Pink Mountain Biodiversity research Initiative

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In the far north of British Columbia and on the eastern-most edge of the Rocky Mountains lies Pink Mountain. Its unique combination of altitude, latitude and geology makes Pink Mountain one of a kind in the province. The summit plateau of Pink Mountain is entirely Arctic/Alpine tundra – one of the harshest environments on earth. In spite of this the biodiversity on Pink Mountain is astonishing but it is the community of rare and rarely seen plants that truly sets it apart. There is a greater number of red listed (in immediate danger of extinction in BC) and blue listed (severely threatened in BC) plants on Pink Mountain than any other location north of Vancouver. In addition, there are dozens of Arctic/Alpine species that are rarely seen because of their remote habitat. Also, there are plants on Pink Mountain that shouldn’t be there.

One of the best/worst features of Pink Mountain is the road access to the summit. The road makes an enormous Arctic/Alpine laboratory available to researchers. It is also a prime contributor to several of the current threats to this rich eco-system.Androsace_chamaejasme.jpg

There are many unanswered questions about Pink Mountain. No ecological survey has ever been done and much research is needed. What is already apparent is that Pink Mountain is a very special place. Now, it appears that runaway resource development is about to totally destroy this unique-in-the-province site.

PHOTO GALLERY

PLANT LIST

RED AND BLUE LISTED SPECIES

Pink Mountain is located 120 km north of Fort St. John in northern British Columbia. This mountain is unique in the province for its rich flora and fauna. Preliminary studies on the flora of the summit plateau reveal that Pink Mountain hosts more red- and blue-listed species (endangered or threatened) than any other location in the province north of Vancouver (Conservation Data Centre information). To date, 11 red- and blue-listed plant species have been identified. In addition to the listed species, Pink Mountain also hosts a number of botanical curiosities. For example, the southernmost populations of some arctic species, such as the rare Rhododendron lapponicum can be found. Two species of orchids not otherwise known to occur in tundra habitats are located on the mountain, while sub-alpine plants such as Zygadenus elegans can be found on the tundra summit. The exquisite and odd can also be found: two miniature gentians and a rare corydalis are also here, as are five species of the partially-parasitic pedicularis.

The exceptional plant biodiversity of Pink Mountainis matched by an extensive fauna. Large populations of elk, moose, whitetail deer, stone sheep, mountain caribou and black bear frequent the mountain, as well as smaller rarely-seen animals like the pine marten. The mountaintop supports a substantial population of hoary marmots and a diversity of birds like the golden eagle and horned lark. Pink Mountain is known worldwide in the butterfly community for its assemblage of rare arctic butterfly species. Geologically, Pink Mountain is also the southernmost occurrence of permafrost in BC. Much of this is recent knowledge and has been determined although no comprehensive biodiversity survey has ever been done on Pink Mountain by qualified scientists.

Despite its importance to B.C. biodiversity, Pink Mountain is under threat from a proposed wind farm and from gas well development that is already under way. If steps are not taken by the provincial government to preserve at least a portion of the summit plateau it could all be lost. A letter writing campaign over the past two years has made the provincial government aware of the special assemblage of plant and animal species on the mountain and has pressed for the creation of a preserve on a portion of the summit. So far, results have been disappointing.Coeloglossum_viride.jpg

Presentations to nature societies and gardening clubs around the province have generated significant interest from club members wanting to preserve the ecological integrity of Pink Mountain. A proposed Pink Mountain Biodiversity Research Initiative (PMBRI), intended to further document and study the flora and fauna of Pink Mountain, has been endorsed by executives of the Native Plant Society, the Vancouver Natural History Society and the Alpine Garden Club of BC. These organizations have all made significant contributions to the funding of this research. This scientific initiative is being Spearheaded and directed by the UBC Botanical Garden. PMBRI will involve a three-month field study to cover the entire bloom and seed-set period of the flora of Pink Mountain, with a preceding planning period. Several months of lab and herbarium analysis will follow the field study. Seeds will be collected for propagation and for eventual distribution to gardeners through a seed exchange program. The hope is that scientific evidence that documents the special nature of Pink Mountain will persuade the government to create a preserve that will protect at least a portion of the mountain. Club members are being asked to contribute to this research initiative. For further information contact Ron Long at rlphoto@shaw.ca .

For information on how to donate to this initiiative click HERE.