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Supporting Conservation During a Pandemic

These days, much of the news is about COVID-19 and the Coronavirus that causes it. In the weeks since the outbreak came to southern Vancouver Island, more and more media reports are now focusing on the political and social issues related to the pandemic. Some of these articles are important commentaries on the way different governments are handling (or have handled) their COVID-19 reactions while other stories are more polarized. There are also outlets reporting on how COVID-19 and Climate Change are “parallel” (UN News 28 April 2020), yet there are even fewer discussing how one is, like the image above hints, heavily linked to the other.

Unlike the above image, Climate Change isn’t “coming,” it is already here (LA Times, Opinion, 15 Sept 2019). Like the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a process with a “curve” very much similar to the line graphs we’re getting used to seeing with the “flatten the curve” strategy (Treble, 29 April 2020) - the less we do to mitigate the human causes of a drastically changing climate, the steeper the “curve” of its effects (on ecosystems, biodiversity, and human society) will be in the short term. The relationship between Climate Change and the COVID-19 pandemic also serve as very good reasons for continuing to support conservation and environmental initiatives during the pandemic.

Climate change, biodiversity, and habitat conservation are very much linked to the ongoing pandemic, mostly in how this novel coronavirus began. According to Nicole Mortillaro, the global decline in biodiversity is putting species into contact in new ways, creating more conditions for viruses and the diseases they cause to “jump” species (Mortillaro 2020). Doubling the impact of this, habitat loss contributes to the loss of biodiversity and often puts species into contact in very drastic ways, particularly when that loss is linked to resource extraction.

While the current pandemic did not begin in southern Vancouver Island, the experience is giving us an opportunity to see certain things happen at home. We are only as resilient as the ecosystems that sustain us, and they are only as resilient as the biodiversity that they’re made up of. Within this resilience are built in layers of protection that slow or even stop the advance of everything from contagious diseases (in the case of a pandemic) (Roston 2020), to wildfires (Goldman 2016). It seems that biodiversity isn’t just how diverse the biological mass of the planet is, it’s actually something that regulates the way many things interact!

Ecosystems are more resilient to alterations when they are functioning (Gunderson 2000). If COVID-19 is an indication, Climate Change will be felt in many different ways, sometimes in ways that maybe we didn’t expect, or even in ways we didn’t see as being related to a changing climate. That is one of the reasons it is so important to continue to support habitat conservation even during a critical and global medical emergency, like a pandemic. Because as events related to Climate Change become more commonplace and more diverse, we will need resilient and functional ecosystems to not only mitigate them, but to help us adapt to this changing world.

We are already in Climate Change’s curve, and it’s up to us to decide whether we are going to try and flatten that curve. For sure, if you have the disposable income, then please consider giving what you can to efforts that are underway to treat those affected by COVID-19. There are human communities all over the world experiencing this new face of Climate Change in very severe ways. If you already give to conservation, to ecological enhancement, restoration, and stewardship, please consider continuing if you can, or consider supporting a local conservation organization when you have the funds again. Biodiversity is under threat (CPAWS), and the more it is threatened the more we are threatened (Watts 2018).

Supporting conservation might not be the answer to COVID-19, and it may not bring biodiversity loss to a screeching halt. It will allow us to flatten parts of the Climate Change curve. Supporting those ecosystems that remain, what biodiversity we still have, will help the wellbeing of all species in this new future.

 

Sources

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) - Manitoba Chapter. “Canada`s Biodiversity Under Attack, Federal-Provincial Report Finds.” CPAWS - Manitoba Chapter Resources, https://cpawsmb.org/canadas-biodiversity-under-attack-federal-provincial-report-finds/, accessed 7 May 2020.

Goldman, Jason G. (2016). “Could Biodiversity Protect Against Wildfires?” Conservation Magazine (Online), 30 March, https://www.conservationmagazine.org/2016/03/biodiversity-protect-against-wildfires/ accessed 7 May 2020.

