PEI Watershed Groups prepare for climate change by counting bugs

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PEI Watershed Groups monitor the insect population in their rivers and streams, as part of their work to rebuild the Atlantic salmon population, and one of the things they monitor is the impact of climate change.

“An insect survey, or benthic invertebrate survey, is basically sampling insects that live on the bottom of streams,” said Kris Hunter, director of programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

“It’s really helpful because it’s the base of the food web. It tells us how healthy the flow is.”

Hunter, right, formed watershed groups on Prince Edward Island to do insect surveys or benthic invertebrate surveys. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Hunter was in Prince Edward Island for a training session involving two watershed groups – from the Souris area and Prince County – and the damage from post-tropical storm Fiona was front and center. .

“Our biggest concern, we’ve seen fairly recently, is this change in flow and precipitation. It’s having a very big impact on the waterways,” Hunter said.

“Floods, then unlike droughts, they really affect the temperature, they affect the amount of sediment in the stream, and they actually change the whole structure of the stream.”

Hunter says it’s important for watershed groups to try to climate-proof their waterways in order to protect fish habitat. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

“Things that live in that creek and depend on it, it’s really problematic. It affects their homes,” Hunter said.

“It’s definitely something we need to be prepared for and try as much as possible to weather proof our streams.”

Weatherproof Flux

Hunter said weatherproofing a waterway involves looking at the terrain around the waterway and making sure it’s protected from runoff.

“For these larger flow events like Fiona, this will require careful consideration, and we are working with experts around the world to determine the best way to proceed,” Hunter said.

“It’s everything from improving infrastructure to changing the way we do some of the restoration in the waterways. To make sure we retain water during droughts and then allow that energy from the large discharge to dissipate, so it’s not causing damage in the stream.”

Souris watershed co-coordinator Keila Miller says they saw the biggest predatory insects, which is good news for the watershed group. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

This is the fourth year of the insect survey for the Souris and Area branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation.

“This is an indicator activity, so if we see certain insects that we collect, then we know our watershed is relatively healthy, or continues to be healthy for our salmon,” the co said. -watershed coordinator Keila Miller.

“If there are a lot of large predators that we find in the insects that we collect, then there’s a lot of fish food for salmon at different stages of their life, and brook trout as well.”

With the water quality as it is, the insects are going to be there—Keila Miller, Souris and Region Affiliate of the PEI Wildlife Federation

Miller said he saw the biggest predatory insects, which is good news for the watershed group.

“We’ve done a lot of work in our watersheds to make sure the habitat is good,” Miller said.

Hunter says the insect survey is basically sampling insects that live at the bottom of streams. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Storm damage

Miller said his group is also feeling the impact of the post-tropical storm, including many downed trees in rivers and streams where salmon spawn.

“We have 27 watersheds and we haven’t been to all of them, but we’ve been to some key watersheds that have Atlantic salmon and they’ve been decimated,” Miller said.

“Some of them are unrecognizable in places, and a lot of our watch areas where we do a lot of falls watch, we have to do a lot of remediation work.”

Samples are taken from streams at several different locations. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Miller said the salmon will return within the next three to four weeks.

“Hopefully we can drill a hole, make sure the salmon can come back up and spawn in the fall like they’re supposed to, in their home rivers,” Miller said.

“Atlantic salmon are a species of federal concern, so they’re protected. So we want to make sure they can stand up, lay their eggs and reproduce. And if they can’t do that, we let’s not do our job.”

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