Alvar, Marble Ridge (Photo by NCC)

Alvar, Marble Ridge (Photo by NCC)

Bioblitz records more than 400 species observations in Manitoba's rare and endangered alvar habitat

October 31, 2017
Winnipeg, Manitoba

 

The results of an unprecedented Manitoba species count have been tallied and reveal exciting news for one of the province’s rarest ecosystems. To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and Manitoba Conservation Data Centre hosted a bioblitz to survey alvar communities in the Interlake. More than 440 observations of species were collected, many of which were documented for the first time in Manitoba alvars, and included a number of rare and threatened species. Alvar ecosystems are rare both within the province and around the world.

A bioblitz is an event at which surveys are conducted at a set location, for a set period of time, in an attempt to catalogue as many different species as possible. They help showcase and conserve Canada’s natural spaces from coast to coast, blending serious scientific work with community and youth engagement.

This bioblitz was undertaken with support from the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Government of Canada as a Canada 150 Signature project, and was just one of many across the country that saw experts and interested members of the public join forces to document Canada’s species across a diverse range of communities and habitats.

“This fascinating project will help us raise our environmental awareness,” said the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage. “Let’s take this opportunity to celebrate Canada 150 by connecting with Canada’s natural beauty and learning more about Canada’s wild species — a priceless resource.”

 “There is still much that we don’t know about the natural spaces around us, even those in our own backyard,” said Rebekah Neufeld, conservation operations program coordinator, with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “Bioblitzes are an excellent way to not only collect that important baseline information, but bring together people of all experiences and backgrounds to take part and learn from each other. The success of these events is driven by volunteers, and we have the deepest appreciation for those who give their time and expertise.”

Thirty-five participants took part in these surveys south of Hodgson and within the Clematis Wildlife Management Area.

Three bird species designated as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada were observed, including the eastern whip-poor-will, common nighthawk and bank swallow.  
Provincially endangered Gastony’s cliffbrake and nationally uncommon western dwarf cliffbrake, small ferns found only on limestone outcrops, were both observed.

Hoary bat was also detected during the bioblitz. This migratory species is both globally and provincially uncommon. Searches for bat caves also revealed a few locations that may serve as hibernation spots for other bat species that overwinter in Manitoba.

This event also included focused surveys for insects, land snails and rare orchids, representing the first targeted search for some of these groups of species on Manitoba alvar.

A well-functioning ecosystem depends on the health of all its parts and this data will be key to informing their ongoing conservation. The diversity of species revealed by these surveys further emphasizes how unique and important this globally rare ecosystem is within the broader Manitoba landscape.

Alvars have been designated as an endangered ecosystem in Manitoba. This globally rare community is characterized by thin to no soil over unbroken limestone and supports a unique group of plant species.

To see the results of the Manitoba alvar bioblitz, visit https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/manitoba-alvar-bioblitz-bioblitz-de-l-alvar-du-manitoba.

To see results from across the country, visit the full Canada 150 bioblitz database: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/bioblitz-canada-150.

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