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Beach tour about Delta’s rare coastal sand ecosystems

Exploring a coastal sand ecosystem
Exploring a coastal sand ecosystem
B. Yaworski

An Ecological Beach Tour took place on July 5 in the Beach Grove area of Boundary Bay in the Metro Vancouver Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area.

Inspite of the wet weather, an enthusiastic crowd gathered to listen to biologists talk about the basics of coastal sand ecosystems and the common and uncommon plants and animals in this area.

“Scattered along the local coast, you can find unique sand ecosystems that are rare in British Columbia,” says Tamsin Baker, Stewardship Coordinator from the South Coast Conservation Program. “Coastal sand ecosystems are a combination of sand and plants – with the plants often scattered in patches on beaches, spits and dunes. Tides, storm surges and ocean spray help to build and maintain these ecosystems. The plant communities that result support a wide range of rare and interesting animal life.”

Participants were told that plants in this area have to have special traits to be able to survive the sand, salt, wind and drought in growing conditions with few nutrients. Some of the plants that were highlighted include the large-headed sedge, gumweed, dune wildrye and silver burweed.

Presenters emphasized that coastal sand ecosystems contribute to BC’s biodiversity, provide recreational benefits for outdoor enthusiasts and buffer inland areas from flooding or storm damage. However, these environmentally sensitive areas are fragile and vulnerable to human disturbances such as the spread of invasive plants. For example: a recent invasion of English ivy along this Boundary Bay shore involved the removal of about 2 truckloads of ivy.

The South Coast Conservation Program was established in 2005 by government and non-government organizations to facilitate the conservation of species and ecological communities at risk by providing coordination between government, conservation groups, land use interests and local communities. The South Coast region is a hotspot of biodiversity with over 250 endangered species.