Wetland Mapping Project in the Regional District of Nanaimo: “The unique spatial distribution of wetlands in the RDN contributes to the complex relationship between surface water and groundwater,” states Ashley Van Acken, Project Coordinator

Note to Reader:

In 2016, the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN), Mid-Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES), Vancouver Island University (VIU) and the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) partnered and developed a five year project that aims to evaluate wetland systems in the region.

The project was developed based on the RDN’s Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Program’s (DWWP) key objectives and action areas.  Ashley Van Acken, MABR coordinator (the UNESCO designated Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region), is the lead researcher. She is a member of the panel and town-hall sharing session at the Nanaimo Water Symposium (April 11-12, 2018).

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Research Focus: Understanding the Dynamic and Complex Relationship of Wetlands within the Water Balance System

“The Wetlands Mapping Project aims to create an updated inventory of wetlands in the RDN while investigating the potential role these systems play in groundwater recharge,” states Ashley Van Acken.

“During preliminary stages of project development it became evident that prominent data gaps exist with regards to wetlands, there is limited information on where they are located, how they are classified, and whether or not they play a role in groundwater recharge.

“When an inventory is generated that includes our wetland locations, along with their role in filtering and providing water to our groundwater-dependent communities and streams, then regional land planning can be directed in such a way that protects these key features.


Role of Students in Learning by Doing

“Through this collaborative partnership, MABRRI has provided students, from various departments at VIU, with valuable hands on work experience in the field of environmental science,” continues Ashley Van Acken. “All research is conducted by students, with support and guidance from various members of our Technical Advisory Committee.

“All data collected will be compiled into a Wetland Classification and Geologic Assessment Report for each water region, highlighting field measurements and observations. Furthermore, data will also be provided to the British Columbia Wildlife Federations Wetlands Database to further enhance our understanding of wetland systems and their connection to other environmental systems.

Contribution to Regional Land and Water Management

“Overall, the project aims to contribute to a broader initiative that uses scientific evidence to better improve regional growth management, land-use planning, and regulations including drinking water utility services,” emphasizes Ashley Van Acken..

“Understanding the dynamic and complex relationship between wetlands, surface water, and aquifer systems will increase freshwater sustainability in the region, remediate waterways that connect to major recharge areas, enhance wetland stability in urban areas, and create resilient communities.”