The amphibian salvage field season is nearing completion for Simpcw Resources LLP’s Environmental Division team. The final phase of the study involves conducting wetland amphibian salvages along the Trans Mountain Pipeline project corridor. Before any construction activities near amphibian breeding ponds can begin, salvages must be conducted to prevent disturbance to overwintering frogs, toads, and salamanders. This season, the team has primarily encountered several species, including the aquatic Columbia spotted frog, western toads, wood frogs, Pacific chorus frogs, and long-toed salamanders.

Amphibians play a vital role in British Columbia’s ecosystem and are considered primary indicators of ecosystem health. The presence and abundance of amphibians within wetlands and surrounding forested areas provide insights into the overall health of these habitats. As frogs and salamanders are highly sensitive to toxins, the crews must exercise caution when using bug spray, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer during salvages. In addition to serving as indicators of land health, amphibians fulfill other important ecological functions such as controlling insect populations, consuming algae and detritus in wetland environments, serving as prey for predators including small mammals, blue herons, raptors, and other birds, and aiding in soil aeration through underground digging.

The amphibian salvage process begins with an experienced amphibian biologist preparing and submitting salvage plans. The field crew, composed of biologists and environmental technicians, then assists in isolating the construction area from the adjacent wetland. Methods like sediment fencing or aqua dams are employed to create an isolation barrier. Pitfall traps are subsequently installed to prevent new amphibians from entering the construction area and capture any amphibians already present. These traps are placed flush to the ground along the inside of the isolation fence, and they are checked once to twice daily, depending on capture rates. The traps remain on-site until no more amphibians are observed within the isolated area. In addition to pitfall trapping, aquatic funnel traps can be deployed in aquatic areas to capture aquatic life stages, such as tadpoles and larvae, or species of aquatic frogs. Visual encounter surveys and dip netting are also utilized during salvages, evoking nostalgic memories of catching amphibians by hand. Once captured, the amphibians are relocated to a nearby wetland to protect them from potential construction disturbances.