Upper Skagit Tribe’s BioBlitz counts hundreds of species in restored habitat

Volunteers from Alderleaf Wilderness College investigate scat near Hansen Creek during the Upper Skagit Tribe’s BioBlitz.

The Upper Skagit Tribe recruited scientists and volunteers to help document the plant and animal life taking advantage of restored habitat along Hansen Creek.

A few years ago, the tribe partnered with other agencies to restore 140 acres of freshwater floodplain and wetland habitat within the Skagit County-owned Northern State Recreation Area near the Upper Skagit reservation.

Last summer, Upper Skagit hosted a 12-hour BioBlitz, a “citizen science extravaganza,” to develop a species list reflecting the site’s biodiversity. Volunteers assisted scientists in identifying plants, mammals, birds, macroinvertebrates, fungi and insects. In all, 296 species were documented, including mayflies and midges, herons and warblers, lichen and fungus, and beavers and skunks.

“The Hansen Creek BioBlitz was a great success thanks to all the amazing experts and volunteers who came out and participated,” said environmental specialist Lisa Hainey. “We hope to conduct another BioBlitz at a different time of year to see other species. Who knows what else might be out there?”

Hansen Creek is critical habitat for ESA-listed steelhead and chinook, as well as pink, coho and chum salmon. Juvenile salmon rear in the extensive restored wetlands, where insects and other invertebrates are the base of a complex food web. Many species of benthic macroinvertebrates can survive only in high-quality waters, so their presence can be an indicator of clean water.

A biodiverse ecosystem is resilient to changes from development and climate change.

“Biologically diverse habitats provide water purification, air purification and nutrient recycling,” Hainey said. “Some ecologists have compared having high biodiversity to having a diverse stock portfolio.”

For more information, contact: Lisa Hainey, environmental specialist, Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, 360- 854-7010 or [email protected]; Kari Neumeyer, information officer, NWIFC, 360-424-8226 or [email protected].