- Ecosystem Mapping and Permanent Plots
- Climate and Biodiversity
- Bog Forest Ecosystems
- Bird Observatory
- Sand Ecosystem Dynamics
- Phenology Monitoring
Coordinated by Ian Giesbrecht of the Hakai Beach Institute.
Ecosystem Mapping and Permanent Plots
Led by Ian Giesbrecht (Hakai Institute).
This theme involves the use of remote sensing and field plots to describe and understand the distribution of key ecological attributes across the landscape. Remotely sensed data sources include air photos, orthophotos, LiDAR, and hyperspectral imagery. We will use leading-edge mapping techniques that promise to become more efficient than conventional approaches based on manual air photo interpretation. Maps will be generated showing the spatial distribution of ecosystem types (e.g., bog wetlands, productive yellow-cedar, estuarine meadows) and key attributes such as drainage and canopy openness. Ecosystem maps will be useful for stratifying scientific study designs, land use planning, understanding spatial and temporal dynamics of unlogged watersheds, and as a baseline for monitoring long term change. The resulting data will be useful for several emerging research topics such as yellow-cedar ecology, sand ecosystem dynamics, and alpine biodiversity change.
A combination of temporary and permanent field plots will be used to verify predicted conditions on-the-ground. Permanent plots will be marked with small posts (e.g., PVC pipe), flagging tape, and tree tags. Increment cores will be collected to determine tree ages. Sites will be classified according to the BC Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification system for forested and non-forested environments. Temporary soil pits will be used to varify ecosystem classification. Permanently plots will be used for long term monitoring of ecosystem variability and response to disturbance, weather, and climate; resulting data will be used for addressing several specific research and monitoring questions (e.g., yellow-cedar population health).
Climate and Biodiversity
Led by Brian Starzomski (University of Victoria)
We will examine the relationship between various variables (snow cover; snow depth; temperature; precipitation; herbivory; phenology, including timing of flowering and associated pollination) and species diversity.
We will look at how species diversity changes over these gradients in combinations of slope, aspect, elevation, etc., and infer how climate change might change site diversity over time. Conduct long-term observational and experimental work that collects data over the long-term to examine the natural (and experimentally-induced) changes in climate and species diversity.
The outer coast high-elevation zones (much of Calvert Island) are significantly under-researched relative to the coastal high-productivity forests, but are just as important. We don’t even know what plants and animals are at high elevation sites, like Mt Buxton, or if these sites were glacial refugia. In general this research would involve setting up a series of long-term plots both on the slopes of Mt Buxton and the interior tundra of the island. Included with this would be the installation of at least 2 weather stations: one near the summit of Mt Buxton and another in the interior of the island. We will examine trends in community composition along elevational gradients, on the various aspects of the mountain, and in the interior lowlands. Observational studies will commence with looking at present diversity patterns and collecting population information such as forest stand ages through tree cores. Experiments will be undertaken to manipulate temperature and precipitation (key components of climate change), snow depth and cover (one of the key drivers of plant and animal community structure due to its capacity to insulate against the effects of late-season killing frosts), and herbivory. We will also manipulate plant community species richness and composition to test key aspects of ecological theory in terms of the buffering capacity of biodiversity in responding to climate change.
Bog Forest Ecosystems
Led by Ken Lertzman (Simon Fraser University).
The carbon flux (dissolved organic carbon, or DOC) from the coastal temperate rain forests along the Central and Northern BC Coast generally, and Kwakshua Channel specifically, is thought to be exceptionally high by world standards. (Along the Gulf of Alaska the carbon flux is 36 times the world average for example.) The freshwater that flushes over and through the forest floor leaches carbon and other nutrients from the soil and delivers them to headwater streams. Dissolved organic carbon derived from soils has a large biodegradable component, making it an important food source for freshwater and marine food webs. As it moves through aquatic ecosystems, the non-biodegradable fraction of the DOC is sequestered within sediments and suspended in the ocean DOC pool rather than being released into the atmosphere.
Climate-induced changes to the amount, timing, and type of exported dissolved organic carbon could have far-reaching impacts on estuarine productivity and habitat quality.
We will study these phenomena — the relationships between the bog forest and the ocean — using Kwakshua Channel as a convenient natural laboratory.
Let by Ian Giesbrecht (Hakai Beach Institute).
This project will begin to address a significant gap in the coverage of bird monitoring stations in Canada and along the Pacific Flyway. Bird Studies Canada has identified the BC central and north coast as a priority region to expand bird monitoring efforts. The Hakai Bird Surveys would contribute to the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network operated by Bird Studies Canada.
Sand Ecosystem Dynamics
This theme asks questions about the past, present, and future dynamics of terrestrial sand ecosystems including sand dunes and beach plains. Geomorphic processes of dune and beach development set the stage for ecological responses to changing sea-levels, storm regimes, and seasonal weather patterns. The patterns of vegetation development on sand dunes and marine plains is understudied in natural systems. On Calvert Island, vegetation varying from sparse dune grass to old-growth forest can be found on such landforms.
Calvert Island presents an important opportunity to study several replicate sand ecosystems that are relatively unaffected by the processes of land development and invasive species that have raised significant conservation concerns for sand ecosystems elsewhere along the Pacific Coast of North America. This ecological research will be closely integrated with archeological and geomorphological investigations of landform history. Ecological field work will use temporary and permanent plots similar to those described under Ecosystem Mapping and Permanent Plots.
Phenology monitoring seeks to describe and understand the seasonal patterns of plants and animals. Phenology is a sensitive indicator of annual weather and long term climate change. By monitoring the phenology of key species we will be able to understand how climate change affects species, ecological interactions (e.g., flowers and pollinators), and resource availability (e.g., green-up and berry production).
The phenology monitoring program at Hakai will utilize several sources of data including intensive university lead research, citizen science, and incidental observations. The citizen science approach involves regularly walking a designated observation route, visiting established phenology observation sites, and recording data on standardized dataforms. Data from the citizen science program will be shared with a continent-wide monitoring database managed by the National Phenology Network.