Darwyn Coxson

University of Northern British Columbia
The upper Fraser River watershed east of Prince George is unique in B.C. due to the geological and climatic setting, where the Rocky Mountain Trench provides a 10-15 km wide valley in which extensive post-glacial sediments support rich inland temperate rainforest stands and provincially significant low-elevation wetlands.  The newly established 12,000 ha Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park protects these ecological communities from the height of land on Driscoll Ridge to the shores of the Fraser River.  Past studies have hypothesised that both the ancient cedar stands and wetlands of Chun T’oh Whudujut Park are dependent on groundwater flow and its recharge from winter snowpack, potentially placing them at risk from changing patterns of seasonal precipitation due to climate change.  We have installed groundwater piezometers to assess this dependence of vegetation on hydrological flows and have established long-term plots to measure changes in vegetation communities.  More than 20 wetlands were surveyed in 2018 with the goal of establishing complete species lists and percent cover data. For large wetlands, multiple plots were sampled for cover values, while the entire wetland area was surveyed for species richness data. These data will serve as baseline assessments to track effects of climate change over time. Notes were also taken on abiotic environmental variables in the wetlands. Rare species documented in 2018 include Juncus albescens, Pedicularis parviflora, Sphagnum cuspidatum (the only native population known in western North America), Sphagnum jensenii, and Sphagnum majus.