Habitat Enhancement for Biodiversity

A few more entries in the UBC Celebrate Research Week series remain. Lindsay introduces Dr. Mooney:

Dr. Patrick Mooney is a Professor in the Landscape Architecture program in UBC’s School of Architecture + Landscape Architecture at UBC where he teaches sustainable landscape planning and management, ecological restoration, design studio and planting design. Dr. Mooney consults to developers, environmental groups, the B.C. Ministry of Environment, regional parks and city governments on habitat management and restoration. Dr. Mooney designed and supervised the installation of Maplewood Flats, a constructed wetland on the Burrard Inlet. The mud-flats that previously existed on that site were filled for a port facility that was never built and is now a Provincial Wildlife Management Area operated by the Wild Bird Trust (WBT) of BC. Since its installation, the WBT has recorded an increase in bird diversity from 208 bird species prior to 1995 to 231 in 2004.

Dr. Mooney writes:

Maintaining biodiversity in urban regions (PDF) requires the implementation of conservation actions that are informed by local knowledge. To meet this need, I’ve developed general biodiversity models that may be used to select candidate conservation areas, to enhance habitat in urban disturbed sites, to increase site level biodiversity and to guide ecological restoration for wildlife habitat.

The plant associations of three conservation areas on Burrard Inlet in the Metro Vancouver region were inventoried and mapped as habitat types (figure 1 — the map)

The 62 species of birds that were found to use the sites on an annual basis were grouped according to their foraging guilds. The guilds are coded A through L in the second figure. It was found that that certain habitats support more species than others and some habitats support a high proportion of certain guilds.

Since most species use multiple habitats, a cluster analysis was conducted to determine which groups of habitats supported the most bird species. Three habitat assemblages – Deciduous Forest / Mixed Forest / Park; Shorezone / Old Field / Meadow and Old Field / Salt Marsh / Freshwater Marsh were found to contain the primary use habitats of the majority bird species found on the study sites (see Figure 2). All other possible habitat assemblages contained the primary habitats of three or fewer species.

Habitat Assemblage 1: Deciduous Forest / Mixed Forest / Park

Eleven species of birds from guild A, the gleaners, utilize this habitat assemblage for both primary and secondary habitat. This assemblage contains the primary and secondary habitat for 21 species. 13 of these species were found only within this habitat assemblage. These are black-throated gray warbler, brown creeper, chestnut-backed chickadee, evening grosbeak, orange-crowned warbler, Pacific-slope flycatcher, downy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, bushtit, Cooper’s hawk, cedar waxwing, Steller’s jay and purple finch.

Habitat Assemblage 2: Shorezone / Old Field / Meadow

The habitat assemblage of shorezone/old field/meadow contains the primary and secondary habitat for 16 species or 25.8% of the 62 species in this analysis. This assemblage is notable in that primary and secondary use habitat for three of the four species in guild C, the probers, are captured by this assemblage. These are killdeer, solitary sandpiper, and spotted sandpiper. The exception in guild C is the sora rail which was found only in the freshwater marsh habitat type.

Habitat Assemblage 3: Old Field / Salt Marsh / Freshwater Marsh

This assemblage contained primary and secondary habitats for five species. Two species are particular to this habitat assemblage. The wood duck was found in both the freshwater and saltwater wetlands, while the sora rail occurred in only the freshwater marsh habitat.

Maplewood Flats: Vegetation Zones
Most Productive Habitats

12 responses to “Habitat Enhancement for Biodiversity”

  1. Rob

    Beautiful! It is excellent to see such a fine example of restoration, and a fine photo, too.

  2. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Wow! Wonderful project, beautiful habitat.

  3. Jeff Elliott

    Great job. With all due respect and admiration for this wonderfully improved landscape, I must remind us to look more closely. Please note the community structure here is, albeit a huge improvement, still indicative of instability. Typical of mitigation wetlands this site will denigrate rapidly, harboring a plethora of invasive r-selectors and non-natives, than rebound toward a new equilibrium and stability. This anthropogenic wetland will never replace the natural system we’ve destroyed. However, this will provide so much more then the tarmac and trash it was slated to become. Enjoy the cattails and mallards for now and celebrate the dynamics of the shifting mosaic progression toward a more natural system. Kudos to the restoration ecologists and their efforts.

  4. Melissa in S.C.

    Oh, so beautiful. Immediately to my Desktop. Such clear descriptions and charts. Am loving Research Week.

  5. phillip

    …it’s so refreshing….to see intellegent..hard working people…developing bio-diverse systems…and yes jeff elliot…the natural course will be different 1000 years from now…but a project like this is similar to making bread…a little yeast makes the whole bread..

  6. lisa

    Very important work – maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems in/around or urban areas is especially important. It is absolutely critical we get a handle on ecosystems’ destruction, and begin to appreciate and valuate the free services they provide: clean water, flood control, erosion control, food, carbon/mercury/methane/etc. storage, and all of the spiritual and cultural values we find in them… Thank you for sharing this exciting research.

  7. elizabet a airhart

    one ecosystem
    in diversity
    under the sun
    with joyful interpnetration for all
    gary snyder american 1930
    this has been a lovely fine week
    florida is trying to save itself if they ever
    get out of the courts and each rain and storm
    brings a change so many birds winter here or did
    i do remember the meadowlands of new jersey
    thank you this has been a grand week for all of us

  8. bonniel

    wonderful yes, but too many will only see the mud and dead plants. We need a thousand Daniels to show them the beauty.

  9. AJ

    I am all for conservation, but construction and management of habitats, imo, must be done with care as habits/ecosystems/forest types are not static entities but change over time naturally due to succession, emigration, immigration, weather patterns and so forth. Part of the beauty of walking into a pine forest, for example is knowing that despite its present grandeur, the light-loving pines will eventually succumb under the canopy of oaks and hickories.
    Lovely photo and very nice figures!

  10. Diana Johnson

    Thank you for this beautiful photo of the Maplewood mud flats in North Vancouver, and reminding me how truely vast and lovely this area is.

  11. Patrick Mooney

    The site is well managed by the B.C. Wild Bird Trust. Since the wetland was installed the invasive purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) that previously dominated large areas of Maplewood Flats and would have overtaken the new wetland have been virtually eliminated.

  12. Michael Hobbs

    Looks like a better than average mitigation, but many people assume that sites like this indicate that man can recreate wetlands with just a bit of work and money. This is hogwash. It’s incredibly rare to have a mitigation site remain an active wetland for very many years after restoration. First, there is the tendency to plant willows, etc., around and in every body of water, which gives an instant transition to a late-successional wetland. Soils tend to build up quickly, and it’s a wetland no more. The bigger problem though, in this regard, is the hydrology. Usually, water sources are in short supply, often due to hydrologic changes caused by the construction that leads to the mitigation. Without water, and without periodic flushing, a wetland is doomed to a late-successional state at best.

Leave a Reply to Patrick Mooney Click here to cancel reply.