Gunderson, Lance H. (2000). “Ecological Resilience - In Theory and Application.” Annual Review of Ecological Systems Vol. 31: 425-439.

Mortillero, Nicole (2020). “Biodiversity loss and wildlife trade are making pandemics like COVID-19 more likely, experts say.” CBC News, 11 April, https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/pandemics-biodiversity-covid-19-1.5528063 accessed 30 April.

Treble, Patricia (2020). “Coronavirus in Canada: These charts show how our fight to 'flatten the curve' is going.” MacLean’s Online, 29 April, https://www.macleans.ca/society/health/coronavirus-in-canada-these-charts-show-how-our-fight-to-flatten-the-curve-is-going/, accessed 29 April 2020.

Roston, Eric (2020). “Want to Stop the Next Pandemic? Start Protecting Wildlife Habitats.” Time Online, 8 April, https://time.com/5817363/wildlife-habitats-disease-pandemics/, accessed 7 May 2020.

Watts, Jonathan (2018). “Stop biodiversity loss or we could face our own extinction, warns UN.” The Guardian (online), 6 November, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/03/stop-biodiversity-loss-or-we-could-face-our-own-extinction-warns-un, accessed 7 May 2020.

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Parenting during Covid–times. 

By Wendy Tyrrell 

Habitat Management Coordinator 

 

Who would have thought that I would be working from home during the beautiful, showy springtime on Southern Vancouver Island and having to decipher moment to moment, the challenges that encompass all that is our new norm like…how I’m going to attend my next Zoom meeting at the same time that my son has a Zoom meeting with his classmates on the latest book they are all reading at home under the B1 English Language Arts Curriculum section…huh?  I always thought you read books for entertainment. 

This time last year I had five really awesome community-based restoration events successfully completed and more coming up.  This year, I’m trying to figure out what it means in Grade 5 math to use an “array model” to help my son do multiplication. The beauty of all of this new learning is that I know that I am not alone and I’m good at faking it!  But, before I wallow in my own struggles, I acknowledge fully that I’m an extremely fortunate person to even consider these small dilemmas a challenge. 

There are many of us that have relied (heavily) on providing structure and education to our children via the traditional public school model.  I may be fighting this tradition with all of its downfalls, but I now realize how I have taken it for granted and how dependent upon it I have been.  I’m not a creature of structure and I’m post-menopausal, so multi-tasking no longer comes naturally… being at home with my son, trying to work 25 hours a week and take care of a new puppy (no… not a Covid-induced puppy, just a lucky coincidence), and take care of the daily chores of living in a house (a privilege I’m thankful for)  yup– you see it, you’ve heard it from your friends – this is not for the faint of heart.  

But, in my weeks of meandering, flailing and trying to do it all like superwoman and also be able to bake bread and completely set up my garden before the May long weekend – well, it’s not working, surprise, surprise.  Alas, I know why. 

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Broom Bashing

Did you know that May is officially Invasive Species Action month in BC? There is no better time to get outside and do what you can in your yard or in your community to help battle invasive species like Scotch Broom. 

Along with the beautiful wildflowers blooming this time of year, many of you have likely noticed the bright yellow pea-like flowers that cover the shrub we call Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius)Originally native to the Mediterranean, it was transported to Great Britain and Ireland by Roman soldiers along with its prickly companion Gorse (Ulex europaeus). In the UK it has since spread rapidly across the landscape and is known as Common Broom. It was first introduced to the west coast by a Scottish immigrant, who lived in Sooke oVancouver Island, and was later used for slope stabilization along roadsides and as an ornamental in gardens    

Scotch Broom is an invasive species, which means it was introduced here and thrives to such a degree that, if left unchecked, it will cover all the open space that it can, often crowding out other more delicate plants. You will see fields and hillsides covered in Broomoften a dense thicket that is basically impossible to walk through. There will likely be very low diversity of other plants as they are shaded out and weakened by competition for resources.  

