A BioBlitz in the Cardinal Divide

July 7, 2023
By: cpawsstaff

Field Notes from the Cardinal Divide

The Cardinal Divide Conservation Coalition (CDCC)  hosted a bioblitz in the Cardinal Divide and Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park region from July 14th to 16th. The Cardinal Divide Conservation Coalition is a group of biologists, botanists, park stewards, and environmental organizations invested in the ecological integrity of the region. It has members from the Alberta Native Plant Council, Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park Stewards, Plant Watch Alberta, Alberta Wilderness Association, and CPAWS Northern Alberta. This event was generously supported by the Alberta Conservation Association. 

BioBlitz’s are an engaging way to connect the public to nature while participating in a meaningful activity that contributes to collective scientific knowledge! The objective of this bioblitz was to document and collect as much information on species occurrences throughout the region over the course of the weekend. This will help inform conservation management of the region in a way that engages the community in experiential learning. We hope to encourage more people to get outdoors and notice the natural world around them. 

A BioBlitz in the Cardinal Divide

An Important Area to Highlight

Part of the region of interest has recently been submitted for consideration to be designated a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) due to the presence of Porsild’s Bryum Moss and other unique species – making it a particularly special place to host a BioBlitz. If more occurrences of Porsild’s Bryum are found it could inform a boundary expansion for the KBA during the next review. Additionally, the CDCC believes that the region is ecologically important in Alberta beyond what was put forward in the KBA submission and would like to draw greater attention and appreciation to the special characteristics of the region.  

The region is also heavily impacted by coal mining activities, and recreational interests. The Cheviot mine site will be undergoing Land Management Plan in the near future. A secondary goal of this BioBlitz is to reinvigorate folks with interest in the area and build community among them, ahead of a land use planning process so that the environmental interests are represented and supported by an educated public in the land use planning process. 

Curious to know which species can be found in the Cardinal Divide? Our team has put together species lists of all the mammals, birds, plants and butterflies found in the region. 

Cardinal Divide Species Lists

What is a BioBlitz, Exactly?

A BioBlitz is a citizen science event that brings together experts and community members to document as many species as possible within a designated area in a short period of time. The objective of hosting a BioBlitz in Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park/Cardinal Divide Region is to increase our understanding of the biodiversity within the park and the surrounding region, to engage the community in the scientific process, and to raise awareness about the importance of preserving natural habitats.  

The BioBlitz took place over the course of a weekend, with experts leading different groups to different areas of the region to document as many species as possible.  

The data collected during the BioBlitz will be used to create an inventory of the species present in the area, which can then be used to inform conservation and management decisions. The event also provided an opportunity for community members to learn about the area’s biodiversity, and to appreciate the importance of preserving natural habitats.  

This was an opportunity for community members to learn about the area’s biodiversity, and to appreciate the importance of preserving natural habitats. 

A BioBlitz in the Cardinal Divide

Results so Far From the BioBlitz

To conduct the bioblitz we used and iNaturalist project. We had around 30 people out over the course of the weekend logging observations to our iNaturalist project. We are still waiting for all of the observations to be uploaded and ID’d . But so far as of July 27th we have:  

https://inaturalist.ca/projects/cardinal-divide-conservation-coalition-bioblitz-2023 

  • 1,596 observations 
  • 399 species 
  • 27 observers 

Including: 

  • 30 Birds 
  • 8 Mammals 
  • 69 Fungi 
  • 48 Insects 
  • 4 Arachnids 
  • 239 Plants 
A BioBlitz in the Cardinal Divide

We are so grateful to all the naturalists, experts, and scientists who came out over the weekend. Some of the folks quite literally wrote the book on some of the plant species in this area. (PS. You can get a copy of the Wildflowers of Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park written by local botanists through the Alberta Native Plant Council website.) 

Highlights for the CPAWS team included: 

  • Identifying a spectacular and weird looking fungus pushing up through the forest floor – Sarcosphaera crassa or crown cup.
  • Making our way up to a high alpine wildflower filled meadow where we found multiple colours of Paintbrush, Larkspur, Harebell, Fireweed, White Death Camus (poisonous), Cinquefoils, and Monkshood
  • Spending an afternoon up on the Cardinal Divide catching, identifying and releasing Butterflies.

The Cardinal Divide Conservation Coalition is a group of biologists, botanists, park stewards, and environmental organizations invested in the ecological integrity of the region. It has members from the Alberta Native Plant Council, Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park Stewards, Plant Watch Alberta, Alberta Wilderness Association, and CPAWS Northern Alberta. This event was generously supported by the Alberta Conservation Association. 

Donations go a very long way to put on community events like this one and help make them accessible to as many as possible. Consider making a donation to our chapter today. 

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