Wetlands and Weed Whackers

By Katie Pearson

Situated in the south end of Calgary, Fish Creek Provincial Park is one of Canada’s largest urban parks.  The park’s 1,348 hectares of grassland, riverine, wetland, and spruce forest habitat are bordered on all sides by urban development.

When it rains, run off from the neighbourhoods, roads and commercial areas surrounding the park flows into Fish Creek Park.  This storm water once entered the creek directly through a series of outfalls, bringing with it sediments and pollutants.

In order to reduce the potential impact of storm water on Fish Creek and the Bow River, Fish Creek Provincial Park and the City of Calgary have partnered in the development of a variety of engineered wetlands in the park.

These wetlands have been incorporated into the Friends of Fish Creek’s Amphibian Monitoring program, which engages residents in the monitoring of amphibian populations throughout the park. Amphibian data are used to understand the distribution of amphibians within Fish Creek Provincial Park. The data is also shared with the Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program to support the conservation and management of Alberta's amphibians, and is an important contribution to this knowledge base.

Volunteers have confirmed the presence of three amphibian species: wood frog, boreal chorus frog and tiger salamander. Observations are reported from over 30 wetlands, both natural and engineered. 

Although the storm water wetlands provide suitable habitat for amphibians, they may also prove to be major vectors for invasive species entering the park, as seeds can travel great distances on storm water. Friends of Fish Creek volunteer Weed Whackers are an integral component in the fight against invasives, including those that enter the park in storm water. Weed whacking is a great family activity that lets volunteers enjoy the outdoors, learn about plants and make a difference! If you’re interested in joining the Friends of Fish Creek Weed Whackers or Amphibian Monitoring team, send an email to [email protected].

New this year, Friends volunteers are taking part in innovative ways to nip invasive species invasions in the bud. Through two new vegetation pilot projects, volunteers are monitoring the vegetation in and around a patch of native prairie and a constructed storm water wet pond, both in the Lafarge Meadows area of Fish Creek Provincial Park. 

These grasslands and wetlands monitoring teams are made up of dedicated volunteers skilled in plant identification, plant photography, GPS and GIS working together to inventory the plant species found in both locations, while keeping a lookout for invasive species that may be encroaching on the native prairie or entering the park via storm water from the communities uphill.

Explore the Friends of Fish Creek grasslands and wetlands photo gallery.

If you’d like to share your plant ID, plant photography, GPS or GIS skills, contact [email protected].