Herptology; What is a herptologist?

What a question in the middle of winter, however as spring approaches ~ “Where are the frogs?” is a most excellent query!!!

“Stewards of Saskatchewan” is a voluntary program of the provincial group Nature Saskatchewan.  With this program, volunteer stewards collectively monitor population data on various at risk species.  One of these is the Northern Leopard Frog, (Lithobates pipiens or Rana pipiens) designated as Special Concern in Canada

Please report to the Stewards of Saskatchewan SOS survey, if you sight one of the species on their list.  Did you know that April is Frog month? Celebrate Frog Month with your family!  Find out how to become an amateur herpetologist this April!

Where might be one of the places in the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area where  a Northern Leopard Frog could be sighted?

The Chappell Marsh, the permanent wetlands of the West Swale contain water all the time.  But where are the temporary wetlands located?  This is exactly where the frogs are singing their merry songs.  This area for the lands east of  Chappell Marsh in the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is marked as a yellow oval on the attached map.  The Northern Leopard Frog, sings just to the west of the southwest off leash recreation area.

FrogMap
Northern Leopard Frog, Rana Pipiens Map

Just as farmers watch the weather; “In dry years, arable agriculture can fail over large parts of the province, whilst in wet years, flooding has caused widespread damage to rural and urban infrastructure.” “(Pomeroy, 2005)

So, too, do the frogs seem to watch the weather.  During dry years such as those experienced 2015, 2016, and 2017 there were no frogs heard at the Richard St. Barbe  Baker Afforestation Area.  However in 2013 and 2014 frogs were a delight to the years, especially as the Northern Leopard Frog is a species of Special Concern.  As the weather cycles in the province, it can be expected that another year of flooding may follow the very dry years experienced 2015, 2016, and 2017.  The newspapers report the flooding damaging crops, basements and highways however the glorious thing which is missed on the years of high water tables, is that the frogs come back!

There are definitely other areas, such as where the old grid road is being swallowed up by Chappell Marsh near the road turn off to Chappell Marsh Conservation Area.  The old grid road is partially submerged, making it the perfect habitat for frogs [and ducks] as well.

Now then, it would be a very intriguing for a herpetologist,  volunteer ‘Steward of Saskatchewan’ or conservation officer to engage in a project to walk with a GPS app which records altitude.  This project would scan the entirety of the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area and ‘George Genereux’ Urban Regional park for altitude levels similar to the altitude of the meadow west of the South West Off Leash Recreation Area.  Other areas which provide a rich habitat for the Northern Leopard Frog could be identified in this method for the areas west of Chappell Marsh and in ‘George Genereux’ Urban Regional park.  In this way during years of flooding the Northern Leopard Frog could be surveyed and counted in identified Frog zones.  And accordingly in the years of drought, the environment could remain undisturbed awaiting their safe return.  🙂

Perhaps, just perhaps, this would be a way to ensure the Northern Leopard Frog’s survival.  An altitude test may just help to find the temporary wetlands conducive to the frog’s habitat, and could then be protected from development.  Either that, or developers would need wait until years of high water tables before developing land to determine the habitat for frogs.

Saskatchewan cycles through years of drought and high water tables.  The years 2013, and 2014, saw very,  very high rain levels, spring run off and flooding.  Chappell Marsh itself washed out a grid road, and water pumps were allocated to try to divert the flooding away from Saskatchewan Highway 7 west of the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area, and CN Chappell Yards.  The cycle of very wet conditions was also seen historically over the years 2005, and 2006. (Garnet, 2012)

July 13, 2014, Emily Chan reported “In Saskatchewan, it’s estimated that a total of up to 3 million acres, including some farmland, have already flooded.”   “Highways closed and communities declared states of emergency …, ” reports the Canadian Press on June 30, 2014 due to a deluge of rain.

“From too much rain to not enough — and everyone baking in the heat — communities smashed weather records in July across Saskatchewan.”(Climenhaga, 2017)  Whereas, in direct contrast to the years of 2013 and 2014, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reported that 2016 was the hottest year on record, replacing the record set in 2015. In 2017, “Saskatchewan farmers say drought conditions in some parts of the province are the worst they have seen in decades “(Bridges, 2017)  “Record-breaking temperatures and extremely low rainfalls across Western Canada are causing chaos for farmers and firefighters this summer as they grapple with the worst drought in more than a decade.” {Sikierska, 2015)  Drought also ravaged Saskatchewan over the years 2001 to 2002. (Garnet, 2012)

“Nowhere else  in Canada does the lack or excess of water cause such widespread concern, nor are there many Canadian environments subject to greater seasonal change in precipitation and surface-water storage.”(Pomeroy, 2005)
Drought years have been recorded as 1961, 1967, 1979, 1980, 1985, 1988, 2003, 2009.  Whereas, the flood years are reported  as 1965, 1977, 1986, 1991, 1993, 1999, 2005, 2010.  (Garnet, 2012)
“The trees and vegetation which cover the land surface of the Earth and delight the eye, are therefore performing vital tasks incumbent upon the vegetable world in nature. The glorious rich, colourful, quilted covering of vegetation is not there merely to feed and please us. Its presence is essential to Earth as an organism. It is the first condition to Earth as an organism. It is the first condition of all life; it is the ‘skin of the Earth, for without it there can be no water and, therefore, no life. ” Richard St. Barbe Baker.

