A beaver sits in water, surrounded by brush and weeds

The Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program (OCCP) and Thompson-Nicola Conservation Collaborative (TNCC) are working together on a multi-year research project titled—Conservation Planning for Climate Change. The goal of the project is to combine Indigenous ecological and cultural knowledge and western science to identify priority conservation areas for wetlands and grasslands and establish policy for their protection.

Herons near the grassy shoreline of a stream, while ducks swim in the water
Sandhill herons in the Tranquille wetlands at the head of Kamloops Lake—Credit: Lyn Macdonald/Kamloops Naturalist Club.

What’s Being Done?

By combining mapping technology and computer simulations this project will predict the future distribution of wetlands and grasslands across the regions.

TNCC and OCCP will also be working with Indigenous communities and local and provincial governments to help create new policies, planning guidelines and sustainable land use practices, to help ensure these critical natural areas are protected.

The conservation of the wetlands and grasslands will help protect the region’s biodiversity and ultimately support the reduction of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Indigenous Knowledge

TNCC and OCCP will be working with the Indigenous partners on the development and implementation of this initiative to ensure Indigenous laws, governance, and knowledge systems guide this initiative. This project will also gather ecological and cultural knowledge of food and medicinal plants, areas for hunting and areas of cultural and spiritual significance.

Western Science

We are working with scientists from the University of British Columbia, who are gathering geo-spatial data within the study area to develop a predictive modelling program for identifying where grasslands and wetlands will be found in the future. The team will also integrate climate modelling into the program to identify the impacts of climate change across the regions over time. The research will help land use planners, conservation organizations and Indigenous communities to prioritize conservation efforts.

Why are Wetlands and Grasslands Important?

Wetlands and grasslands are sensitive and critical natural areas that provide many benefits:

  • Biodiversity: Healthy grasslands and wetlands are diverse and productive ecosystems that support a wide variety of insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, animals and plants.
  • Land connectivity: Animals constantly move between different natural areas to access shelter, food, and mates, and the loss of these land connections threatens their survival.
  • Critical habitat: The region’s wetlands and grasslands are home to many animals such as elk, moose, and mountain lions and threatened or endangered species such as Burrowing Owl, Mountain Caribou, and Great Basin Spadefoot Toad.
  • Our livelihoods: These ecosystems support agriculture and food production and filter our drinking water.
  • Carbon storage: Wetlands and grasslands absorb carbon dioxide and store more carbon than almost any other natural area, which is a new and urgent reason to save them. Submerged layers of plant litter piling up in a marsh is one example of how carbon is stored in wetlands.

How is Climate Change Affecting These Areas?

Changes in temperature and precipitation are projected to lead to hotter and drier summers, a transition of forests to grasslands in much of the region, and an increase of invasive species. These and other climate-related changes to wetlands and grasslands can result in species already at risk losing their habitat, contributing to the biodiversity crisis we are currently in.

This project was undertaken with the financial support of: Environment and Climate Change Canada

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