Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site of Canada, located 14 km west of downtown Victoria, BC, is a restoration site for Garry oak ecosystems. The following is an article by Alison Clark, Eric Hertz, Lindsay Kwasnicia and Cain Van Cadsand. Photos by Lindsay Kwasnicia and Conan Webb/Parks Canada.
Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site Invaded!
The historic walls that surround Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site (NHS) served to protect Victoria and area for many years throughout times of war. But now that the guns lie silent and the guards have long since gone home, there is a new danger that exists.
Foreign invaders are silently creeping over the walls at Fort Rodd Hill NHS. They carry neither guns nor swords, and do not travel by foot or car. They are invasive plants. Initially overlooked, many of these foreign invaders have persisted and flourished at this historic site, their impacts on the native ecosystems now becoming clear. Scotch broom, daphne, English ivy and English holly are but a few of the invaders currently being fought within the walls of Fort Rodd Hill NHS, but there are many others. They show no mercy when spreading across the land, and can alter the sensitive ecosystem that supports some of the most rare and endangered species found on Vancouver Island.
In summer 2008, four University of Victoria students joined the Parks Canada team of scientists and volunteers who work together each year to protect the remaining Garry oak habitat and support the growth and survival of rare and endangered plant populations on the property. Deltoid balsamroot, a showy sunflower-type plant that requires only the most unspoiled Garry oak habitat conditions, is one of the species at risk at Fort Rodd Hill. Garry oak ecosystems are the most diverse terrestrial ecosystems in coastal BC and are also among the most endangered in Canada. Less than five percent of the original Garry oak habitat remains in a near-natural condition and the remaining fragments support about 120 species at risk. Through invasive species removal and native plant propagation and planting, the students work to reduce the number of invasive species found throughout the property while encouraging growth of the native plant populations.
There are only three known deltoid balsamroot plants at Fort Rodd Hill NHS. These individual plants, along with other populations across BC, represent the northern limits of the species in North America, and are one of many endangered species whose populations have been severely reduced over the past century due to habitat loss and displacement by invasive species. Threatened by encroaching invasive grasses, Scotch broom and daphne, along with the local deer population, the balsamroot plants at Fort Rodd Hill NHS have been enclosed by small protective fences. A large deer-fence is in the works to further the recovery of the native plant population.
Through stewardship actions like the installation of deer fences, monitoring, removal of invasive species and the planting of native plants in seasons to come, Parks Canada Agency aims to preserve a healthy, diverse, and well functioning ecosystem at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site which reflects the beautiful yet sensitive landscape once abundant on southeastern Vancouver Island.
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If you are interested in more information or in helping us protect this delicate ecosystem, please contact Susan MacIsaac at (250) 478-5122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.