Bibliography

2016 Annual Report of Agroclimate Conditions Across Canada Government of Canada Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Bridges, Alicia. Sask. farmers say drought conditions worst in decades. Farmers, ranchers face tough season due to hot, dry weather.  CBC News.

Chan, Emily.  Prairie farmers frustrated as flooding drowns crops.  Ctv News.  July 13, 2014

Climenhaga, Christy.   Regina experiences driest July in 130 years. July topped the charts for hot and dry weather in southern Saskatchewan. CBC News.  Aug. 1, 2017

Cross, Brian. Rising waters wash away land, farmers’ futures . The Western Producer. May 7, 2015

Flooding, highway closures as heavy rain pounds Prairies Canadian Press.  June 30, 2014.

Garnett, Ray and Madhav Khandekar.  From Drought to Wet Cycles The Changing Climate of the Canadian Prairies.  May 3, 2012.

Pomeroy, John, Dirk de Boer and Lawrence Martz.  Hydrology and Water Resources of Saskatchewan.  Centre for Hydrology Report #1.  Department of Geography, University of Saskatchewan February 2005.

Reeve warns flood water could flow over Hwy 11 in Lumsden area CBC News.  May 5, 2013

Saskatchewan flooding: 37 communities declare state of emergency CBC News.  June 30 2014

Sask. Flooding >Flood-battered roads crumbling around eastern Sask. Culverts, bridges, train tracks washed out over a wide area CBC News. July 2, 2014

Siekierska, Alicja.  Hot, dry and disastrous. Western Canada’s drought is taking a toll. Edmonton Journal.  July 25, 2015

Top ten weather stories for 2010: Story three. From Dry to Drenched on the Prairies.  Government of Canada.  Environment and Climate Change Canada.

For more information:

Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is located in Saskatoon, SK, CA north of Cedar Villa Road, within city limits, in the furthest south west area of the city.
Wikimapia Map: type in Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Google Maps South West Off Leash area location pin at parking lot
Web page: https://stbarbebaker.wordpress.com

Where is the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area? with map

Facebook: StBarbeBaker

Facebook group page : Users of the St Barbe Baker Afforestation Area

Facebook: South West Off Leash Recreation Area SW OLRA

Pinterest richardstbarbeb

Tagged Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area

Twitter: St Barbe Baker

Contact the Meewasin Valley Authority in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The MVA has begun a Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund. If you wish to support the afforestation area with your donation, write a cheque to the “Meewasin Valley Authority Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund (MVA RSBBAA trust fund)”.  Post to MVA 402 Third Avenue South Saskatoon, SK S7K 3G5  Please and thank you!

Membership in the Saskatoon Nature Society  “supports nature conservation projects and [the society] is an active advocate for the preservation of plant and animal habitats”.

Please contemplate joining the SOS Elms coalition ~ an active group interested in forest management~ or make a donation to “Save our Saskatchewan” [SOS] Elms ~ leave a message to support the afforestation area  😉

1./ Learn.

2./ Experience

3./ Do Something: ***

 “We forget that we owe our existence to  the presence of Trees.   As far as forest  cover goes, we have never been in such a  vulnerable position as we are today.  The  only answer is to plant more Trees – to  Plant Trees for Our Lives.” ~ Richard St. Barbe Baker

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Trembling Aspen

Trembling Aspen grove Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CA
Trembling Aspen grove [in 2016] Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CA

It was the summer of 2017, did you see it?

The Populus tremuloides (Trembling Aspen or Quaking Aspen) groves were struggling, and suffering tremendously. The defoliation caused by the Tent Caterpillar Malacosoma disstria was so severe, that combined with the severe drought, the vigour and vitality of the Aspen Trees was greatly reduced.  2017 saw the fourth year of the Tent Caterpillar infestation in Saskatoon. When healthy trees that are completely stripped of their leaves are able to refoliate their leaves after the caterpillars have feasted, however the second growth is smaller and, indeed, may be inadequate to compensate for the damage caused. The attack of the caterpillars may even kill the top of the tree, side branches and even the whole tree may expire with multi-years of excessive defoliation.

