Author Archives: roxci bevis

What’s So Special About Our Old-Growth Forests?

Written by Roxci Bevis, DRBIPA Program Coordinator – September 25, 2020

Big trees, little trees, stumps, snags, and fallen trees. Every type of tree in our forested ecosystem is so important, especially the dead and dying trees. Forests help combat floods, drought, landslides, and forest fires. Trees are for sure one of the most important things on Earth! A healthy planet needs healthy forests.

Approximately 30 percent of the earth’s surface is covered in all different types of forests, according to Elizabeth Mygatt, environmental researcher and author of the article, “World’s Forests Continue to Shrink.” Mygatt explains how forest ecosystems play a huge role in maintaining a healthy planet and provide essential ecosystem services, such as regulating water flows, influencing weather patterns, providing a habitat for wildlife, as well as supplying wood and food.

Our forest ecosystems at Derby Reach and Brae Island are very diverse, from bog to old-growth and second-growth forest, riparian forest, meadows and wetlands. We sadly do not have many old-growth areas left in Metro Vancouver and the southern coast. According to Ancient Forest Alliance, our remaining productive old-growth is 860,000 hectares, only 26% of original productive old-growth. We can’t go back in time to undo the damage of mass clearcutting but we can work together to ensure that our remaining old-growth areas are protected. And that new long-term forested areas be considered here throughout the City of Langley and beyond. Protecting forested areas, large and small, is imperative for the future health of our planet.

“Old-growth” forests are ancient forests that haven’t experienced unnatural changes, reaching maturity without having their growth cycles interrupted. These forests include a mixture of very old trees and younger ones, replacing the trees that have died naturally. Old-growth forests are complex ecosystems. An old-growth forest has multiple species of old trees, young trees, as well as dead and dying trees. The world’s remaining old-growth forests are those few that have not been impacted by industrial logging.

It was once thought that only young forests captured carbon from the atmosphere while they were growing, and that ancient forests only stored this carbon. Dr. Janet Trotter explains how more recent studies have shown that intact ancient forests still absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Researchers have found that as trees continue to grow and age their leaves also keep growing – this creates more uptake of carbon. Now it is commonly understood that bigger trees absorb more carbon from the atmosphere and that the oldest trees in a forest capture the most carbon from the atmosphere. Yay for clean air! But this is not the only reason to protect old-growth forests.

Older trees create valuable biodiversity because they support a wider range of species than younger trees. For example, snags are standing dead trees also known as ‘wildlife trees’ due to their value in providing food and shelter for wildlife among the cavities of the snag. Before and after a snag becomes a fallen tree, or log, its many stages of decay appeal to different birds, insects, and sometimes mammals. Old-growth forests are full of fallen trees, these logs are the “hot-spots” of the forest ecosystem. They provide nesting sites for insects, birds, and amphibians. They are an ideal starting point for fungi. They make for great ‘highway’ routes for smaller mammals as they trek through the forest floor. Plus, they promote versatile plant growth by providing rich nutrients for new plants to take root.

Not only do trees provide oxygen, food, and shelter for many organisms, including humans, during heavy rains, trees reduce the risk of flooding. Trees allow water to be drained into the ground and they prevent soil erosion along waterways. This is why DRBIPA is working with Metro Vancouver Regional Parks to build and maintain living retaining walls to help combat erosion along the coast of Brae Island. A strong forested wetland system provides natural watershed services, including water purification, groundwater and surface flow regulation, plus land loss reduction.

It is easy to take the benefits of our forests for granted when we don’t realize the dangers our forests face. We know we are lucky to live along the west coast, seemingly surrounded by canopies of trees. We are taking time to appreciate each and every tree we see, new and old. We can look to groups likes Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club BC, and the David Suzuki Foundation for more information and the best ways to preserve and protect our old-growth forests. It really does matter.

Taking Action for Environmental Sustainability

Written by Roxci Bevis, DRBIPA Program Coordinator – August 25, 2020

Nature is so amazing because it provides everything we need. It is not just a place to go to get some fresh air, it is home. Utilizing all that our natural environment has to offer us while appreciating its irreplaceable benefits is sustainability at its finest.

