaters, Cold water refugia.
- Priority Species: native fish (Rainbow Trout, Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Bull Trout, White Sturgeon), freshwater mussels, waterbirds (Harlequin Duck, American Dipper, Cliff Swallows, Black Swift), invertebrates.
- Priority Processes: fish passage, connectivity, water temperature, water quality (nutrients, turbidity), productivity, geomorphological function (erosion, sedimentation, large woody debris, gravel recruitment).
- Conservation, restoration and enhancement of wetlands and riparian areas.
- Priority Habitat: floodplain ecosystems, cottonwood stands, riparian habitats directly adjacent to rivers, alluvial fans.
- Priority Species: western toad, western painted turtle, at risk migratory birds and waterfowl (Great Blue Heron, Western Screech-Owl, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Olive-sided Flycather), bats, American beaver, North American river otter, plants – rare and culturally important, macroinvertebrates.
- Priority Processes: connectivity, linkage areas valley bottom to montane, hydrologic function, geomorphological function, productivity.
- Protection, enhancement and identification of corridors and linkage areas
- Priority: north-south and east-west corridors along Columbia and Salmo Rivers which link together upland habitats (ungulate winter range, core grizzly bear habitat) with low elevation riparian-wetland habitats.
- Conservation and restoration of upland habitats that support species at risk and of conservation concern.
- Priority Habitat: dry interior forests in fire-maintained ecosystems, brushlands and grasslands, rock outcrops, old growth forests.
- Priority Species: mountain caribou, grizzly bear, bats, rubber boa, racer, western skink, wolverine, Yellow Brested Chat, Common Nighthawk, Lewis’s Woodpecker, pollinators and other invertebrates, plants – rare, culturally important, fungi.
- Priority Processes: wildlife movement and migration, connectivity, food web interactions (predator-prey, seed dispersal, pollination), natural fire regime.
- Climate Change
- Invasive Species
- Cumulative effects (dams, forestry, recreation, rural/urban development)
- Emergent diseases/pests (White nose syndrome, whirling disease, mountain pine beetle)
- Imminent species/habitat decline
- Wildfire and Fire suppression
- Recreation and access management
Broad Measures Target Rare Species and Ecosystems
Thinning conifers will help improve habitat for birds and reptiles like Lewis’s woodpeckers, common nighthawks and northern rubber boas. Planting and armouring mature cottonwood trees will help protect valuable forests from human and beaver damage. These are just a couple of the ways a five-year project is improving habitat for eight at-risk species within rare, sensitive and threatened ecosystems between South Slocan and the Pend d’Oreille River. The project is a collaboration between the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Trail Wildlife Association and provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
“By increasing the productivity and resilience of these threatened ecosystems, the project aims to improve habitat availability and connectivity for wildlife across the region, especially for at-risk species,” said Yvonne Patterson, Wildlife Biologist, Okanagan Nation Alliance. “Together with key partners, we will work to build awareness and support for ecosystem stewardship, plus collaborate with others in the community on actions that will benefit sensitive ecosystems and wildlife in the future.”
Stream Improvements Aid Fish Habitat
Placed just right, a boulder can redirect flow away from an eroding bank and create features like pools, riffles and scours that improve habitat for threatened aquatic species. The Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society is planning improvements like this over three years to enhance a critical ecosystem in the Salmo River, just north of the town of Salmo. Other activities will include restoring approximately 245 metres of a former side channel, protecting old-growth cedar trees and encouraging the growth of native plants like cottonwood.
“Human activities have left a simplified ecosystem, while bank erosion threatens key habitat features, degrades water quality and widens the channel, which raises water temperature,” said Gerry Nellestijn, Coordinator with the Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society. “We look forward to proceeding with this project to address both erosion and simplified habitat. This will help us obtain our long-term vision of restoring the Salmo River watershed and increasing aquatic biodiversity.”
Pollination Pathways to Support Critical Ecosystems
Many native bees and all moths and butterflies need native plants to complete their life cycles. Most plants need native pollinators to produce seed and fruit. The Pollination Pathway Climate Adaptation Initiative will enhance plant-pollinator networks in the Lower Columbia sub-region by working toward restoration of the pollination systems within these diverse native plant communities. The five-year project will increase abundance and connectivity of important native wildflowers through seed collection, growing and plantings, and enhance habitat for native insect pollinators through the preservation of nest sites and the provision of host plants for specialist bees, butterflies and moths. This project will enhance over 250 hectares of riparian camas meadow ecosystems and over 400 hectares of upland showy milkweed meadow ecosystems at seven sites.
“The pollination of flowering plants by animals is a critical ecosystem service. The decline of pollinators has many causes, including the decline of our natural areas and thriving native plant populations,” said Valerie Huff, Restoration Botanist with the Kootenay Native Plant Society. “Camas and milkweed are anchor plants for pollinators in the region’s ecosystem, but there are many other plants included in the Pollination Pathway initiative that will support many species of endangered and at-risk pollinators.”