Pink Mountain is an ideal location for many kinds of Arctic /alpine research. The summit plateau offers tundra, geological phenomena, most arctic/alpine plants, insects and butterflies. It is relatively close and has road access. The summit is long but narrow making any research site only a short distance from the road.
Botanical Studies: A wide range of Arctic/alpine plants occur here that are otherwise hard to access.
Geomorphology studies: Features such as Permafrost, Solifluction terraces, Frost boils, Tundra and rock rivers occur on the summit.
Insect studies: Numerous species of Arctic/alpine butterflies occur here including undescribed subspecies. A wide range of pollinators is also available for study.
Climate Change studies: Most arctic/alpine features along with the plants, insects and animals will be quickly affected by climate change.
Photographs by Ron Lon
Currently three studies are under way:
Pink Mountain Biodiversity Research Initiative
By Reid, A.M. and Long, R.
The aim of this research initiative is to scientifically validate the strong anecdotal evidence that Pink Mountain supports one of the highest concentrations of rare biodiversity in all of British Columbia. Many blue and red listed plant species are found on Pink Mountain, alone providing ample cause for further scientific investigation. However, it is important to understand the drivers behind this unique community of rare alpine and arctic plant species. To investigate these drivers and the cumulative biodiversity of this distinctive area we propose to study not only the plant community but also the soil structure, chemistry, and biology; the insect community with a focus on pollinator species; the songbirds and raptors; and the large and small mammals that reside on Pink Mountain. We will also compare this site with adjacent mountaintops of similar geography and climate in order to assess the relative diversity. The dates of seed set will be observed providing data for eventual seed collection and the introduction of new, native alpines to gardeners. This study is of extreme importance as it documents the current biodiversity of a unique ecosystem that could provide educational, and research opportunities.
The Pink Mountain Biodiversity study will be carried out by soil, plant, bird, mammal and insect specialists who are volunteering their time.
Pink Mountain is located on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in northern British Columbia, Canada and is thought to have the highest alpine and arctic plant diversity in BC. One of the reasons for exceptionally high plant diversity is due to the southern most range extension of several arctic species such as Rhododendron lapponicum (Figure 1). Similarly, it is the northern most extension of several alpine plant species such as Castilleja occidentalis and Oxytropis podocarpa (Figure 2). From these range limits, it is clear that Pink Mountain is situated in just the right location to harbour a unique collection of alpine and arctic plants. Furthermore, they are extremely rare alpine and arctic plant species that cannot just be found anywhere. Two red listed and ten blue listed plant species exist on Pink Mountain (Table 1).
Very little is known about pollinators in BC, furthermore even less is known about alpine pollinators, which are scarce relative to lower elevations. During the summer of 2010 preliminary baseline pollinator diversity surveys were conducted. From this study, a bee species Melanosmia aquilonaria never before documented in British Columbia was recorded. Further, Pink Mountain is known to support rare and abundant alpine butterfly species. This research has the opportunity to indentify new species of pollinators never before described or found in this province. To catalogue these new species, the Pink Mountain Biodiversity Research Initiative (PMBRI) is collaborating with the Canadian Pollination Initiative (CANPOLIN) that is currently working on classifying the pollinators of Canada. There is very little research being conducted in BC let alone in the alpine making the PMBRI an essential contribution to this significant endeavor.
Table 1. A list of red and blue listed plant species present on Pink Mountain.
Alopecurus alpinus, Alpine Foxtale
Luzula confusa, Northern Wood Rush
Polemonium boreale, Northern Jacob's Ladder
Silene involucrata spp. Involucrata, Arctic Campion
Androsace chamaejasme, Rock Jasmine
Ranunculus pedatifidus spp. Affinis, Bird Foot Buttercup
Festuca, minutiflora, Little Festuca
Gymnocarpium jessoense spp. Parvulum, Asian Oak Fern
Luzula rufescens, Rusty Wood Rush
Oxytropis jordalii spp.Davisii, Davis Locoweed
Rumex paucifolius, Alpine sheep sorrel
Carex rupestris, Rock Sedge
Limited plant collections on Pink Mountain over forty years have identified a high number of listed plants that is unheard of for any location north of Vancouver. A thorough plant collection has never been carried out. One of the objectives of this research is to make complete collections of Flowering plants, Grasses, Ferns, Mosses and Lichens. The taxonomy of these collections will be carried out by experts in the respective plant groups.
Soil cores will be collected during the summer season and their Ph values assessed.
