It’s hot in the park! So hot, that fire becomes our consuming interest. Once upon a time, fire was a force that regenerated the bog. Now, it is a destroyer that we must fear and prevent.
Bogs evolved with fire. Regular summer fires burned off dead plant material, preventing the accumulation of “fuel”. With little fuel to burn, cool fires moved quickly through the bog with minimal damage to green plants and leaving a fresh layer of ash for fertilizer. In places, the removal of dead plants allowed sunlight to penetrate to the ground and create ideal growing conditions for plants like shore pine seedlings.
Mature Shore Pine trees produce their seeds in a cone. The woody structure of the cone protects the nutritious seeds from hungry animals like birds and squirrels. Cones stay tightly closed and sealed with pitch until the right conditions occur for the release of the seeds. Shore Pines need full sun and some soil nutrients to successfully germinate so fire is often the catalyst to seed release. When fire heats the cones, the pitch slowly melts, allowing the cones to open as they cool. By the time the cones open the fire will have vanished and the seeds will drop to fertile ground.
Other benefits of fire include the eradication of insects that have the potential for significant damage (the pine beetle that is damaging much of the interior pine forests in BC is an example of this). Fire may also eliminate fungi or disease by burning off affected plant material.
There is no doubt of the environmental value of fire but it is a mixed blessing within the confines of a small park like the Richmond Nature Park. Fire is nearly impossible to contain in a bog where everything is combustible – including the organic soils. The history of fire repression in this park has resulted in a thick layer of underbrush and dead plant material. We fear fire because it would burn hot and consume the entire park.
Under these hot dry conditions we must take extra precautions to ensure fire isn’t accidentally started by a stray cigarette butt or a piece of glass acting like a lens. We ask our visitors to remember there is absolutely no smoking permitted anywhere, at any time, in the Richmond Nature Park. No barbeques of any kind are permitted in the picnic area and we ask you to ensure all litter is deposited in appropriate garbage or recycling containers. With your assistance we will keep the park green and accessible for all to enjoy for years to come.
Posted by Kristine Bauder, Nature Park Coordinator
July 15, 2021 Summer at the Nature Park
Summer is very much in evidence at the Nature Park. The season of blooms is behind us and most of the plants are now putting their energy into producing seeds or berries. The park is clothed in every shade of green imaginable as the plants have crammed on as much leaf cover as they can. The long summer days mean that the plants are at full capacity for photosynthesis – growing, setting seeds and buds for next year and storing sugar for the long dormant season ahead. The deciduous trees in the park responded to June’s hot dry weather by dropping leaves – a natural phenomenon, but a hint that the trees know fall isn’t so very far away.
Wildlife has entered summer mode, too. There is still a lot of hummingbird activity at our feeders but the birds we’re seeing now are females and this years juveniles. The males, here early in the spring, left for the mountain meadows long ago. We can expect all of the hummingbirds to start their southward migration by the end of the month. If you still have a hummingbird feeder up in your garden you should plan to take it down at the end of July to encourage “your” hummingbirds to head south, too.
This is insect season. The ponds and adjacent ditches offer good habitat for all stages of the dragonfly life cycle. The nymphs that spent the winter under water have emerged and are now patrolling over the waterways – guarding their territories, looking for mates and feasting on small flying insects like mosquitoes. Watch for the cardinal meadow hawk – a brilliant red dragonfly often seen at our main pond.
Insects are the food source for many wildlife species. By day you may see swallows darting after insects over the waterways. In the woods, a host of little birds is busy gleaning insects to feed their babies. On the forest floor, little mammals like shrews take advantage of the abundant insects too. When the sun goes down bats take over the night shift to go hunting. It’s been estimated that a little brown bat can eat as many as 600 mosquitoes an hour. Bats are harmless to people and their appetite for flying insects makes them a very good neighbour.
There are lots of summer programs offered through the Richmond Nature Park this summer. There are a variety of nature programs for children, family events like the upcoming Reptile Show, out-trips for seniors and fundraising events like the Blueberry Sale. Check the link for program listings and schedules.
You had a busy summer, I see! Very interesting to read about the parklife. You did hard work...!
Through the volonteering in the Richmond Nature Park my eyes are opened wide in my country too....
Please say hallo to all we know. Yours