Course:CONS200/2023/Garry Oak Ecosystem Conservation

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Garry Oak Ecosystem Conservation

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Ecology[edit | wikitext]

Garry oak (Quercus garryana) ecosystems, like many oak ecosystems, have a good ecological range[1]. these ecosystems can range from denser woodlands to more open fields and meadows with trees dotted throughout. Western red cedar, Western hemlock, Shore pine, Arbutus and Douglas-fir can be found with Garry oaks in mixed stands, with a plenty of flora living under their shade[2]. Mosses, wild flowers, shrubs, fungi, lichen, and grasses all flourish in these ecosystems[3]. Garry oaks live in areas with mild winters, and tend to be on coastal areas in the pacific northwest[2]. Even though Gary oaks themselves are not on the endangered list, several of the ecological communities they support are on the BC provincial red list [3].

Threats[edit | wikitext]

Garry Oak ecosystems are very unique especially in the Pacific North West, nevertheless they have faced many obstacles and are in decline. For instance it is known that these ecosystems has been reduced 95% in the last 150 years. This sharp decline in a short amount of time is contributed to three main process of habitat loss, fire suppression, and invasive species.[4]

Habitat Loss[edit | wikitext]

When considering habitat loss, large scale development of these ecosystems does harm these ecosystems and is usually first considered especially the with past history of development being for industrial, residential, and agricultural purposes.  Especially since this is a very common pattern to have naturalized areas be converted to industrial places or farmland, which seen in many different parts of the world. Even on a global scale agricultural land area is approximately 38 percent of global land allocation.[5] However, one of the less known aspects of habitat loss is habitat fragmentation, and is a huge driver in why Garry Oak ecosystems are declining.  This habitat fragmentation is when larger areas of habitat get separated/changed into vulnerable patches that are much smaller. Essentially after this fragmentation occurs, it allows for other threats to enter the scene. such as woody species of plants or invasive species, which can further assist in habitat fragmentation.[6] This mechanism has occurred continuous to this day, where now less than 5% of these ecosystems are left in near natural conditions.

Fire Suppression[edit | wikitext]

Indigenous peoples of coastal British Columbia historically were part, and still are to this day part of many ecological communities. In many ways, they  were a crucial aspect to these ecosystems, with Garry Oak ecosystems being of no exception. Recent studies show paleo-ecological evidence and anthropological evidence that in the late holocene there was maintenance of the open savannah habitat even thought it was a colder and wetter climate. Historical and ethnographic evidence points to repetitive and purposeful use of fire by Coast Salish Peoples.  Considering historical maintenance by fire, this suggests that Garry Oak ecosystems have a very long history of indigenous management.[7]  Incidentally, when overlooking how this ecosystem started changing, it correlates with colonization done by early European settlers. Fire suppression can occur in a physical matter but can also be implemented on a policy level.  Especially when disturbance regimes drastically changes, Fragmentation occurs on the physical level. Allowing for woody species of plants (whether being invasive or native species) like douglas firs and other shrubs to invade this prairie ecosystem. this ultimately shades out the Gary Oaks, Wildflowers, eventually replacing them and the ecosystem itself and how it functions, stopping fire from being a functioning aspect of the ecosystem. Whereas, even in policy, traditions and practices of indigenous people were criminalized.[8] As seen, not only is there a physical barrier, but there is additionally policies acting as a barriers. Due to these barriers, this maintaining this ecosystem is physically stunted or even outlawed which causes fire suppression in Garry Oak ecosystems.

Invasive Species[edit | wikitext]

Currently, many of the fragmented Garry Oak ecosystems have a dominance of introduced species, typically being invasive species. An Invasive species is a organism that has been introduced to a naturalized area, will spread itself throughout the ecosystem and negatively change the ecosystem. The fragmentation of these ecosystems is often what allows for the easy entry of many of these invasive species.

Below is a table of some of the major invasive species seen within Garry Oak Ecosystems, and their impacts on Gary Oak ecosystems.

Species/Genus Impacts on Ecosystem
Scotch broom

(Cytisus scoparius)

Cytisus scoparius, Riudarenes.jpg
  • invades sunny, disturbed rangeland
  • can increase the intensity of wildfires
  • can produce seeds that can survive in the soil for 30 years[9]

(Ulex ssp.)