Sustainability happens when we meet our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. But is environmental sustainability really possible when we have collectively started to use more resources than what is safe for the planet each year? Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. And for 2020, this day unfortunately just passed us by on August 22nd.

Shocking, right!? We can’t solve the problem overnight but there are a few things we can all do now to take action:

  1. Hold politicians accountable. You can call, write, or email your MLA or MP to let them know what environmental policy changes you support and what you want them to focus on.
  2. Shop used. Stop by the thrift store when in need to save useful materials from ending up in the landfill and to save the natural resources to make something new. All while most often supporting a charity in need as well.
  3. Avoid one-time use items. Try alternatives like beeswax wraps and glass containers for lunches. Or plain recyclable paper and newspaper instead of printed wrapping paper for gifts. It’s sounds about time for the handkerchief to make a serious comeback, too.
  4. Volunteer. Sometimes the best way to take action is to support a local non-profit organization or charity working on environmental conservation efforts or policy change projects. Checkout Langley Volunteers for a list of places to volunteer in our community.
  5. Repair and reuse everything. Fixing broken items like electronics, toys, and appliances can reduce the environmental impact of having a replacement manufactured from raw materials. It also saves goods from having to be transported from far away.

Of course, our society’s waste and overconsumption problems do not fall solely on us as individuals. But there is a lot more we can do than just recycling and banning plastic bags. We can take action for an environmentally sustainable future by volunteering, contacting our legislative representatives, and avoiding one-time use items. And we can always choose to take a moment before purchasing something new – to think about the journey of that product from start to finish, all the materials and energy used, and if the item can be repaired or if there is an alternative easily available.

Sustainability depends on the actions we take now. What do you think is the best way to directly reduce our environmental impact right now? We’d love to hear your comments on social media!

Yay, It’s Finally Blackberry Season!

Written by Roxci Bevis, DRBIPA Program Coordinator – July 28, 2020

There sure is an abundance of blackberries in our neck of the woods right now and they are ready for harvest. Isn’t berry season the best? Celebrating these delicious and beautiful berries is easy. Especially while they seemingly line every gulley, trench, and trail around town.

Did you know this naturally sweet treat is not actually a berry at all? They are a flowering rubus fruit and part of the Rosaceae family, along with roses. No wonder they have such wonderfully scented and delicate white and pink flowers. Is it even possible to wander past an overgrown patch of blooming blackberries and not breathe in with delight at the remarkable aroma? From leaf to bud and flower to fruit, the blackberry lifecycle is a work of art for nature lovers.

Luckily for us, blackberries are everywhere! Now is the time of year to find local blackberries at the farmers’ market or to forage for them on our own. Cultivated widely by producers in our area for sale, the most well-known variety of blackberry is the Himalayan blackberry. Though this variety is an invasive plant. Most of the blackberries we see along roads, trails, and open areas are the invasive kind. They are quite hard to manage, threaten native plant species, and spread rapidly when not contained. Since birds love these tasty fruits as much as us humans do, they happily eat them and spread the seeds; along with deer, raccoons, and other animals.

Our region is home to one native blackberry variety. The pacific trailing blackberry, originally known as sqw’il’muxw to some of the First Nations throughout the unceded Coast Salish territories along the west coast. This trailing fruit often crawls along the forest floor and appears more like a vine than a bush, compared to the well-known and invasive Himalayan blackberry variety. The trailing blackberry is non-invasive, it does not disrupt the natural ecosystem. It lives in harmony with other native plants like the salmonberry, red huckleberry, and sword fern.

Different varieties of blackberries grow wild along the south coast of BC. And if you don’t mind getting a few prickles here and there, they can easily be foraged in areas where fruit picking is safe and permissible. There are so many places to find wild blackberries but be sure to avoid areas where picking is prohibited, like our regional and provincial parks. Remember that wild berries don’t grow as quickly as they do on farms. Completely clearing patches of wild berries while foraging is never okay because some animals depend on them for their diet. There are, however, still plenty to go around, and will be for the next few weeks.

