UBC Undergraduate Research

The Vital Importance of Biodiversity at UBC Cascading Fountain Lee-Wardell, Samantha; Lin, Melissa; Sha, Jeff; Wong, Alene


The University of British Columbia has committed to enhancing biodiversity and sustainability on campus. In order to build a path to meet this goal, the cascading fountain along University Boulevard is recommended to be established as a biodiversity feature. A large component of the fountain environment was made up of algal mats that were identified to the genus level as Mougeotia spp.. This genus forms the base of ecological productivity in the fountain environment. Additionally, high productivity allows the fountain to support a diverse amount of aquatic life, spanning multiple trophic levels. The cascading fountain’s potential to be a biodiversity feature at UBC is further addressed, based on the fountain’s biodiversity and interactions within the fountain community. To better understand the environment in the cascading fountain, algae samples were taken to understand the algae community and its’ interactions with the environment, as well as other organisms. Additionally, further sampling to obtain photos of fountain biodiversity was conducted by collecting surface and benthic algal mats to identify aquatic insects residing in the algae. A variety of algae species, insects, freshwater zooplankton, and microscopic organisms were identified. To quantify the biodiversity in the fountain, a biodiversity catalogue of organisms found was created. These findings are relevant to initiatives incorporating biodiversity on campus such as the Campus Biodiversity Initiative Research & Demonstration (CBIRD), Integrated Stormwater Management Plan, and emerging Urban Forest Management Strategy and emerging Biodiversity Strategy. All of which have goals aligned with the goals of this project: to improve the biodiversity at UBC. Additionally, as established in UBC’s 2018 strategic plan, this establishment of a biodiversity feature will succeed in meeting numerous goals such as leading globally in research excellence, discovery and creative endeavours, inspire and enable students through excellence in transformative teaching and student experience, and becoming a leader both globally and locally in sustainability, well-being, and safety across our campuses and communities. UBC published a 20-year sustainability document in 2014, which states 3 main goals: teaching, learning and research, operations and infrastructure and the engagement of UBC community. There are various courses that could benefit from an established biodiversity feature the size of the cascading fountain including Ecohydrology, Insect Ecology Courses, and Aquatic Plant Ecology. iNaturalist and Bioblitz can increase the participation of communities in citizen science, and help UBC gain global exposure. Visitors and students on campus actively inquired during sampling about the goal of the project. All were pleased to know there was the potential to continue to foster biodiversity on campus. We suggest signage to be implemented, in order to showcase some of the diversity in the cascading fountain. This will assist in bridging education to the community, as well as for students and faculty on campus. 3 Several recommendations were made for after the establishment of the fountain as a biodiversity piece that should be maintained to help with the recirculation, maintenance, and improvement of the biodiversity of the fountain. To improve the functionality of the cascading fountain, a copper mesh can be installed over the cistern to act as a filter to catch free floating algae, preventing the clogging of pipes when water is being recirculated. Secondly, to maintain the biodiversity of the fountain, potted lily pads can be added to provide surface coverage to visually hide some of the algae growth. Adding lily pads can be beneficial as they provide additional habitat, shade, and food to various aquatic insects and organisms in addition to providing coverage of the algal mats; increasing the aesthetics. Maintenance practices (annual cutting of all aquatic reeds) should be altered. Cutting only a portion of the reeds allows dragonflies and damselflies to lay their eggs in the aquatic environment throughout the season. This increases the populations of larvae found in the aquatic environment, further fostering biodiversity. Lastly, future research should be done to quantify the biodiversity present in the fountain to allow more accurate measure of changes in biodiversity from the current successional stage of the fountain. Additionally, continued sampling of nutrient concentrations, algae bloom composition, and species richness need to be continued through spring and summer seasons as these are vital seasons for both algae blooms and insect life cycles. This information is essential to further understand the nutrient cycling of the system which will benefit future research projects. Further information collected on the species composition of the fountain will assist in expanding information for signage, if installed in the future. Moreover, further investigation into the native and invasive plants species will be relevant to future decisions made toward planting plans. Given the cascading fountain’s central location, the fountain has the potential to engage the community and offer an on-campus learning site for students and faculty of UBC. The establishment of the fountain to become a biodiversity feature will undoubtedly benefit the entire UBC community. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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