Whin or Gorse on Fife Coastal Trail.jpg
  • thrives within infertile highly disturbed
  • can live up to 45 years
  • can spread over 18,000 per plant
  • fire hazard [10]Cite error: The opening <ref> tag is malformed or has a bad name
English ivy

(Hedera helix)

Hedera helix Dover.jpg
  • commonly planted commercially for houses and walls
  • spreads easily, and even grows in layers suppressing native plants
  • needs little light or water to establish, even grows in winter [11]Cite error: The opening <ref> tag is malformed or has a bad name
Himalayan BlackBerry

(Rubus armeniacus)

Rubus armeniacus kz06.jpg
  • Often enjoyed by people due to how it produces edible black berries
  • produces dense thickets to the point supressing native animals/plants
  • can produce over 7,000-13,000 seeds per km^2[12]
Spurge laurel

(Daphne laureola)

Daphne laureola, Spurge Laurel (8894597803).jpg
  • very poisonous, symptoms include skin rashes, nausea, swelling of the tongue, and coma.
  • commonly used as a decorative ornamental garden shrub
  • additionally overcrowds native biodiversity[13]
Eastern Grey Squirrels

(Sciurus carolinensis)

Eastern Grey Squirrel in St James's Park, London - Nov 2006 edit.jpg
  • particular threat to Gary Oak Ecosystems
  • complete with native squirrels and birds for habitat
  • carriers of parapoxvirus, infecting native animals too[14]
European Starlings

(Sturnus vulgaris)

Toulouse - Sturnus vulgaris - 2012-02-26 - 2.jpg
  • compete with native birds for food and habitat
  • can breed rapidly producing 4-6 eggs per year
  • territorial when nesting[15]
Gypsy Moths/Spongy Moths

(Lymantria dispar)

Lymantria dispar MHNT.CUT.2012.0.357 Claix (Isère) Female Dos.jpg
  • defoliate entire trees by feeding in large numbers
  • can feed on over 300 species of deciduous or coniferous trees[16]

Past Management

The land that is now CGOP was originally the family estate of Scottish pioneer Gerald Erlam Elkington. NCC's purchase of the land in 1999 marked the beginning of the organization's long-term relationship with the area. Made up of the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve and Quamichan Garry Oak Site (acquired in 2001), the conservation area encompasses 33 hectares (81 acres) of colourful meadow, forest and wetland ecosystems.

Current Restoration Project strategies

The main group tackling the restoration of the Garry Oak is the Gary Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team. This Group consists of volunteers or professionals helping a landowner or land manager conserve said land to protect these at risk ecosystems [17]. There are several groups/agencies that are doing work that indirectly helps Gary Oak ecosystems as well. The Invasive Species Council of British Columbia is a charity and non-profit that works “to take action to build healthy landscapes, including habitats and communities, through education and responsible practices to prevent the spread of invasive species.” [1]. This groups efforts include educating people about the winter moth (an invasive species that is a threat to Gary Oaks and other trees) and how to lower their numbers through traps[18].

Applied Environmentalist Philosophies

Which environmentalist philosophies are being most applied specifically if (Muir, Pinott or Leopold), had more influence for this management.

