The Nature Trust of British Columbia, one of the province’s leading non-profit land conservation organizations, has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to protect 15 hectares of ecologically valuable habitat along the Little Qualicum River on Vancouver Island.
The goal is to raise $415,000 to preserve the acres of undeveloped land in the traditional territory of the Qualicum First Nation, which is in a Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) biogeoclimatic zone — one of B.C.’s most at-risk ecosystems.
Little Qualicum River is a crucial salmon spawning river that supports both Indigenous and recreational fisheries. It provides spawning and rearing habitat for many salmon species, including Chinook, Chum, Steelhead and Coho. Coastal Cutthroat Trout are also found within the river and there is a salmon hatchery upstream of the property.
Salmon are a vital species in B.C.’s waters, with their life cycle providing various environmental benefits. After salmon hatch, they swim out into the ocean and grow into adults. They gather nutrients from the sea, then return to the rivers when they spawn.
After salmon spawn and die, they decompose, and insects and animals eat them, dispersing the minerals and nutrients from the ocean throughout the riverine ecosystems and surrounding forests. As scavengers drag the salmon into the forest to feed, nitrogen is distributed, fertilizing rare riparian plants and ecosystems. This life cycle stabilizes river banks, promotes healthy forests, and allows future generations of salmon to thrive.
“Salmon provide such a service to these ecosystems,” said Dr. Jasper Lament, CEO of The Nature Trust. “Not only do they nourish the species that live in the area, but they also keep forests healthy. We need salmon to help our local ecosystems thrive, and protecting this area is an impactful step in the right direction.”
The salmon are integral to the health of surrounding riparian and forest ecosystems, which provide habitat and breeding grounds for many at-risk and endangered bird, bat and dragonfly species.
If the funds are raised by April 30, the property will be protected with a conservation land designation, ensuring that it cannot be developed or sold.
Salmon is a prominent food source for hundreds of animal and plant species near Little Qualicum River, from insects and invertebrates to apex predators like bears. The nutrient density of the river makes it an area of continental significance to waterfowl, including migratory and species of concern. The river provides habitat for at-risk birds such as the Surf Scoter, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, and Olive-sided Flycatcher.
Salmon contribute significantly to the connectivity of these lush forests and riparian properties and provide nourishment for the many endangered species within the conservation area.
The area provides habitat and food for at least three blue-listed dragonflies, such as the Autumn Meadowhawk, the Blue Dasher and Western Pondhawk. Endangered bats like the Little Brown Myotis and Northern Myotis also frequent this property. These insects, birds and bats are integral to the ecosystem’s health as they spread nutrients from the river throughout the larger food chain, river bank, and forests.
This property is currently zoned to allow for residential development and has merchantable timber value. Its purchase will ensure that the incredible biodiversity and sensitive ecosystems will be protected.
Those interested in donating to this cause can go to: canadahelps.org
— NEWS Staff