 

James J. Worrall et al, explains that drought, tent caterpillars and other factors contribute to the decline of Trembling Aspens. Severe drought precipitates the most drastic decline, followed by foliage stripped by tent caterpillars  year after year. Aspen stands cannot recover from such shocks to the system on a multiyear basis, without relief.

 

“It’s almost as if nature has forgotten how to rain in parts of Saskatchewan,[9]” said David Phillips, senior Climatologist with Environment Canada, who goes on to explain that, “It really does show you the kind of climate you have: a desert — dry, semi-arid, almost like Pheonix, Ariz. — where the days can be very hot, and in this case bone dry and not a cloud in the sky. All that heat from the day radiates into space … It left the nights relatively cool.[2]” Saskatoon received only 243.6 millimetres [9.6 inches] of precipitation, bringing 2017 into the top five driest years for the city.

Not only was 2017 setting records for the driest years in history books, the problem for the Trembling Aspen was compounded as being the worst for the Tent Caterpillar plague. “We’re in a boom period for the tent caterpillar,” [10] ” said Tyler Wist, Field crop entomologist for Agriculture and AgriFood Canada. The tent caterpillar has a natural predator in birds, as well as the eggs of the sarcophagid fly.

 Effects on overall health of aspen.  Repeated defoliation by forest tent caterpillar may not allow trees to recover to a normal state of health, which can lead to decline.  ~ Natural Resources Canada

Trembling Aspen grove Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CA
Trembling Aspen grove [in 2016]  Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CA

Following two or more years of severe feeding there is a general decline in tree health, including twig and branch dieback. After three or four consecutive years of being stripped of their leaves trees can be weakened and may be more susceptible to insects, such as wood borers, and stem disease. Following forest tent caterpillar infestations the incidence of hypoxylon canker, a fungal stem disease, may increase and cause extensive damage in aspen forests.  “~ Forestry Branch

Late spring frosts kill buds leading to early, mass larval stravation. Alberta Government.

“When populations are low, the egg masses on small plants can be removed by hand and destroyed between July and the following spring. Hand picking can inflict significant larval mortality.
Destruction of occupied tents by hand or with a brush leads to colony collapse. Pruning to remove egg masses, tents, or groups of larvae must be done sparingly to avoid injuring the plant. Using fire to accomplish this is not recommended as it damages the plant more than the defoliation.”~Forest Health Protection
 The trembling aspen is known to grow as a clonal colony in which the stems [trunks] arise from one huge conjoined root system.  Whereas the tree stems of the Trembling Aspen may be determined by its tree rings, the roots may be much older than that of the tree trunks.  In the semi-arid regions of the west, Trembling Aspen are more likely to establish new trees via suckering from an established root system rather than from seed.  It is intriguing to learn that the Aspen Tree is really only a small fraction of a much larger organism.  Malcolm F. Squires reports that clones of Aspens may have sprouted following the Pleistocene era after the retreat of the great ice age, creating the oldest organisms in the world.  One can tell one Aspen clone growth from another, as leaves will emerge in the spring and turn to yellow in the fall in the same clone, and a neighbouring clone will exhibit a different time scale.
If a clone of Aspen trees from the same root is even aged, and has thrived in near to full sunlight, is severely attacked and stripped of its leaves by tent caterpillars causing some of the Aspen trees to die back.  The Aspen roots, in some cases, if the soil is healthy, be able to regenerate from suckers.  Young saplings will rise from the roots in the openings, or these young trees may take advantage of thin crowns.  The Aspen stand will show this uneven age structure, until the remaining tree trunks die off, and all the tree stems become even aged.
“Jack Schultz, a Pennsylvania State University entomologist… discovered that aspens react chemically to insect attack.  Soon after the caterpillar start chewing, the trees’ remaining leaves produce bitter-tasting phenol compounds to discourage further eating” [5]
 In 2017, it was seen that the Trembling Aspen stands lost their leaves, and a second smaller growth was seen coming late in the summer season.  Watch if and how the Aspen stand recovers in 2018.  It will be also interesting to note if 2018 again succumbs to a double whammy of drought and tent caterpillar.  Saskatchewan is a province of cyclical weather alternating between drought and years with a high water table [perhaps even flooding].   The tent caterpillars well, their cycle lasts between three to seven years, and they normally re-occur in 15-20 year intervals.
The round leaves turning golden in the autumn months, quivering, and catching the light as the breeze tosses the golden discs this way and that, give the Trembling Aspen the appearance of being a “Money Tree” as its branches dance in gold.
Silviculture is the practice of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests to meet diverse needs and values. The name comes from the Latin silvi- (forest) + culture (as in growing).  Richard St. Barbe Baker attended Cambridge University, graduating as a silviculturist.
Enroll your body, soul and spirit and engage your time to do what you know best. Dedicate yourself to the work at hand and you will be rewarded by the fruits you will bear!”― Israelmore Ayivor, The Great Hand Book of Quotes

