Counting critters at the RBG
The rich diversity of plants and animals on Royal Botanical Gardens property is well known.
But this week a team of professional naturalists and members of the public will try to come to a deeper understanding of the area’s flora and fauna in a first ever inventory blitz. Friday evening and Saturday, they’ll traipse through the RBG’s 1,100 hectares of property as well as through the adjoining lands of the Cootes to the Escarpment EcoPark , a natural land sanctuary from the harbour to the escarpment.
It’s called the RBG BioBlitz, one of dozens of similar events across the country organized by the Canadian Wildlife Federation to help celebrate Canada’s 150th by “taking a nature selfie of Canada.”
Barbara McKean, head of education with the RBG says in addition to providing baseline data that can be used in future inventories, “we’re hoping to find new species. We’re confident that we’ll find new things that we didn’t know we had.”
As it stands now, the RBG knows of more than 1,580 different species on its property, including more than 1,200 wild plants.
Scientists with diverse backgrounds from the CWF, government departments, museums as well as academia will be on hand Friday and Saturday.
McKean says there will even be a fungi and slime mould expert to offer guidance. “And I can tell you we don’t know a lot about the slime moulds on our property.”
The CWF project also has an app called iNaturalist that allows people to upload photos of nature discoveries they find. Contributions can be made during BioBlitzes or at any other time.
The app records the location and date of the discovery and plots it on a map. Experts in Ottawa will assist with identification. So far more than 3,300 different species have been found from across the country.
James Pagé, species at risk and biodiversity specialist with the CWF, says “the app tracks species distribution across Canada so we can see in real time what people are finding and where these species are occurring.
“We want people to realize that anyone can contribute and anyone can make a difference in our knowledge and understanding of biodiversity. And at the same time we hope that it inspires people to want to protect and conserve the natural world.”
In May, the app was used by a group of people in a 45-minute blitz of Parliament Hill in Ottawa that discovered 137 species including a yellow-banded Bumble Bee, a species listed as of “Special Concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
Of special interest in the RBG study will be whether examples of the more than 50 known species at risk on RBG property are found, such as the Blanding’s turtle or the Southern Flying Squirrel. Perhaps others that are also at risk will be discovered as well.
A sample of flora and fauna found at the RBG, clockwise from top left (around the chipmunk): Pearl Cresent butterflies; a Blue Jay; soldier beetles on Queen Anne’s Lace; berries; water lilies; and wildflowers.
A swallow takes a break from catching bugs on the pond near Valley Inn Road.