Restoring Natural Habitat on the Trial Islands
By: Liam Guy
Sunshine, Water, and…Ivy? An unlikely combination to be sure, but one that can be found in abundance on the Trial Islands. Located off of the south-eastern tip of Vancouver Island, this small island group was the site of an invasive woody plant removal [M1]effort spearheaded by biologist Matt Fairbarns. A rare-plant expert and experienced biologist, Matt has been the lead on invasive removal efforts on the Trial Islands (Greater and Lesser) for more than a decade and has been a major driving force behind the conservation of the rare native species found there. I received an offer to join Matt and his crew for the day - unsure as to what I was getting myself into, I was pleasantly surprised by the work, the site, and the camaraderie exhibited by Matt and his crew.
One thing that immediately struck me about the Trial Islands was their beauty , both in terms of the sights, sounds and abundance of unique plants. The Trial Islands are home to 20 rare vascular plant species, 11 of which are extremely rare in BC, making it both an island in the literal and ecological sense. One personal highlight was getting a look at the rare Golden Paintbrush. [AV2]Plenty[M3] of animals could be found on site as well; Harlequin Ducks and Harbour[M4] Seals (among many others) all made an appearance at one point or another. Blue skies, a slight breeze, and the gentle, rhythmic swash of the waves upon the shoreline give the island a distinct feeling of peace and quiet; it is strange to think that this small pocket of nature is located so close to Vancouver Island.
Our efforts were focused on a rocky, densely vegetated thicket located within the southern ecological reserve. Greater Trial island, while hosting an Ecological Reserve[M5], is also host to a CFAX owned radio antenna array and a Lighthouse property. The Ecological Reserve is made up of a “northern” and “southern” section, with the CFAX property wedged in between these zones. A thick cover of native roses, snowberry, and other native species made our work difficult and, at times, painful, but also provided distinct feelings of satisfaction when a particularly difficult or long vine was pulled from the site. Matt and his crew were an absolute delight to work with throughout the entire experience. Despite the challenging work, everyone got along, worked hard, and were able to keep conversation with one another. Who knew working neck-deep in rose bushes could be so fun? The resident lighthouse keeper, Meredith and her two dogs Seth and Sky were welcome additions to the cast as well, providing a canine break from our labours.
The Trial Islands are some of BC’s most ecologically valuable places, without a doubt, and definitely needs the time and effort currently bestowed upon them. The work we were there to perform, while not glamorous, created tangible results. In total, we removed about 10-12 cubic metres [M6]of English Ivy, clearing much of the biomass from our work site and setting the table for future crews to come and begin removal of the root mass. It has been a long road to travel but[M7] the finish line is now clearly within sight - I hope to be around to see it for myself!
A big thank you to Matt Fairbarns for his hospitality and willingness to take me on for the day, and to the crew for being so welcoming. We will keep the HAT community up-to-date with any new developments on the Trial Islands.
Photos from Left to Right: Golden Paintbrush Castilleja levisecta - Nicole Kroeker (2017); Trial Island Lighthouse - Jordana Herron (2017) ; Trial Island Coastline - Jordana Herron (2017); Volunteers at work - Jordana Herron (2017)