Mary Hill invaded by Bioblitz team

Metchosin Biodiversity co-founder Moralea Milne walks under a large moss-covered fallen tree as the group makes their way down a slope at Mary Hill during Bioblitz 2017.

Metchosin Biodiversity co-founder Moralea Milne walks under a large moss-covered fallen tree as the group makes their way down a slope at Mary Hill during Bioblitz 2017.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A team of 14 scientists and outdoor enthusiasts combed over moss-covered hills and rain-drenched dales at Mary Hill military training area in Metchosin on May 1 for Bioblitz 2017.

They were recording all plant and animal species, including rare species, on the DND property, as part of the Metchosin Biodiversity Project to identify and catalogue the biodiversity of Metchosin.

Metchosin Biodiversity Project co-founder, Moralea Milne says Bioblitz is a scientific endeavour to create a definitive list of species in this West Shore community. It is also an effort to better educate the public about the natural environment in which they work and live.

“People need to know we are not alone here and share this community with thousands of other species,” says Milne. “When people realize the number of species and ecosystems that exist, it helps us develop a better stewardship ethic for the land.”

During their afternoon search at Mary Hill, investigators divided into three groups and fanned out across the property. The largest group searched for unique vascular plants and mosses, while a second group looked to identify shoreline species located in shallow water and intertidal pools. A third group searched and catalogued insects.

They were assisted by three Natural Resources Canada employees and Tracy Cornforth, Environment Officer at CFB Esquimalt’s Formation Safety and Environment Branch, who noted the biodiversity group’s work gives DND a better understanding of the species thriving on the property.

“The more we know about the plant and animal life, the better equipped we are to make informed decisions about activities on the base and where they can happen,” says Cornforth. “We are so fortunate to host this key group of experts as their collective knowledge is unsurpassed.”

The Mary Hill site was once used as a coastal defence battery from 1939 to 1955, but has seen very little development or human activity over recent years. Andrea Schiller, a Natural Resources Specialist with Natural Resources Canada, helps DND officials manage their forested lands and natural resources.

“There is a lot of diversity here because it’s a largely undisturbed ecosystem, which is rare in this region because of the history of urban and agricultural development,” says Schiller. “Developing a list of rare species and understanding where these species are present will help us to manage the property with them in mind. This is important because some rare plants and animals that occur here are protected under federal legislation.”

As the plant group ascended along a muddy pathway used as the main road for the property, they saw blue Camas lilies in full-bloom. The plant is of ceremonial significance to the area’s indigenous people and is used as a ceremonial ingredient and food.

Moments later there was find of an uncommon shrub belonging to the birch family known as Sitka Alder, discovered only a few metres up the path. This plant is common in much of B.C. but had never been found before in Metchosin, which should be outside its range.

Further along in their journey the group spotted a patch of Carex obnupta or Slough Sedge, a common but beautiful species of sedge that indicates a wetland habitat. At the top of the hill, the group identified the fungi Amanita pantherina, commonly known as Panther Mushroom, growing at the edge of a large clearing.

The plant group concluded their trek by exploring moss growth on a rocky ledge, plant life located near a pond, a Garry Oak ecosystem midway down an adjacent slope, and finally a rare find of Poison Oak that is more commonly found in regions much further down the Pacific Coast in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

The first Bioblitz was held in 2011, and since then over 2,300 species have been catalogued.

In the coming weeks a complete list of plant and animal species found during Bioblitz 2017 will be added to their website. For more information about the group visit their website:

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