If you plan on picking blackberries, here are some tips for a more enjoyable experience:

  • Don’t eat any berries you cannot identify with 100% certainty – some berries are poisonous
  • If picking in high-traffic city areas, it is best to wash berries before snacking or baking with them
  • Due to thorns and brambles, wear sturdy shoes or boots and long sleeves and pants
  • Blackberries don’t ripen once they’re off the stem so make sure they are ripe – ripe blackberries are black all over and should fall off the stem with a light touch
  • Wearing gloves can make it harder to tell if blackberries are ripe while picking them – though it is also critical to avoid spraying bug spray on bare hands when picking because the taste of the spray will transfer to berries
  • Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, but if needed, removing blackberry stains from clothes is possible – soak the stains in white vinegar as soon as possible and leave to sit for 30-60 minutes, then rinse with cold water and wash as usual

Staying prepared for everything nature and the weather can throw our way makes a big difference when foraging. Due to the risk of bears in wild areas, it is smart to go with a family member or friend and keep the noise level up. Lookout for stinging nettle and poison ivy, these can sometimes be a hazard of berry picking in forested wetlands. No matter what, gathering a pail of berries while spending time outdoors getting some fresh air and exercise makes it a worthwhile activity, for sure.

Blackberries are great fresh and when used for desserts, jams, purees, smoothies, freezing, and so much more. The antioxidant benefits of this vitamin-filled fruit is there whatever way you enjoy them. The leaves of blackberries also have traditional medicinal uses, such as making teas from the leaves for stomach ache remedies, or from the roots for diarrhea. Aren’t blackberries incredible?

A fruit worthy of praise! And since berry season will be over sooner than we think, let’s not miss the chance to appreciate these edible gems while we can.

5 Ways To Bring The Outdoors In

Written by Roxci Bevis, DRBIPA Program Coordinator – June 22, 2020

Birds chirping, a flowing stream trickling in the distance, the wind whistling through a thick canopy of trees. We know the outdoors relaxes us. We know the forest soothes us. The fresh air and the sounds of natural wildlife habitat can help us slow down and enjoy life through the busiest of times.

Though it can be hard to get out on the trails and into the forest regularly to reap the benefits of being surrounded by nature – we can still use our senses at home to help feel the relaxing effects of nature and all its beauty. Here are our top 5 ways to bring the outdoors in.

#1. Feel

Surround yourself with a variety of indoor plants. Aim for air-purifying plants LIKE peace lily, snake plant, and gerbera daisies to feel the benefits of fresh clean air in the home. Watering house plants helps us feel more connected to our environment and can provide a quick nature-themed break during a busy day.

#2. Smell

Fill your space with your favourite outdoor scents. A smell can be a powerful reminder, it is an easy way to feel nature around us and bring home those relaxing vibes. Try a diffuser, potpourri, or some fresh cut flowers. Let your mind wander to the forest for comfort with the scent of cedar and pine or berries and wildflowers.

#3. See

Art! Think about displaying your favourite nature scenes on your walls by using paintings or blown-up photos. There are many local artists to choose from or use your own photos! Highlighting an accent wall is another great way to incorporate relaxing visuals into your space with a nature-themed mural or natural material.

#4. Listen

Play nature music or sounds while getting work done at home, it can make a difference. Add an indoor water feature, big or small, for an instant feeling of being surrounded by the sounds of nature. Wind chimes outside a window also remind us that nature is always out there waiting for us.

#5. Taste

Use earthy ingredients like mushrooms when cooking at home for a sense of the forest in each bite. Even better, cook with foraged edible plants like fiddleheads and salmonberries to feel one with nature and all it offers. Shopping in the local section at the store or at the farmers market can also help introduce some new locally sourced foods into our diets.

These are just a few of the ways to bring small doses of nature indoors to positively influence mood and health. If you’re feeling stuck at home because of the pandemic or can’t get outside often enough to enjoy our natural green spaces there is still a lot that can be done to bring our natural world in.

Spring Blossoms: What’s Flowering Now at Derby Reach

Written by Roxci Bevis, DRBIPA Program Coordinator – April 28, 2020

During these challenging times, while we are all doing our best to practice social and physical distancing measures it is also important to practice self-care. Getting some fresh air, taking a nature walk and appreciating our natural environment is one of the many wonderful ways some of us incorporate self-care into our everyday lives.