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Allen Bonnie.
‘The damage is done’: Home electricity boxes igniting in Sask. drought
Regina’s driest July in 130 years also threatening livestock, crops and farmers’ livelihoods”
CBC News Aug 04, 2017

2 Climenhaga, Christy. Regina experiences driest July in 130 years. July topped the charts for hot and dry weather in southern Saskatchewan CBC News Aug 01, 2017

3. Climenhaga, Christy. 2017 driest year on record for some Sask. communities
Driest year ever for Assiniboia, Moose Jaw; Regina saw 2nd-driest year, with only 40% of normal precipitation
CBC News. January 6, 2018.

4. Climenhaga, Christy. Regina and Swift Current could see their driest July on record
Southern Saskatchewan still waiting for rain after bone-dry July
CBC News July 27, 2017.

5. Fergus, Charles.  Trees of Pennsylvania and the Northeast. Edition illustrated Publisher Stackpole Books, 2002 ISBN 0811720926, 9780811720922

5. Giles, David. Forest tent caterpillars invade Saskatoon Global News. May 24, 2017

6. Graham, Jennifer. Dry weather withering crops, stressing farmers in southern Saskatchewan The Canadian Press August 6, 2017

7. Graham, Jennifer. This Saskatchewan farm’s ground is so dry a wrench ‘would disappear’ in its cracks Environment Canada figures show Regina had only 1.8 millimetres of rain last month — the driest July in 130 years. The Canadian Press. August 6, 2017

8. Its more than rare.” Environment Canada says southern Saskatchewan’s dry July will break records 620 CKRM Juy 27, 2017.

9. Knox, Shawn. Dundurn, Sask. woman tired of tent caterpillar infestation Global News. June 1, 2017.

10. Lizee, Tiffany. Southern Saskatchewan in drought for almost a year Global News. October 14, 2017

11. Martell, Creeden. ‘They just keep coming’: Tent caterpillar invasion coats Sask. home in insects — and feces  Saskatchewan in a boom period for tent caterpillars CBC News May 31, 2017

12. Petrow, Erin.  Caterpillars thrive for the fourth consecutive year Saskatoon Star Phoenix. May 24, 2017.

13. Prestwich, Emma Caterpillars Cover Saskatchewan Woman’s Property And It’s Super Disgusting Huffpost Canada.

14. Squires, Malcolm F.  Dynamic Forest: Man Versus Nature in the Boreal Forest
Volume 7 of Point of View Contributor John Kennedy Naysmith
Edition illustrated Publisher Dundurn, 2017 ISBN 1459739345, 9781459739345

15. Tent caterpillars: Tips to help control the outbreak Specialist says outbreaks happen every 10 to 15 years and last up to six years CBC News May 31, 2016

16. Tu, Chau Earth’s biggest living thing might be a tree with thousands of clones Science Friday.  May 5, 2015

17. Worrall, James J., Gerald E. Rehfeldt, Andreas Hamann, Edward H. Hogg, Suzanne B. Marchetti, Michael Michealian, and Laura K. Gray. Recent declines of Populus tremuloides in North America linked to climate Volume 299, Issue , July 2013, Pages 35-51

 

For more information:
Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada north of Cedar Villa Road, within city limits, in the furthest south west area of the city. 52° 06′ 106° 45′
Addresses:
Part SE 23-36-6 – Afforestation Area – 241 Township Road 362-A
Part SE 23-36-6 – SW Off-Leash Recreation Area (Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area ) – 355 Township Road 362-A
S ½ 22-36-6 Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area (West of SW OLRA) – 467 Township Road 362-A
NE 21-36-6 “George Genereux” Afforestation Area – 133 Range Road 3063
Wikimapia Map: type in Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Google Maps South West Off Leash area location pin at parking lot
Web page: https://stbarbebaker.wordpress.com
Where is the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area? with map
Facebook: StBarbeBaker
Facebook group page : Users of the St Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Facebook: South West OLRA
Contact the Meewasin Valley Authority in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The MVA has begun a Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund. If you wish to support the afforestation area with your donation, write a cheque to the “Meewasin Valley Authority Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund (MVA RSBBAA trust fund)”. Please and thank you!
Twitter: StBarbeBaker
Please contemplate joining the SOS Elms coalition or make a donation to SOS Elms ~ leave a message to support the afforestation area  😉