|Rivers Inlet Ecosystem Study|
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Oceanographic field operations at Rivers Inlet are run from Dawsons Landing cabins. Our primary inlet sampling platform is the MV Western Bounty, a seine boat, owned and operated by the Wuikinuxv First Nations.
The MV Western Bounty
Wetlands and lake research is based out of Oweekeno Village, located on the Wannock River at the head of the inlet, or Rivers Inlet Cannery.
see map below). The primary focus of daily sampling is to capture the build up and peak of the spring phytoplankton bloom and its relationships to the physical structure of the water column. Sampling is conducted from a small boat and includes profiling water column temperature, salinity, light transmission and fluorescence, and water sample collection for phytoplankton biomass estimation. In 2009 sampling was expanded to a second site where daily collections of zooplankton were made to estimate secondary production. In addition, daily measurements of turbidity are made in the Wannock River by Wuikinuxv community members.
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Western Bounty every two weeks between late February and September.
Map illustrating the location of stations sampled during fortnightly bio-oceanographic
surveys, and the daily station. (Figure produced by Mike Hodal)
The aim of these surveys is to obtain a comprehensive bio-physical snapshot of the inlet. Data collected include:
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The LOPC counts and measures particles in the water column. When housed in a towed body it can be used to collect high spatial and temporal resolution data on the vertical and horizontal distribution of zooplankton. Our LOPC is mounted in a BOT wing, and is integrated with a CTD and fluorometer for concurrent measurement with zooplankton data. Every two weeks, during each bio-oceanographic survey, a repeat LOPC transect is completed across the width of the inlet providing high resolution data for the upper 30m of the water column.
Seine netting is conducted at 13 stations every two weeks from April to late June. The primary focus of seine netting is to collect juvenile sockeye salmon for growth rate and dietary measurements. The occurrence and quantity of all other fish species collected during surveying is recorded.
Setting a retrieving the seine net
The intent of this multiyear study is to better understand landscape evolution of intertidal wetlands over the last millennium in response to sedimentation and organic matter accumulation at the head of Rivers Inlet. We are particularly interested in understanding the interplay between climate, sedimentation, nutrient cycling, and how these factors influence wetland succession. To this end, we have mapped and sampled intertidal sediments at two estuaries: the Wannock River estuary is located 12 km downstream of Owikeno Lake, while Kilbella Bay is an alluvial-fan delta that receives sediment from two rivers.
Sedimentation patterns and nutrient flux have been assessed using bulk density, total nitrogen, total carbon, radioisotopes of carbon-14, lead-210, and cesium-137. Pollen and spores isolated from these intertidal sediments support distinct floral assemblages that likely correspond to intertidal sediment-accumulation regimes. Sediment stratigraphy beneath a prominent wetland at the mouth of the Wannock river reveals a peaty unit (~30-50 cm depth) that is underlain and overlain by sediments with lower organic-matter content and characterized by low bulk density and high levels of nitrogen and carbon. At Kilbella Bay at least eight discrete sandy units that we interpret as rapid sedimentation events interrupt gradual changes in peat accumulation over time. Comparing intertidal sediments of Kilbella Bay and Wannock River estuaries demonstrates that nearby wetlands can have strikingly different sedimentation histories. Further study of their paleoecological records will link past ecosystem function of wetland plant communities to landscape evolution.
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Initial logistical organisation of the RIES could not have been achieved without the time and efforts of Chief Frank Johnson and Cindy Hanuse, the Wuikinuxv First Nations fisheries officer. Field work was facilitated by the crew of the MV Western Bounty. Thanks go to Rick Shaw, boat captain and cook, Donny Anderson, boat engineer, and all Wuikinuxv band members who assisted in the field program, for working above and beyond the call of duty, adaptability and ingenuity in dealing with challenges, unfailing enthusiasm and, not least, friendship. Special thanks to Rick Shaw for all the warm meals, to lift the body and mind in the rain and snow, and for sharing his deep knowledge of the area with us. Special thanks to Donny Anderson, for being able to fix anything, being unflinching in his commitment to the task at hand, and for a ready smile.
Thanks to the Bachen family (Rob, Nola, Krystal and Amber), for making our field base at Dawsons Landing feel like home away from home, regaling us with stories of times past, and helping us overcome some serious logistical hurdles. Special thanks to Krystal Bachen, the primary boat skipper and field assistant for daily sampling.
Thank you to Roger Pieters for continued technical assistance, and to the volunteer students not listed on the website who have thus far assisted with the field program (Kyla Burril, Amy McConnell, Jessica Nephin).
Finally, this project could not be possible without funding support from the Tula Foundation and the vision of Eric Peterson to contribute to conservation, sustainable development and community upliftment on the remarkable and unique British Columbia coast.