Suggestions on Further Implementation

  1. For starters, it is important to conduct detailed surveys to plan for the appropriate protection and management of Gary Oak ecosystems. This can help identify threats such invasive species, grass litter, visitor impacts, species at risks, and more.
  2. Collect critical data of current species in (life cycles, needs). It is key to understand habitat needs and threats before taking action as improper treatment of species cause other issues.
    1. For starters, it is important to understand the conditions on-site that have led to the establishment of non-native species. Each non-native species requires different control methods that should be identified in order for effective removal. As a general rule, invasive plant removal should focus on outlying populations first. Main populations should be addressed once the spread has been contained. Furthermore, all treatment should also be continuously available.
    2. Consider Native Plant Encroachment. Even native species can dominate an area and take on invasive characteristics in GOEs. Although encroachment may seem like a natural process, past human activity may have led to habitat loss, fragmentation, degradation which led to the decline of other species.
  3. Understand past land and water history. Identify geology, soils, and water flow patterns to guide future activities.
  4. Create a management plan. Each GEO is unique and requires their own tailored management activities. Using the previously gathered information, the management plan should outline the values, issues, and recommendations (in order of importance) for the site. Include sections on historical cultural uses, vegetation communities, present species at risk, trail and infrastructure design, interpretive signage, and specific management and restoration activities. Site goals, objectives, and tasks should be laid out.
  5. Protect Vernal Pools and Seeps. Vernal pools and seeps (small depressions that fill with water in the Spring and Fall and act as breeding habitats for various creatures). Vernal Pools and seeps are some of the highest priority habitats for protection within Gary Oak ecosystems because of their distinct habitat requirements. It is key to maintain the natural flow of water, limit vehicle and foot traffic during plant growth time, limit invasive species, prevent construction from using vernal pools and seeps as catchment areas, and remove any debris build-up and encroaching plants.
  6. Establish long-term monitoring and maintenance. Consider access routes in and out of the area, disposal plans, and future native planting stock.
  7. Make a map. Identify exact locations of species (at risk and invasive) to guide management and restoration activities. Hard copy maps can help educate everyone on site.
  8. Communication with stakeholders. Include all the stakeholders in the restoration process. Work with existing potential users, neighbors[1], and other interested parities. Include a communication strategy to maintain explanations on restoration activities and post work plans online can prevent public relation problems. Signage can also help explain work during restoration and enlist volunteer for projects.


Please use the Wikipedia reference style. Provide a citation for every sentence, statement, thought, or bit of data not your own, giving the author, year, AND page. For dictionary references for English-language terms, I strongly recommend you use the Oxford English Dictionary. You can reference foreign-language sources but please also provide translations into English in the reference list.

Note: Before writing your wiki article on the UBC Wiki, it may be helpful to review the tips in Wikipedia: Writing better articles.[19]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Erickson, Wayne (2008). "Results and Data from an Ecological Study of Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) Ecosystems in Southwestern British Columbia" (PDF). llbc.leg. Retrieved March 9, 2023. line feed character in |title= at position 36 (help)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Fairbarns, Matt. "GARRY OAK ECOSYSTEMS". Biodiversity of BC. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "What Are Garry Oak & Associated Ecosystems?". Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT). Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  4. Gary Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team. (n.d.). Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT). Why Are They Disappearing? Retrieved March 8, 2023, from,that%20out%2Dcompete%20native%20species.
  5. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (n.d.). Sustainable Food and Agriculture. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from
  6. Barlow, C. M., Pellatt, M. G., & Kohfeld, K. E. (2021). Garry oak ecosystem stand history in Southwest British Columbia, Canada: implications of environmental change and indigenous land use for ecological restoration and population recovery. Biodiversity and Conservation, 30(6), 1655-1672.
  7. Pellatt, M. G., McCoy, M. M., & Mathewes, R. W. (2015). Paleoecology and fire history of Garry oak ecosystems in Canada: implications for conservation and environmental management. Biodiversity and conservation, 24, 1621-1639.
  8. Rudin, J. (n.d.). Aboriginal peoples and the Criminal Justice System - Ontario. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from
  9. ISCBC. (2022, June 28). Scotch broom. Invasive Species Council of British Columbia. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from
  10. ISCBC. (2021, January 29). Gorse. Invasive Species Council of British Columbia. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from
  11. ISCBC. (2022, June 28). English ivy. Invasive Species Council of British Columbia. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from
  12. ISCBC. (2022, June 28). Himalayan blackberry. Invasive Species Council of British Columbia. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from
  13. Daphne (spurge-laurel). Invasive Species Council of British Columbia. (2022, June 28). Retrieved April 13, 2023, from
  14. ISCBC. (2022, July 4). Eastern grey squirrel. Invasive Species Council of British Columbia. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from
  15. ISCBC. (2022, July 4). European starling. Invasive Species Council of British Columbia. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from
  16. ISCBC. (2022, July 4). Spongy moth. Invasive Species Council of British Columbia. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from
  17. "Garry oak (Qg) - Quercus garryana". (2022, October 25). Retrieved March 8, 2023. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  18. "INVASIVE ANIMAL Winter moth Operophtera brumata". bcinvasives. July 4, 2022. Retrieved March 9, 2023. line feed character in |title= at position 16 (help)
  19. (2018). Writing better articles. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018].

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Course:CONS200. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.