Phys-ed classes protect Nanaimo marshland

With May being Invasive Plant Awareness Month, the City of Nanaimo and high school students are teaming to remove reed canary grass.

May is Invasive Plant Awareness Month in the City of Nanaimo. As part of that, Reanna Shelling, a biologist contracted through the city, will work with students from Nanaimo District Secondary School to remove reed canary grass from an area near the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

May is Invasive Plant Awareness Month in the City of Nanaimo. As part of that, Reanna Shelling, a biologist contracted through the city, will work with students from Nanaimo District Secondary School to remove reed canary grass from an area near the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

With May being Invasive Plant Awareness Month, the City of Nanaimo and high school students are teaming to remove reed canary grass from Jingle Pot marsh.

Reanna Shelling is a biologist contracted by the city for restoration project outreach and said the plant is troublesome, especially with a lot of native plant species germinating at this time of year. The grass spreads through seeds and underground stems (rhizomes).

“The reed canary grass will really, quickly monopolize an area, so it makes a really homogenous community and it shades out anything else that tries to grow … it’s so dense, it kind of changes the nutrient cycling of an area from a more ecological perspective,” Shelling said.

“It can also change the hydrology a little bit too because it kind of catches the silt. It prevents other plants from growing up, like trees, that could also have an effect.”

There are two project sites that are being used for restoration experiments. The plant is cut with weed eaters and at one site, the plant is covered with black plastic pond liner because it takes away its ability to photosynthesize. The other site is not covered.

Shelling will work with students from Nanaimo District Secondary School. Two physical education classes will be tasked with helping in reed canary grass removal and replanting a native plant, Vancouver Island beggarticks.

Murray Carver, Nanaimo District PE teacher, said there’s an outdoor education piece to the classes and similar work has been done in the past. It’s a good fit, Carver said.

“It’s a community action project that we’ve done in the past with [the city] and I thought that was sort of the leadership piece that we’re doing with these two classes … so that’s sort of the tie-in,” he said. “Plus they’re going to be getting their hands dirty and learning a little bit about invasive species and the native species that we’re planting.”

Carver said it gets students involved in the community and hopes doing this kind of work will get them more involved going forward.

“It’s kind of a semi-volunteer situation,” said Carver. “We’re using some class time, but we’re also learning a little bit about nature … we’re also getting an opportunity to plant some seeds and maintain them and see them grow a little bit.”

reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

Nanaimo News Bulletin