Good news! Most regional parks are open at this time. Metro Vancouver Regional Parks recognizes that spending time in nature is an effective way to reduce stress and support physical and mental wellbeing – their goal is to continue to provide the Regional Parks service that is such an important part of so many peoples’ daily health routines.

And of course, April showers bring May flowers, but guess what? We already have lots in bloom at Derby Reach Regional Park! We want you to enjoy the blossoming plant life of our local wetlands before these early spring flowers disappear – even if you can’t get out to the park in person.

Here is what you’ll currently find flowering along the Houston Trail at Derby Reach, as the spring freshet advances and rainy season begins:

Spanish Bluebell, Wood Hyacinth (Hyacinthoides Hispanica)

Wood hyacinths look like little bluebells and are also called Spanish bluebells – but are, in fact, not bluebells. Unlike other kinds of bluebells, wood hyacinths are bulbs rather than herbaceous perennials. These are found in sunny spots along the trails at Derby Reach, they are blue in the park but can also be found in white and pink.

Cherry Laurel (Prunus Laurocerasus)

Cherry laurel is evergreen, cultivated widely as shrubs or small trees perfect for a bit of privacy because it copes well with difficult growing conditions. Did you know the leaves can have the scent of almonds when crushed? But don’t ingest this plant because it is poisonous and may cause severe discomfort to us humans.

Double Flowered Japanese Rose (Kerria Japonica Pleniflora)

This rose shrub has double yellow flowers that resemble pom-poms. It can be a high maintenance shrub that requires regular care and upkeep, but it also grows beautifully in the wild among the trees at Derby Reach.

Perennial Honesty (Lunaria Rediviva)

These bright pink flowers are currently scattered throughout the park dotting the trails of Derby Reach. They are very low maintenance and grown worldwide for their fragrant flowers and papery seedpod partitions, which are a favourite for many in dried-flower arrangements.

Little-Robin (Geranium Purpureum)

Little-robin is an herb with tiny but beautiful pink flowers, among the first blooms available for early pollinators in our area. It is an invasive species (but no one seems to mind because they are so pretty and easy to get rid of compared to ivy or other invasives) and grows in rocky, stony places favouring grasslands and woodlands.

Western Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton Americanus)

Skunk cabbage is a perennial wildflower that blooms very early in spring and grows in marshy, wet areas of woodlands. Skunk cabbage can be beneficial in the garden because it attracts pollinating insects but deters squirrels and raccoons from getting to your vegetables before they are ready to harvest – but be careful because skunk cabbage can be quite poisonous to humans and our pets.

Stream Violet (Viola Glabella)

Also called yellow wood violet or pioneer violet, stream violet is very shade-tolerant and loves nitrogen-rich soil and cooler environments. It grows well along streams and in damp clearings. It is a common native species throughout most of BC and uniquely hybridizes with Queen Charlotte twinflower violet on Haida Gwaii.

Wild Cherry (Prunus Avium)

Wild cherries have been a sweet source of nutrients for humans and other wildlife for several thousands of years. It is one of the main species which supply most of the world’s commercial cultivars of edible cherry. The species has also escaped from cultivation and become naturalised in some temperate regions, like here at Derby Reach and all over Metro Vancouver.

Forget Me Not (Myosotis Sylvatica)

Silvatica means ‘growing in the woods, forest-loving’ but the name Forget Me Not is folklore. The most common account of the naming of this flower comes from Germany, involving a couple comprised of a woman and a male knight, who were strolling along the Danube River when they spotted a blue-flowered plant dislodged by the water and about to be swept downstream. With the desire to save it, the knight leapt into the water. The current was too swift and as he was being pulled in to the water, he threw the flowers onto the bank, calling out, “Vergiss mein nicht”, or forget-me-not.

Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Formosa)

Bleeding Hearts are a shade-loving plant that really attract hummingbirds and once you plant a bleeding heart, you can enjoy the bright flowers for years to come. The heart shape of the flower is formed by its two outer petals, which saccate at the base, in botany-talk.