Pan traps will be set out in accordance with standardized Canadian Pollination Initiatives (CANPOLIN) protocol for pollinator collection twice a month at three elevations to assess pollinator community diversity and abundance. Taxonomic experts with in the CANPOLIN network will identify pollinators collected. Unique or difficult specimens will be genetically barcoded in order to confirm new species or records. This data will be incorporated into the CANPOLIN database and further their efforts to document pollinator diversity within BC.
It is already known that Pink Mountain is a unique location. Why it is unique is unknown and the primary objective of this study is to answer that question. In the process, baselines will be established for the usage, population numbers and activities for plants, animals and birds on the summit plateau.
The results of this research will be used to support a proposal for the establishment of an Ecological Reserve on Pink Mountain.
PMBRI research was begun in July of 2013 with the geo-tagging of hundreds of individual plants of interest.These Lat/Long data points will be plotted on a map of the Pink Mountain summit to delineate areas to be preserved and/or developed for resource extraction.Geo-tagging will continue during the field season of 2014.
A visit to Pink Mountain in early September 2013 resulted in seed of 66 species being collected. Ultimately this collection will be used to produce a larger supply of seed that can be used by interested growers as well as to restore areas of the Pink Mountain summit after resource extraction. Germination tests of a sample of the collected seeds show a very high level of viability.
Seed collecting will continue in August 2014.
Polemonium boreale - Blue list Silene involucrata - Blue list
Germination tests were highly successful.
PMBRI: Plan for 2014. In the coming field season we expect to accomplish a great deal. We have numerous experts who have volunteered their time so expenses will be limited to food and shelter while people are working at Pink Mountain. Studies will be carried out on soils, on Pink Mountain and on adjacent mountains; on insects by professional entomologists; on birds to extend the list that was begun in 2013; on mammals, large and small; on butterflies to determine if we have any additional red or blue listed sp or ssp; on plants to complete our collections. As well we have and expert videographer who will produce a research video for us at no cost.
The projected budget for 2014 will require us to raise an additional $40,000.
The Caribou Nutrition Study
Large mammal biologists from the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George are investigating the theory that climate change is causing plants in alpine feeding areas to mature early. If this is the case, there may not be sufficiently nutritious grazing available to Caribou during the critical August feeding period. At this time calves are still nursing and just beginning to feed on plants. If they are unable to put on enough weight during the short alpine summer they may not survive the winter.
Preparation for the study involved hand raising two generations of Woodland Caribou and training them to tolerate being transported by stock trailer to different locations.
In the field 2 ha enclosures are built and two female Caribou and their calves are placed in each.
The Caribou are painstakingly observed during regular twenty-minute segments during which every mouthful the Caribou take is carefully recorded. Samples of the plants that the Caribou are choosing to feed on are collected and analyzed in the lab for their nutritional value. The fieldwork is carried out in July and again in August in the same locations and the nutritional value of the diet is compared.
This work will require several field seasons to provide conclusive results and may lead to measures that will help British Columbia’s Woodland Caribou survive in the long run.
Pink Mountain is important to the Caribou Nutrition study as it is one of just a very few alpine locations that are accessible by road in British Columbia. Since Caribou rely extensively on alpine feeding areas the study benefits significantly from the accessible and unspoiled alpine summit of Pink Mountain.
It is worth mentioning that wild Caribou make extensive use of the Pink Mountain summit and are seen almost daily.
Pink Mountain Climate Change Study
Pink Mountain provides spectacular study sites
A number of the plants on Pink Mountain are growing on either the northern edge of their range or the southern edge of their range. Since plants growing on the edge will be affected first by climate change Pink Mountain is ideally located to study the early effects of change in the alpine tundra environment.
3 cm aluminum tags are attached to the plants with stainless steel wire
During the field season of 2013 Anna Maria Csergo PhD began a five-year study by tagging and taking measurements of 600 individual plants of seven different species. Species were chosen to include plants on the north or south edge of their range as well as plants that are more or less growing in the centre of their range. The latter species will act as a control.
Non-woody and very small plants are encircled with wire and the tag anchored with a nail
Each year the 600 plants will be relocated via GPS data and measurements repeated.
Anna’s very detailed work also revealed more individual plants of a number of species of interest including several blue listed species. This added to the known numbers and is encouraging but in all cases the populations are still small.
Anna also added significantly to the rarely seen plant list by discovering Saxifraga oppositifolia on Pink Mountain.
Weather in July hampered but did not stop the research