Assessing the health of a wetland is the first step toward simple restoration efforts such as fencing, off-site watering, treatment of invasive plants, and restoration of water levels through mechanical methods. Now there is a rapid method being tested in the field that is showing success in streamlining the process.
Wildlife biologist Jakob Dulisse received seed funding in 2016 to develop the concept with funding from the Upper Kootenay Ecosystem Enhancement Plan (UKEEP). In 2017 he was successful in receiving funds to implement the field work that not only seeks to assess wetland health, but also empower local stakeholders, and work with land managers to conserve and restore wetlands.
To kick off the work, Jakob and the Wetlands Institute – BC Wildlife Federation hosted a two-day workshop in Cranbrook with wetland specialist Dr. Paul Hansen to share information about the rapid assessment methodology. These assessments score the health of a wetland area, can then be used to prescribe simple conservation actions, and easily allow measurement of change. They are designed to be conducted quickly by minimally-trained field crews.
During the summer of 2017, 33 small wetlands – typically under three hectares in size – were assessed. The focus was on lentic (still water) wetlands, especially in the drier areas of the Rocky Mountain Trench such as around Koocanusa Reservoir.
As each wetland was scored, any potential stewardship activities were recommended including a basic-level prescription such as fencing or the treatment of invasive plants. Now that the scoring of the wetlands has been completed, the goal is to work various potential funders to and land managers to come together and implement the conservation and restoration recommendations.
The real success of the rapid evaluation method is that enables a quick and effective measurement of the change of health of the wetland over time. For example, fencing can be installed, or an alternative water source for cattle provided, and then the results of that work can be easily measured.