World-famous Burns Bog at risk
Published: August 12, 2009 2:00 PM
Updated: August 12, 2009 3:38 PM
Burns Bog, or what’s left of it, is a most unusual ecological feature which attracts world-wide attention by botanists; it is the largest domed peat bog in North America.
Twenty-four different mammal species – black bears and black-tailed deer the largest of them – live there and about 150 bird species have been identified, including Sandhill Cranes. It is recognized internationally as being endangered.
Once, it covered about 5,000 hectares, but now it is reduced to less than half of that extent by industrial and agricultural developments over the years, despite a conservation covenant. Most, but not all of what’s left belongs to governments, and the only portion open to the public is the Delta Nature Reserve in the northeast corner.
Many of the plants growing in the Bog are more commonly found in more northerly environments – the Arctic tundra and taiga. Among them are bog laurel and bog rosemary, which are poisonous, the very similar Labrador tea, which makes a potable drink and is distinguished by a brown fuzz on the underside of its leaves, cotton grass, reindeer lichen and Sphagnum or peat mosses.
Other species which are common at this latitude include wild blueberry, wild cranberry, the insectivorous sundew and shore pine which is closely related to the interior lodgepole pine, victim of the mountain pine beetle.
Not only is the bog a mecca for botanists, but it serves as a lung for the Lower Mainland, a carbon sink (one estimate puts its annual storage as the equivalent of the emissions from about five million cars) and a water filter and sponge thus benefitting fish habitat.
Despite these many valuable attributes, the bog remains at risk: road building, especially the controversial South Fraser Perimeter Road, could well impact the hydrological regime with damaging effect; and although it is home to such rare and endangered species as the Sandhill crane, the Pacific water shrew and the southern red-backed vole they are, as yet, unprotected.
The Burns Bog Conservation Society is the leading group striving to maintain this the only known estuarine raised peat bog in a Mediterranean climate zone, such as ours.
There will be a light-hearted, family Jog-for-the-Bog in the forenoon of Sunday, Sept. 27.
The Friends of Boundary Bay Society has arranged a comprehensive set of events for August and September which will inform you about the environment of our shoreline, beaches and immediate hinterland, which includes the bog, and the ongoing ecological processes.
Visit www.birdsonthebay.ca for more details on the group’s efforts and a calendar of events.
Dr. Roy Strang writes weekly on the environment for the Peace Arch News. firstname.lastname@example.org