Restoring species of conservation concern and cultural value
The goal of this project is to create and enhance wetland and riparian habitat within the lower Alouette watershed to support healthy populations of five culturally-valued species and 12 species of conservation concern. The project represents the implementation of an eco-cultural restoration plan for Katzie Traditional Territory, which integrates the principles of restoration ecology and adaptive management with Katzie Traditional Knowledge and priorities for conservation. In 2018, an enhancement site started in 2017 will be completed, a third year of effectiveness monitoring will be conducted to evaluate restoration success, and surveys for species at risk will be conducted, to guide conservation and habitat enhancement actions that address management plan priorities.
Why are “potatoes” being planted in a habitat restoration project?
A project being delivered next to the Lower Alouette River in Ridge Meadows, by the Katzie Development Limited Partnership is integrating the principles of restoration science, together with Katzie traditional knowledge and values.
In 2017, the Partnership transformed a 1.2-hectare site, which was primarily reed canary grass, into a functioning tidal marsh ecosystem. There will be many beneficiaries, including waterfowl, Western Toads, Western Painted Turtles, Barn Swallows, Great Blue Herons, and a variety of fish species. Equally important are the benefits for the Katzie First Nation, who will be able to harvest wapato from the site in the years ahead.
This newly-formed marsh will be planted primarily with wapato, also known as duck potato or arrrowroot. Wapato grows in the silt and has distinctive, arrow-shaped leaves. Its aquatic tubers, about the size of chestnuts, served as a nutritious carbohydrate when cooked and were an important dietary staple for many indigenous communities. The plant was once cultivated extensively by Katzie people, who were renowned for their large wapato gardens that were shared with neighbouring communities. Wapato has been referred to as a cultural keystone species because of its central role in shaping the Katzie livelihood prior to the arrival of Europeans. Katzie archaeologists unearthed a 3,800-year-old wapato garden recently, making the site the oldest example of the cultivation of a non-domesticated crop in North America.
Effectiveness monitoring is a significant part of the work. With funding from AFSAR (Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk) the Katzie staff and contract biologists were able to collect a couple years’ worth of data, prior to the restoration work’s implementation. Now Katzie staff and biologists will be able to measure the changes in biodiversity and species richness at the site. And, with funding from Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Partnership is now able to include fish in its effectiveness monitoring. Future habitat restoration work, therefore, may include improving overwintering habitat for salmonids.
The project aligns with the FWCP’s Alouette River Watershed Action Plan, and is part of an overall proposed five-year Eco-cultural Restoration Plan for Katzie traditional territory. It’s a good example of a forward-looking project funded by the FWCP, that takes a holistic approach, with multiple values and considerations.