Chilliwack, BC – Indigenous concerns around threats to fish habitat have prompted the S’ólh Téméxw Stewardship Alliance (STSA) and the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance (LFFA) to enhance their capacity for aquatic biomonitoring in the Lower Fraser Valley.
In September, technical staff from the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre (SRRMC) and the LFFA underwent a two-day training to collect freshwater benthic macroinvertebrate samples for the Canada-wide STREAM (Sequencing The Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring) project. Both organizations are working together to utilize biomonitoring to aid First Nations-led freshwater management and restore waterways in the Lower Fraser Valley.
“Stó:lō is looking for impacts on fish habitat, a concern for many STSA members,” said Dr. Julian Yates, Research and Special Projects Manager for the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre. “STREAM gives us an understanding of the quality of habitat to assess stressors on fish in some areas.”
STREAM collects benthic macroinvertebrates from rivers across Canada using adapted federal Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) protocols to better understand aquatic ecosystem health. The training was hosted by STREAM project partners Living Lakes Canada, University of Guelph and founding partner World Wildlife Fund Canada.
“We want to identify the most heavily impacted rivers and streams and also identify the clues of where the impact may have come from. This will help to prioritize where restoration efforts are made and informs how Nations of the STSA will plan restoration projects for each geographically unique area in which they work,” explained Ian Hamilton, LFFA Habitat Restoration Biologist during training.
Although they’re small and mostly unnoticeable to the untrained eye, benthic macroinvertebrates (or bugs) play an important role in helping us understand the health of watersheds. These organisms are excellent indicators of aquatic health due to their high sensitivity to pollutants and climate change-related impacts. All the benthic macroinvertebrate samples that were collected will be analyzed by the Hajibabaei lab at the University of Guelph’s Centre for Biodiversity Genomics using DNA metabarcoding; a technology that extracts bulk DNA to track macroinvertebrate species and deliver faster, more accurate and less expensive monitoring results.
“Community-based sampling and training are at the heart of STREAM—it’s only with the help of groups like the STSA and LFFA that we’re able to access important monitoring sites,” said Dr. Mehrdad Hajibabaei, Integrative Biology Professor at the University of Guelph’s College of Biological Sciences and STREAM Scientific Leader.
All data will be shared with both organizations for their ownership, control, and use according to direction from Stó:lō leadership. It will also be uploaded to the national CABIN database and STREAM database, in line with the protocols for these monitoring approaches.
STREAM acknowledges and extends gratitude to Stó:lō Service Agency Society for supporting STREAM and providing facilities. STREAM acknowledges all collaborating Nations and their territories, including the unceded territory of Sts’ailes First Nation, the unceded territory and reserve land of Soowahlie First Nation, a member of Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe, and the unceded territory of the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe and the Pelólhxw Tribe member First Nations.
STREAM (Sequencing The Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring) is a multi-stakeholder community-based project led by the Hajibabaei lab in the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph. STREAM generates DNA-based data on freshwater benthic macroinvertebrates (i.e. bugs) through community-based monitoring. The project aims to generate data to enhance our understanding of stream biodiversity and the health of river systems across Canada in a biomonitoring context.
Living Lakes Canada works to enhance the protection, the restoration, the rehabilitation, and the health of watersheds in B.C. and across Canada. Living Lakes Canada is a registered charity and affiliated with German-based Global Nature Fund’s Living Lakes International, a global network of organizations that share the same mission: to enhance, protect, restore, and rehabilitate freshwater areas around the globe.
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University of Guelph