CARING FOR YOUR WETLAND
Wetlands are lands that are saturated with or covered by shallow water for part or all of the year creating wet soils and supporting water-loving plants. They vary from very large complexes connected by streams, to small wetlands that lie in poorly drained depressions in the landscape, to fringes along the edges of lakes and rivers.
There are five types of wetlands. In the Okanagan-Similkameen, wetlands include shallow ponds, marshes, swamps, fens, and bogs. Even if they dry out completely in summer, they are still classified as wetlands! Whatever the size, wetlands have habitat that is critical for Okanagan wildlife and provide valuable benefits to humans.
seeps or springs, soft or soggy ground
depressions that seasonally fill with water
depressions that have different vegetation than upland areas
areas that you ditch to dry out
areas where equipment gets stuck
crop stress related to excess moisture
You may have a wetland on your property if you have:
Wetlands are one of the most endangered habitats in the Okanagan and Similkameen area. If you would like more information about our wetland initiatives that may be useful on your working property, please contact us.
Why is your wetland so important?
Wetlands are natural filters -they clean our water before it returns to our rivers, lakes, and streams.
They act as sponges, absorbing large amounts of rainfall which helps reduce flooding.
Wetlands provide habitat for 600+ species of wildlife including 30% of Canada’s species at risk.
They recharge groundwater and provide a buffer against drought
Wetlands give us a beautiful place to enjoy clean air, clean water, and natural spaces..
Wetlands are one of the Earth’s most productive ecosystems.
They cool the surrounding environment and regulate temperatures.
Wetland hold a multitude of medicinal and food plants.
Wetlands are important stop-overs for migratory birds.
Do you know which of these are wetlands?
All of them are wetlands!
Many wetlands have water all year round, but some may appear dry in summer, with water lying just below the surface. If you are unsure of whether or not you have a wetland on your property and would like to know, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Wetlands that dry out in summer are called ephemeral wetlands, and they are just as important to wildlife as ones that contain water year round. These temporary ‘ponds’ hold water long enough to support all or a portion of an animal’s life cycle. For example, frog eggs hatch, turn into tadpoles, and then grow to adult forms by the time the water disappears in summer.
Do you have a wetland on your property? You may be eligible to become a Wildlife Habitat Steward! Stewards receive advice and assistance with managing wildlife habitats on their properties. Contact us to learn more, or visit our Stewards page
HOW CAN YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR WETLAND?
Some best management practices
Establish a riparian buffer zone
Keep your wetland healthy by establishing a buffer zone along the shoreline. A riparian buffer zone is as a permanent strip of vegetation, generally between the wetland and upland habitat or cropland/pasture. It may consist of native grasses and forbs, as well as shrubs and trees.
Prevent water pollution
Hazardous chemicals, fuel, and pesticides can contaminate the water even if applied or spilled far away. Be sure to follow the best management practices for their storage, handling, and application. Fertilizers, manure and wood piles can leach out nutrients, which make their way into the wetlands and create smelly, harmful algal blooms. Make sure to store these as far away from the wetland.
Enhance wildlife habitat
If your riparian buffer zone looks barren and devoid of vegetation,consider planting. Use native species instead of ornamentals or exotic species. Some of the plants that you could use are Giant Wild Rye, Cattails, wild roses, Red-Osier Dogwood, native Willow species (NOT Weeping Willow), Trembling Aspen, and Black Cottonwood. Leave dead or dying trees standing where safe to do so. These are used by birds and other animals for nesting, perching, and shelter.
Install a nest box for birds. There are many types of box, each designed for different kinds of birds. Remember to keep the front of the box bare of any perches, porches, decorations, or anything else that predators like ravens, pet cats, and raccoons can use as a foothold to access the box.
Western Painted Turtles need sandy areas to nest and lay their eggs in. Create a nesting area by adding weed-free sand/gravel/silt on a south facing slope or shoreline near the wetland. You can also add logs or basking platforms in the water.
Clean up the garbage
Sometimes agricultural waste such as prunings, compost, or garbage is dumped next to or in wetlands. These can contaminate or add excessive nutrients to the water. Find an alternative location for these and allow the riparian vegetation to grow vibrantly around the wetland. Invite school or community groups to help clean up your wetland!
Keep tires out of the mud!
Vehicle tires like those from ATVs, tractors and trucks cause severe and often irreversible damage to wetlands. Drive around your wetland, not through it. If there is no way around the wetland, consider building a bridge.
Be a weed warrior
Familiarize yourself with invasive non-native plants and take action against them. Remove invasive non-native weeds and plant native riparian trees and shrubs in their place Monitor recovery of native species and remove any new weeds. Encourage your neighbors to participate in invasive plant control too. For more information visit https://bcinvasives.ca.
Keep pet fish out of the wetland
Goldfish are often released into nearby ponds, lakes or streams by people who no longer want them. These non-native invasive fish are able to tolerate fluctuations in water temperature and water with low levels of dissolved oxygen (typical of shallow wetlands). Goldfish have a severe impact on local fish and amphibian populations as they feed on frog eggs, tadpoles, and aquatic insects
Don't ever dump unwanted pet fish in your natural wetland. Take them back to the pet store. If you are trying to control mosquito populations, please install swallow nest boxes or bat boxes, instead of introducing non-native fish into the wetland. Bats and birds prey on mosquitoes and other insects and need all the help we can give them!
If you suspect that you have goldfish in your wetland, please contact us.
Watch out for bullies
The American Bullfrog is an unwanted invader to the Okanagan, growing to the size of a dinner plate and weighing half a kilogram. Native to eastern North America, it has been transported world-wide for its use as food (ex. sautéed frog legs). Unfortunately, when bullfrogs are released into Okanagan wetlands, they multiply and devour our native species of frogs, snakes, insects, small turtles, birds, and even small mammals.
Contact us if you hear or see a bullfrog. Please don’t kill frogs that you think might be bullfrogs, as the local Columbia Spotted Frog looks similar to the bullfrog and correct identification can be tricky. Frogs are also protected under the Wildlife Act and permits are required to handle them. Contact us for assistance.