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3 days ago
Botany Group Feature: K’ómoks Estuary in Bloom!
by Jocie Brooks
We live right beside it, but we often forget about it in our pursuit of other places and interests. It becomes just a passing glance, a “pretty view” while driving the Dyke Road from Courtenay to Comox. To really experience it, one has to step out of the car. Last week I pulled over at the rotary viewing stand, a place I haven’t stopped at for years. In minutes, you find yourself waist deep in sedges, smelling sweetgrass, listening to the piercing song of a warbler, and peering into a hot pink shooting star or a brilliant yellow buttercup. The place is wild and interesting, beautiful, historic, with an abundance and diversity of birds, plants, fish, insects and animals that could keep an expert busy for a lifetime. This special place, the K’ómoks estuary, deserves our full attention and appreciation.
Why are Estuaries Important?
Estuaries, where rivers meet the sea, are among the most productive ecosystems on earth. In BC, only 3% of or shoreline is made up of estuaries, yet 80% of all wildlife either live in, or spend part of their lifecycle on estuaries. Rivers deposit rich, fertilized sediments, and tides carry oxygen and nutrients into the estuary and flush out its wastes. Estuaries encompass a variety of habitats. There are lush meadows of sedges, with swathes of pink, blue and red in the spring from the blooms of shooting star, camas and paintbrush. Saltmarsh plants such as silverweed, seaside arrow-grass and maritime plantain thrive in a brackish mix of salt and fresh water. Exposed mudflats are colonized by small, tough plants like pickleweed and sea-milkwort, and at lower tide levels there are extensive “forests” of eelgrass. Huge amounts of carbon are stored in estuary sediments, making estuary conservation even more critical in the face of climate change.
A Brief History
First Nations peoples lived on the shores of the K’ómoks estuary for millennia, and the remnants of their fish weirs for harvesting salmon can still be seen in patterns of wooden pegs that protrude from the mudflats. Since the coming of the pioneers in the mid to late 19th century, the estuary has been profoundly altered and abused. Logging and coal mining had the biggest impact, with railway lines built right along the shoreline, and jetties built for dumping logs and transporting coal. The courses of our rivers were altered, and no longer fanned out into the estuary as they had done. A sewage lagoon was made (where the airpark is now) and old cars and refuse were dumped for fill (old Field Sawmill site). Much of the shoreline has been lost to housing developments. Sadly, we will never really know what the estuary was like in its pristine state, but despite all of the changes it is remarkable just how much diversity still exists.
Protection and Restoration
Many local organizations work to protect and preserve our estuary. K’ómoks First Nation patrol the estuary with their guardian program, and are involved in restoration by planting native sedges and erecting fencing to keep Canada Geese from grazing.
Project Watershed is also at the forefront with efforts to protect, restore and educate the public about the estuary. Project Watershed, KFN, the City of Courtenay, and many other organizations are working to “unpave paradise” by re-wilding the old Field Sawmill site (Kus-Kus-Sum) by the 17th Street Bridge. Native plants will be restored, and side channels created for salmon habitat.
Comox Valley Nature has a long history of removing invasive plants from the estuary and planting native vegetation. The Comox Valley Land Trust is involved in efforts to protect the estuary’s watershed. Many more groups care for the rivers and streams that feed into the estuary.
What you can Do
Go out and experience what’s right here before us, our amazing estuary, and do what you can to support the many organizations who work tirelessly to protect it!
Common camas (Camassia quamash)
Sea-milkwort (Lysimachia maritima)
Paintbrush (Castilleja spp.)
Common silverweed (Potentilla anserina)
Pretty shootingstar (Primula pauciflora)
Estuary view with sedge-protection fencing: photo courtesy of Gordon Olsen ... See MoreSee Less
Innovative weed workout video features a great activity for social distancing.
Comox Valley Naturalists Wetland group has worked to remove invasives
such as Purple Loosestrife, Canary Grass, Japanese Knotweed and Scotch Broom.
Look around your yard and enjoy the workout perhaps removing Morning Glory, English Ivy and the invasives that
smother our indigenous flora. And, you may discover some precious native flora waiting for a space to thrive. ... See MoreSee Less
Our precious pollinators - we should remember them dailyHappy #WorldBeeDay2020!
Today is a special day: we celebrate bees around the world. While most of what you'll read today will be about one single domestic species, the European honey bee (Apis mellifera), it's important to remind everyone that there are more than 20,000 species of bees in the world.
All bee species have different needs, occupy different ecological niches, pollinate different flowers. Some are doing fine and expanding their range while others are critically endangered. In order to help or #SaveTheBees, you first need to #KnowTheBees a bit better, understand their diversity and why it matters! 🙂
Regrouping all bees under the banner of the European honey bee is a bit like raising awareness about all the birds of the world using a domesticated bird, the chicken!
Illustration: a sample of the diversity of bees I photographed in Brussels, Belgium, for the Wildbnb Atlas of the Wild Bees of Brussels.
#WorldBeeDay ... See MoreSee Less
Category Archives: Shoreline
From an email by Jocie Brooks to members of the Botany Group on May 26. This week, I’d like to draw attention to our amazing estuary, which is full of fascinating plants, many of which are now in bloom. Experience the … Continue reading
From an email by Randal Mindel to members of the Shoreline Group on May 13. Last weekend saw the passing of a strong tide cycle that took the group out to lots of nearby beaches. Below are some photos and … Continue reading
This post is by Randal Mindell, leader of the CVN Shoreline Group, from an email to members of the group on April 15. Hope this finds you all well. We just passed through a great set of spring tides over … Continue reading
The next shoreline outing will be our first estuarine outing. When: 9:30-11:30 am, Thursday, September 26th. (3.5 foot low tide is 10:15) Where: Meet at the the end of Carey Place in Royston What: Surveying the algae, plants and invertebrates … Continue reading