An invasive species is a plant or animal that has been introduced to a particular location, has spread and is believed to be causing damage to the environment, the economy, or to human health. Not all introduced species are invasive.
On Vancouver Island, invasive plants have been responsible for habitat loss, loss of subsistence resources and economic loss. In fact, invasive species are the second greatest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss. It is important to become familiar with the invasive species around you, so they can be managed responsibly. To learn more about invasive species check out the Coastal Invasive Species Committee. To report a siting of an invasive species you can also use the Provincial Report-A-Weed application.
At the same time there are important native plants, which are species that occur naturally in our area, that are under threat due to habitat loss, competition with invasive species and climate change. Stewardship groups are trying to help maintain native plant populations in the K’ómoks Estuary. Comox Valley Nature has been working to try and re-establish Garry Oak trees and other native plants around the Courtenay Airpark Lagoon and Project Watershed has been restoring lost salt marsh habitat and its associated native plant communities in the estuary.
Seagrasses are a vital part of the marine ecosystem due to their productivity leve. Just like grasses on land, seagrasses form vast meadows, produce flowers and seeds, and provide habitat for a diverse community of organisms. Seagrasses perform many important functions including:
There are four plant families of seagrasses all of which grow in marine, fully saline environments. The K’ómoks Estuary supports beds of Zostera marina or eelgrass, however the eelgrass communities in the estuary have been disturbed and reduced due to impacts from industrial, residential and recreational activities. To learn more about eelgrass and threats to this marine plant check out the South Coast Conservation Program.
Project Watershed has been working to inventory and map eelgrass beds as well as to restore eelgrass beds through transplants of healthy donor stock. With the help of volunteers we have now successfully transplanted over 6,000 m2 of eelgrass in the estuary.
The Comox Valley is recognized internationally for its Important Bird Areas (IBA), particularly for wintering waterbirds.
The K'ómoks (IBA) is an extensive network of marine waters, estuaries, backshore areas and associated lowland valley bottoms. The estuary ecosystem extends from K'ómoks Estuary through Baynes Sound to Deep Bay and Mapleguard Point, approximately 30 km to the southeast.
This IBA is designated for four species at the global level: Trumpeter Swan, Harlequin Duck, Thayer’s Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull; one species at the continental level: Mew Gull; and two species at the national level: Great Blue Heron and Peregrine Falcon.
Trumpeter Swan average mid-winter (January-February) numbers 1989-2013 and Christmas Bird Counts 1965-1988. The numbers of swans in the Comox Valley increased though the late-1990s and have stabilized at an over-wintering population of about 2,100 birds, with peak counts of up to 2,900 birds (8.8% of the global population). Weekly counts (October –April) have been made since 1991.
Trumpeter Swan weekly average numbers October 2003 to April 2013. Swans arrive in late October and increase in numbers into December with some birds stopping in the Comox Valley to winter and others continue their migration further south to the Lower Mainland and the State of Washington. Numbers are fairly stable in January and February and then increase as migrants begin moving back north to breeding grounds in Alaska. Most swans have left the Comox Valley by early-April.
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