Jump to: Northwest Science article on A Rocha Canada and Trinity Western University’s research on the Northern Red-legged Frog

Fans are blowing, windows are open, air conditioners are selling out – we’re experiencing record heat here along the coast of western Canada.  As temperatures rise, puddles disappear; disappointing for my 3 year old, but devastating to coho fry literally frying in isolated pools where the river used to be.  The A Rocha Conservation Science team has been monitoring a section of the Little Campbell River that is known to dry up during the summer season. We’ve observed that this starts in early June – there is already a section a few meters long that is gravel instead of flowing water – and extends up to 2km of dry channel by September.  In 2018, the river didn’t re-connect until early November, meaning the river is disconnected for 5 months of the year (see map below). The Little Campbell River is groundwater-fed and the aquifers that feed it are drawn on by many wells to provide drinking water, irrigation, and other uses for the people of Langley and South Surrey. Also, increasing development means more pavement and hard surfaces, which means less land where rain can penetrate and replenish thirsty aquifers.  

Figure 1. Section of the Little Campbell River that flows underground during dry season.

This river was not always dry in the middle.  Landowners who have lived along this section of river since the 1970s tell stories of when the river flowed year round.  So something has happened in the past 50 years to cause this interruption in flow. Due to low flow concerns, the BC Ministry of Environment is ramping up its monitoring program to better understand flow conditions in a number of indicator streams in the South Coast Region – including the Little Campbell River.  One of these hydrometric monitoring stations is located at the Brooksdale Environmental Centre and the A Rocha Conservation Science team are helping to collect the data. This information should help the province to determine environmental flow needs for this important river – full of salmon and species at risk.

One of the species at risk, threatened by shrinking puddles is the Northern Red-legged Frog.  A Rocha partnered with Trinity Western University to conduct research on this amazing amphibian and a paper has just been published in Northwest Science.  Warming temperatures due to climate change may affect egg mass abundance, habitat availability (as wetlands dry up faster), and breeding timing; also frog survival can be susceptible to erratic precipitation or frost events.  Read the full article for more information.

Western Toads are also affected by shrinking wetlands.  One population breeds in two shallow wetlands in the Fernridge area of Langley within the Little Campbell River watershed.  The A Rocha Conservation Science team has requested a temporary road closure to prevent toad mortality while they attempt to cross the roads during the toadlets’ annual mass migration from the breeding wetlands to surrounding terrestrial habitat where they spend the majority of their life cycle.

What can you do?

  1. Volunteer. Help A Rocha monitor amphibians and wetlands in the Little Campbell River watershed.  
  2. Use less water. Shorter showers, golden (not green) lawns and native plant gardening are 3 simple ways to use less household water.
  3. Use less energy.Here is a simple list of things to do to start saving energy.  It’s a conversation starter to dig deeper into the real issues.
  4. Restore wetlands on your land. The A Rocha Conservation Science team works with local landowners to enhance habitat and create wetlands on private property. Contact us if you are interested in learning more about this.
  5. Donate. Your donations help to fund ongoing research and restoration work to improve the health of this watershed and also inspire and equip others to care for their places.