With any ecological restoration project, it’s important to know what type of difference restoration efforts have made. For Farmland Advantage, tracking and measuring the effectiveness of farmers’ restoration activities is an important part of the process. By monitoring these projects, we are able to confirm that the work done is not only good for the farmers, but good for the entire watershed, and beyond.
In riparian areas, the Riparian Health Assessment and the Riparian Health Inventory are two ecological monitoring tools currently used. Which one is more fit for purpose? We’ve spent the last few years working with experts in the field to establish and apply the best methodology possible.
Assessment v. Inventory
Within an ecosystem, the riparian area is the area beside land and lakes, rivers or streams: essentially, it is the interface area between water and land. Farmland Advantage works with a number of farmers to ensure that their agricultural activities are working with, and not against, riparian health on their properties. For many years, the Riparian Health Assessment was used to monitor effectiveness of the farmer’s actions. However, after consulting with scientists about how to improve monitoring, a new tool has been adapted: the Riparian Health Inventory.
The Riparian Health Inventory is just one-way Farmland Advantage can ensure continual improvement using scientific methodology. Although this tool was already utilized in Montana and Alberta, it was not adapted for British Columbia. Recognizing its importance elsewhere, Farmland Advantage was contracted by the Ministry of Agriculture to adapt the tool for use in BC. With input from botanists, biologists and ecologists, the tool was successfully adapted and is currently being trialled throughout the province.
Compared to the Riparian Health Assessment, the Riparian Health Inventory takes a much more intensive approach. Because of this, the results are more accurate and provide greater insight into current conditions. As well, the Riparian Health Inventory can still be easily understood by a non-technical audience and can be completed by one or two qualified assessors, rather than a larger team of experts. Both tools have their application. By adapting the Riparian Health Inventory to BC, the toolbox of options has significantly improved.
Applying The New Tool
In 2018-19 Farmland Advantage and partners hosted two, three-day Riparian Health Inventory training sessions across the province. The goal of these sessions was not only to garner support for the tool, but to increase capacity for its use and receive input from experts. Biologists, wetland experts, First Nations, and Ministry of Agriculture staff all attended multiple training sessions to offer their feedback and learn more about the tool’s province-wide application. Participants also received training on how to apply the tool in BC, thereby increasing opportunity for its use.
Monitoring In Action
As of October 2019, a number of demonstration sites are being established in the East Kootenay, Okanagan and Lower Mainland. These sites will use the Riparian Health Inventory tool to assess ecological progress once restoration is complete. Farmland Advantage also supports a number of restoration sites throughout the province. At these sites, the Restoration Health Inventory tool will be implemented to help monitor ongoing restoration effectiveness.
Farmland Advantage continues to work with partners to ensure that the restoration efforts of farmers on private land continues to be effective, long-lasting and results-driven. Adapting a scientifically-sound monitoring tool is just one of the ways we support British Columbia’s ecological goods and services.
Healthy farms making healthier ecosystems for healthier watersheds: that’s the Farmland Advantage.