 

Part of HAT’s Good Neighbours Program is helping landowners learn how to manage invasive species on their property. HAT staff and volunteers offer advice and expert referrals regarding removal, replacement and maintenance.  

 If you would like to remove broom and you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure where to start, here are some resources filled with advice, tips and tricks for Broom removal:  

Invasive Species Council of BC Scotch Broom Factsheet 

Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team Scotch Broom Management 

If you are interested in learning more about the History of Scotch Broom on Southern Vancouver Island click the following link. It is definitely worth a read! 

Glistening Patches of Gold”: The Environmental History of Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) on Southern Vancouver Island, 1848-1950 

There are many other plants popping up at the moment that could stand to be pulled or cut. If you have any questions about a plant in your property please send a picture to our email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we would be happy to identify it for you and give you some tips. Another great plant identification resource is the app iNaturalist, with the added bonus of reporting your siting and contributing to an ever-growing database. 

Here is a link to the downloadable version of HAT’s Invasive Species Guide  

PDF Here 

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Camas: The Roots of Life, Story, & Memory in the Land

Known by a few names, Camas (quamash, or more specifically ḰȽO,EL [pron. Kwtla-el]) is a beautiful flowering member of the lily family that brightens many spots along what is now called southern Vancouver Island every spring. With beautiful purples and clear whites, the camas tells us that spring has arrived and that summer is on its way. For many of us who are settlers here, descended from a vast number of peoples who came to these unceded and unsurrendered Coast Salish territories, the camas that blooms beneath the Garry Oaks of the various parks is a lovely spring sight that transforms the pastures of several parks from the rolling, green of winter in a very specific way that is tied to living on these territories. We may or may not know it, though the numbers of these flowers indicate that camas was a major staple food for the L’kwungen and WSÁNEĆ peoples before colonization. There is much more that the camas is trying to tell us newcomers with their late-spring bloom.

Camas grows throughout the Willamette Valley in Oregon (Kramer 2000), as far north as places like Prince George, and has been found archaeologically as far east as Blackfoot territory where it was imported and cultivated (Johnston 1970). Camas was traded, it was a source of wealth to the people in whose territories it grew naturally, central to the diets of pre-colonization peoples in the area (Turner & Kuhnlein 1983). It was grown (and still grows) in such quantity in places like Ku-sing-ay-las (a name for the area that is known as Victoria now) that it shaped the way the Coast Salish connect and communicated with the lands (Suttles 2005), influenced how communities were established and where camps and villages were built. In many ways, camas was/is as culturally important as the salmon, though camas  didn’t move so rapidly or expansively on their own. A starch that travelled well, camas brought people together all over the western coast of Turtle Island (one way of referring to the still existing Indigenous “North America;” based on the Haudenosaunee oral history of Sky Woman, this term was taken up during the 1970’s as an anti-colonial term for the continent), connecting the Coast Salish peoples in ways not always assumed in our colonial society. It is quite possible that Cowichan camas was even traded for the volcanic glass tools (that originated in eastern Oregon), or the jade adze (that came from near Prince George) that were both found at the Ye’yumnuts Ancestral Site in the Cowichan valley (Commemorating Ye’yumnuts).

It’s no secret that the L’kwungen and WSÁNEĆ both used fire to work with the ecosystems that sustained and sustain them (Turner 1999). If you’ve never wondered about the Garry Oak meadows that dot the parks and rare fields around what has become greater Victoria, these are the remains of a managed ecosystem that stretches over most of L’kwungen and WSÁNEĆ territories (and, by all reports, Cowichan and Sci’anew territories as well). It also explains why maintaining the remaining Garry Oak ecosystems is such a challenge for conservation groups like HAT, as early colonial governments outlawed the use of fire. The contemporary “fear” of fire management (or swidden agriculture) among settler populations is an outcome of those racially motivated laws (Turner 1999, especially page 189). From Meeacan (Beacon Hill Park) to “Uplands Park,” the camas fields stretched between villages, providing enough sustenance for many more people than actually lived here, leading to trade with other nations all around the Pacific Northwest.

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