Salmonberry (Rubus Spectabilis)

Salmonberries grow along the entire coast of BC and have bright pink flowers that bloom early in the spring and ripen in May or June. They are a crucial flower option for early spring pollinators and the tart but edible berries are great for humans, birds, and other wildlife to enjoy.

5 Reasons to Get Outside this Winter

Written by Roxci Bevis, DRBIPA Program Coordinator – January 25, 2020

There are some fantastic reasons to get into nature and enjoy the outdoors, even when it’s oh so cold outside.

If you prepare for the weather conditions it can be easy to appreciate these important benefits:

Fresh Air
Fresh air is crucial for our well-being even when we want to be bundled up indoors all day to avoid the snow, slush, and freezing rain.

Learn Lots
Seeing how our environment changes throughout the seasons can be inspiring and informative.

Boosts Metabolism
When it is cold our bodies work harder to stay warm and we burn more energy.

Cheer Up
Feeling the warmth of daylight, especially on shorter winter days makes most of us perk up instantly.

Energize Yourself
Getting our heart rate up for a few minutes while being out in the cold can give us a burst of energy.

Being out in nature is a wonderful way to relax and unwind no matter what the season. We hope to see you out and about on the trails on Brae Island and Derby Reach this winter! You can find trail warnings and alerts for Metro Vancouver Regional Parks HERE.

The Invasion of the Orchids

Written by Jeremy Smith and Joan Martin, DRBIPA Members & Langley Field Naturalists – August 20, 2019

It’s the invasion of the orchids! Well, not quite, but there is an introduced orchid spreading across our region that acts like a weed. Its name is the Broad Leaved Helleborine or Epipactis Helleborine. One of the members of Derby Reach Brae Island Parks Association spotted it on the Tavistock Trail on Brae Island, where it appears to be spreading.

This is an unassuming little plant, 35 – 50 cm tall, with a single stalk and purple flowers along the upper stem. When you bend down and look closely, you see they are indeed orchid flowers. It is classed as an invasive alien in parts of the United States. It will probably become a lot more common in our area over the next few years. It is very adaptable, growing in disturbed areas such as gardens and roadsides, as well as more natural forested areas.

Don’t let its small size fool you though, there is a lot going on with this plant. Firstly, all orchids need an association with a symbiotic fungus, at least when they are seedlings. The seeds are almost as fine as dust and the fungus helps this tiny, tiny plant extract nutrients and water from the environment. Many orchids maintain this mycorrhizal symbiosis all their lives. Secondly, the sweet nectar contains small amounts of opioids. Yes indeed, insects respond to opioids. This neurochemical response may be 100 million years old or more. The wasps and other hymenoptera insects that pollinate these flowers may have been addicted for a long, long time!

Is It Safe to Feed Wildlife In Our Parks?

Written by Roxci Bevis, DRBIPA Program Coordinator – June 17, 2019

Many people feed wildlife without realizing the negative effects this can cause for both animals and people. Sometimes we want to see animals up close and encourage them over to us with food or think the animals are hungry because it feels like they are begging for food. other times, feeding the animals is just an accident, like when we leave food waste behind without disposing of it properly.

Even though it is tempting to feed the wildlife in our parks it is not safe to do so and here are just a few reasons why:

  • “People” food is not healthy for animals and can make them sick, especially bread and popcorn, common items people feed to birds.
  • It makes animals lose their natural fear of humans leading them to gather in recreational and residential areas which poses many safety concerns.
  • Feeding wildlife near cars contributes to animals feeling safe near moving vehicles, getting hit more often – and also leads to animals breaking into people’s cars to try and find food.
  • When food is provided regularly animals may become dependent on it without finding their own source of food leading to young animals not learning how to find natural food sources on their own. If the human food source is removed the animals may starve.

Feeding wild animals, whether on purpose or not, does more harm than good. This is one of the reasons DRBIPA Volunteers work so hard to conserve our parks, to ensure the natural habitat for wild animals is protected now and in the future.

The best way we can help our environment and all our animal friends is to support native plant growth, and protect natural shelter for animals along with their natural food and water supply. Let’s keep wildlife wild!