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Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village
A Profile in Biodiversity of the Surrounding Area
The Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village is temporary home to the Olympic & Paralympic athletes. It is located on the shared traditional territory of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish First Nations, three of the Four Host First Nations. Industrial development over the last century destroyed much of the habitat at this site. Due to development, species were pushed out and the area was turned into what is known as an industrial brown field: an area degraded from decades of industrial pollution. Through collaborative restoration efforts, the site of the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village was remediated and now it forms the first phase of a mixed-use sustainable community known as Southeast False Creek. Detailed information on this model community, including planning, remediation, restoration and development can be found in chapter three’s section on remediation and parks and waterfront, in The Challenge Series.
The construction of the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village helped spur restoration of the shoreline. This restoration includes the creation of Habitat Island. Habitat Island is a human-made island which provides inter-tidal marine habitat and has helped increase the replanting of indigenous vegetation. The creation of the island helps compensate for an area of the False Creek shoreline that was filled in to accommodate the construction of the Village. The island was made by using left-over dirt, rocks, sand, and other material from excavations from the construction of the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village. Thanks to remediation efforts, the island has shrubs, trees, snags with aquatic riparian (shoreline) habitat, inter-tidal fish habitat, and upland ecologies where birds perch and nest.
False Creek is vital habitat for local and migratory birds. It is part of an Important Bird Area known as English Bay and Burrard Inlet. Reclamation and restoration efforts have ensured these once contaminated lands are now safe for raptors including Bald Eagles and waterbirds such as the Western Grebe, Surf Scoter, Pelagic Cormorant, Glaucous-winged Gull, as well as sea ducks and geese. Other birds including the Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, Great Blue Heron, and Kingfisher with their long bills and streamlined bodies can be seen wading through the water, marshes, and mudflats probing for insects and aquatic invertebrates. Frequent feathered visitors seen here year-round include the urbanized American Robin, American Goldfinch, Golden Crowned Kinglet,Steller’s Jay, Gray Jay, the American Crow, and Great Horned Owl. The rocky shores, sandy beaches and salt marshes produced by the inter-tidal marine habitat provide important food sources, foraging habitat and nesting areas for our local bird species and migratory bird species.
Habitat restoration related to the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village also included the development of Hinge Park Wetland. Hinge Park has a wetland treatment pond. The wetland treatment pond was created to capture, naturally filter, and slow storm-water by using native aquatic plants. This helps to reduce the amount of litter and other debris washing directly into False Creek during heavy rainstorms. In 2008, some wonderful evidence of the success of this shoreline remediation effort at Southeast False Creek appeared. Pacific herring (one of the key indicator species for the health of inter-tidal habitats) returned to spawn on a one kilometer stretch of reclaimed shoreline in Southeast False Creek. Herring are a vital food source for Pacific salmon,sea lions, seals, porpoises, eagles, gulls, cormorants and other diving birds.
Hinge Park is filled with pedestrian bridges. The bridges are great viewing platforms from which to observe the Mallards swimming in the pond, as well as the vegetation, birds, and wildlife in the surrounding green-spaces. It is an enchanting place for children and familiesto get close to nature in an urban environment. A pathway from the foot of Hinge Park is revealed at low tide. The pathway leads out to Habitat Island.
In addition to an abundance of bird life, the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village is also home to a variety of urban wildlife such as eastern grey squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, and skunks. Chipmunks and squirrels nest in hollow tree stumps and tree cavities in local parks. Raccoons are also well-adapted to urban life. They are among the most common species found in cities and towns. The ideal raccoon habitat is an area with small stands of timber bordering fields, with water close by. Many species of urban wildlife, especially the raccoon, are often considered problematic because they are opportunists. They get into garbage cans, gardens, attics, and sheds in their search for food and shelter. There are strategies to deal with problematic wildlife so that urban wildlife is kept out of mischief in ways that won’t harm them, you, or your yard.
Urban wildlife and biodiversity face many challenges because of the close proximity to human development. Wildlife is very vulnerable to habitat loss and habitat degradation. Wildlife habitatloss and degradation arise from commercial, industrial, and residential expansion, land-based pollution (including pesticides), climate change, and recreational over-use. Off-leash dogs and predation by cats are particular problems for urban wildlife because they can kill birds, degrade habitat and disrupt wildlife. Migratory birds are particularly susceptible to window collisions in urban areas. It is vital that measures are taken to prevent window collisions, especially during the spring and fall migrations.
Find out more. Check out the websites listed below:
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Network
- International Year of Biodiversity Official Videos
- Environment Canada - Hinterland Who’s Who Series
- Environment Canada - Biosphere
- Environment Canada - Project WILDSPACE
- Bird Studies Canada
- e-Bird Canada
- Important Bird Areas
- BC Breeding Bird Atlas
- BirdLife International
- British Columbia Ministry of Environment – Environmental Stewardship Division
Biodiversity in BC
- BC Nature
- Biodiversity Atlas of British Columbia
- Nature Conservancy of Canada
- Trans Canada Trai
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