In 2013, the Resort Municipality of Whistler initiated an annual ecosystem monitoring program to help understand and monitor the health of Whistler’s ecosystems. Key species and indicators have been selected for monitoring, with emphasis on biodiversity and ecosystem health.
Inventory and monitoring
Whistler's ecosystem monitoring program helps the RMOW track and understand trends in the local ecosystems. The aim of this annual ecosystem monitoring program is to create baseline records and the ability to detect changes over time. The RMOW uses the data generated through this monitoring program to guide planning and operational activities towards protecting the health and biodiversity of the local environment.
The RMOW has identified key indicator species and habitats, and conducts regular vegetation, wildlife, fish and amphibian abundance surveys, as well as habitat assessments. Each species monitored provides information on the health of a specific habitat (i.e. aquatic, riparian or terrestrial habitat), in addition to species abundance data.
Some of the indicators the RMOW currently monitors to help track the health of the community's natural environment, include:
- Pileated woodpeckers
- Rainbow trout, Kokanee salmon and Bull trout
- Coastal tailed frogs
- Alta Lake ice-on / ice-off dates
The RMOW also monitors other important species in Whistler, like the annual migration of the Western toads. Most of Whistler's ecosystem and species monitoring work happens on the ground – or in the water- with wildlife and habitat surveys typically conducted in the spring, summer and fall.
Policy and planning
- The ecosystem monitoring program supports policies and objectives related to environmental stewardship and protection of natural areas.
- As the RMOW continues to collect data and determine trends, the results of the ecosystem monitoring program will help inform planning and decision-making around development and conservation initiatives.
- The RMOW considers species at risk habitat in relevant development proposals.
Working with partners
The RMOW supports the Whistler Naturalists and events such as Whistler BioBlitz with funding through the Community Enrichment Program. Through the partnership with the Whistler Naturalists, the RMOW also monitors various bird species that frequent the Fitzsimmons Creek Delta Bird Sanctuary. This area, a large sandy delta where Fitzsimmons Creek enters Green Lake, is key habitat for migratory birds, especially shorebirds and water fowl. Such deltas are very rare in the Sea to Sky corridor and they provide important areas for nesting, resting and feeding throughout spring and autumn bird migration periods. Species known to nest in this area include Trumpeter swan, Snow goose, Ross’ goose, Canada goose, Harlequin duck, Great blue heron, Green heron, Solitary sandpiper, Osprey, Bald eagle and Horned lark.
The RMOW also collaborates on the Whistler Biodiversity Project; the goal of which is to document as many species as possible in Whistler, including species at risk. To date, researchers have documented over 3500 species in Whistler. The growing understanding of the diversity of species in Whistler's community helps to inform decision making and guide conservation initiatives.
How can you help?
- Report sightings of rare species or species at risk to the Whistler Biodiversity Project and the BC Conservation Data Centre.
- Learn more about Whistler’s species and ecosystems by reviewing our Ecosystem Monitoring Program reports (below).
- Volunteer with the RMOW Environmental Stewardship team. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Participate in local events such as Whistler BioBlitz or the Fungus Among Us Festival hosted by the Whistler Naturalists.