Consider it an introduction into your own backyard. Meewasin’s Bioblitz on Sept. 17 provided the opportunity to see firsthand the biodiversity found across the Northeast Swale.
“This event is getting the public engaged in the swale and biodiversity and science,” said Renny Grilz, Resource Management Officer with Meewasin. “A bioblitz engages volunteers and citizen scientists to spend one day collecting as much biological information from a site as possible.”
About 125 people from the general public played a significant role –collecting samples from wetlands and identifying flora, fauna, and insects for example. The bioblitz also involved over a dozen scientists and biologists, some of whom help collect inventories and measurements at nine permanent plots measuring 200 metres in diameter set up in May.
“We’re going to use these plots for permanent monitoring for everything from soil microbes to grassland birds to light pollution,” Grilz said.
Meewasin is monitoring the swale over the long-term. The initial bioblitz in 2011 established a baseline and helped identify critical areas that were important for biodiversity.
“As the city grows around the swale, we can come back and…see if there are new things that weren’t here before or things that are missing,” Grilz explained. “We wanted to find where the significant areas were where we don’t want trails developed or try to reduce human impact.”
Grilz said they are finding new species every day, such as a rare white prairie crocus as well as a sharp-tailed grouse breeding ground, known as a lek. Grilz said the lek was a rare find due to the number of birds and the proximity to the city.
The count is at 138 observed species so far, with confirmation of additional species being made over the next two months, mainly water invertebrates. Results will be shared through an internationally accessible database used by scientists and the general public. Grilz said sharing helps research, but can also provide an overall feel for the significance and the richness in species of the site.
The Meewasin Northeast Swale is a diverse network of rare native prairie and wetlands covering 26 kilometres long and 2,800 hectares. The 300 hectares that fall within Saskatoon city limits are bordered on the east and south by the communities of Aspen Ridge and Evergreen, respectively.
Meewasin would like to acknowledge TD Friends of the Environment for making this important event possible.
Meewasin Northeast Swale
The greater swale has signs of human habitation and use over the past several centuries, including a remnant section of the Moose Woods – Batoche Trail, Middleton’s staging camp on the trek to the Battle of Batoche, the site of the telegraph line that linked North America to Europe by way of Russia, the site of the old town of Clarkboro and tipi rings from the encampments of the original residents of the Saskatoon area. More recent archeological remains are the lime kilns near the swale and the holes left by the movement of large limestones used to build the University of Saskatchewan.
With less than 20% of native prairie remaining in Saskatchewan (Bailey, McCartney & Schellenberg, 20101), native grasslands are now one of the most imperiled ecosystems on the planet (Gauthier & Riemer, 20032) and are considered endangered (Trottier, 19923). The swale contains considerable areas of native prairie grasslands and offers high quality biodiversity, proximity to urban areas, economic benefits for recreation and education and a natural filter for our air and water. The swale contains wetlands that provide a means of flood control for the surrounding community.
The diversity of environments offers a large variety of plant species (more than 200), birds (more than 100), mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects that are present in the Meewasin Northeast Swale on a regular basis. The swale is home to several rare, endangered or culturally significant species, including:
- Plants: Crowfoot Violet, Western Red Lily, Narrow-leaved Water Plantain, Sweet Grass
- Birds: Sprague’s Pipit, Barn Swallow, Loggerhead Shrike, Horned Grebe, Short-eared Owl, Common Nighthawk, Sharp Tailed Grouse
- Amphibians: Northern Leopard Frog
Losing this native prairie and wetland means the loss of thousands of years of natural and cultural history. This resource can never be replaced. Please take care of your Meewasin Northeast Swale and educate others as to its value.
To view the Meewasin Northeast Swale Resource Management Plan, click here.
Click here for a location map of the Meewasin Northeast Swale.
An Ecoblitz was conducted in the Swale in May 2012. Use QuickTime to watch the video.
1 Bailey, A., McCartney, D., & Schellenberg, M. (2010). Management of Canadian prairie rangeland. Swift Current, SK: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Government of Canada.
2 Gauthier, D., & Riemer, G. (2003). Introduction to prairie conservation. In P. Partnership (Ed.), Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan 2003-2008. (pp. 1-8). Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Centre, University of Regina.
3 Trottier, G. (1992). A landowner's guide: Conservation of Canadian prairie grasslands. Edmonton, AB: Ministry of Environment, Canadian Wildlife Service.