Stream Enrichment: What is it and how can I get involved?

2011 Nutrient Enrichment Program in the Fraser Valley & Lower Mainland (submitted by Dave Harper BCCF)

Project Overview

Trends of decreased ocean survival of salmonid species on the southcoast of BC has decreased escapement and subsequently reduced levels of marine-derived nutrients important for maintaining the productivity of salmonid freshwater habitats. This loss of essential aquatic nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) has particular consequences on juvenile salmonid survival and the number of outgoing smolts since they rely on freshwater habitat for 1 to 4 years. Phosphorous and nitrogen highly limit the food available to fish in streams and rivers; they promote the growth of algae that aquatic insects feed on, which are then fed upon by fish. Faster growing or larger juveniles more successfully over-winter during major fall-winter flood events, and have been shown to have better marine survival; their survival is strongly affected by the freshwater concentrations of these key nutrients.

As part of the Greater Georgia Basin Steelhead Recovery Plan and Living Rivers Georgia Basin/Vancouver Island programs, the BC Ministry of Environment has contracted the BC Conservation Foundation to deliver the Fraser Valley/Lower Mainland Stream Enrichment Program to address freshwater habitat impacts by restoring watershed processes to increase freshwater productivity and improved juvenile salmonid survival and rearing conditions. This is a high priority project for salmonid stocks of concern and their long-term recovery and sustainability in the lower Fraser River tributaries.

The project is aimed at the conservation and recovery of wild salmonid stocks and increasing angling opportunities, with significant benefits to most other aquatic species. Work is coordinated primarily by BCCF fish biologists and technicians, with available volunteer help, such as the assistance from several local angling and stewardship groups. Currently this program has relied on the assistance and efforts of volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds and this year’s program looks to be no different.

Steelhead fry weight comparision

This project will continue in 2011 in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley with the instream application of an innovative product, Crystal Green® fertilizer. Crystal Green® is a slow-release solid fertilizer that is recovered from recycled wastewater. The first ever full-scale instream application of the fertilizer was performed in 5 streams in 2009. In 2010 six streams were fertilized and will again be replicated in 2011. Water chemistry and algal growth monitoring during the summer growing season and fish data collected in the fall revealed good results in 2009 and 2010 with this innovative fertilizer.

If you're interested in participating in future stream enrichment volunteer opportunities in the lower mainland, please contact Dave Harper, BC Conservation Foundation

Crystal Green backgrounder.pdf44.16 KB