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Urban Ecology Research

The Institute of Urban Ecology related to urban sustainability issues.

Current projects, explained in more detail below, include:

  • UNIBUG (User Network for Insect Biology in the Urban Garden) (2011)
  • Biological Control of Greenhouse Pests (2010 - present)
  • Ground Beetles in Urban Habitat Fragments (2008 - present)

UNIBUG (User Network for Insect Biology in the Urban Garden)

The Institute of Urban Ecology (IUE) at Douglas College is currently undertaking its new User Network for Insect Biology in the Urban Garden (UNIBUG) citizen science research project. This project has two main goals: 1) to engage people in ecological monitoring in their communities; and 2) to support sustainable gardening practices in urban community gardens.

To achieve the goals of the UNIBUG project, the IUE will partner with volunteers from a local community garden as well as the municipality in which the garden is situated. With training and technical support from the IUE, the volunteers from the community garden will monitor beneficial and pest insect populations in their gardens, especially in relation to plant communities in and around the garden areas. Data obtained from the research will help determine the types of plantings that may be done to attract beneficial insects to community gardens, and so reduce the need for chemical pesticides. The project will also provide information about how best to support public involvement in ecological research in urban communities.

Biological Control of Greenhouse Pests

British Columbia greenhouse vegetable growers rely for the most part on biological control for management of insect pests. Predatory and parasitic insects are produced for sale by insectary companies. Vegetable growers release these mass-produced parasitoids and predators in greenhouses to manage their pests. Insect and other arthropod pests continue to have substantial economic impact in greenhouses and other agricultural sectors. New pest species continue to be introduced into agriculture either through accidental introductions related to international trade, or as a consequence of range expansions associated with climate change. Management of pests via biological control provides a sustainable ecologically-based alternative to the use chemical pesticides in agriculture.

IUE has been, and continues to be, involved in evaluation of new predators and parasitoids for biological control of greenhouse pests. Dr. Robert McGregor has conducted biological control research for over 20 years and currently sits as the Entomology Advisor on the British Columbia Greenhouse Growers Association (BCGGA) Research Council. IUE received grants from BCGGA in 2007 and 2008 to conduct research on biological control of tomato psyllid, a pest for which there is no currently available biological control. In 2010, IUE was approved for a College and Community Innovation (CCI) award from NSERC ($200,000) to study biological control of tomato psyllid and aphids in B.C. vegetable greenhouses. This project involves a collaboration between Douglas College, BCGGA, three insectary companies and Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Ground Beetles in Urban Habitat Fragments

Urban areas in Metro Vancouver often contain fragments of native forest isolated by urban development. These forest fragments vary in size and degree of human disturbance. Little is known about the contribution of these urban forest fragments to ecosystem services and the integrity of urban ecosystems.

Ground beetles from the insect family Carabidae have been widely used as biological indicators of human disturbance (Rainio & Niemela 2003, Pierce & Venier 2006). Beetles from this family are particularly habitat specific. Different species of beetles are recovered from different types of habitat. Surveys for ground beetles have been used by researchers around the world to assess the impacts of forestry, agriculture and urbanization on ecological communities (Raworth et al 1997, Lemieux & Lindgren 2004, Magura et al 2004, Latty et al 2005, Pierce & Venier 2006, Hartley et al 2007).

Dr. Robert McGregor (Director, IUE) has sampled ground beetle communities in Coquitlam forest fragments since 2001. Ground beetle communities in Coquitlam are composed of a mixture of native carabids and introduced European species. The European species dominate communities in disturbed meadow habitats as they do in local agricultural habitats (Raworth et al 1997). Some forested sites in Coquitlam have beetle communities that include most of the common native and European species. As a result, small, disturbed forest sites have higher beetle diversity than large, undisturbed forest sites because they have been colonized by European species. The impacts of these alien species on ecological function and ecosystem services in Coquitlam forest fragments remain to be determined.

IUE sampled 10 sites in Coquitlam in the summer of 2008 in association with the City of Coquitlam. Twenty forest sites in Coquitlam parks were sampled in 2009 and 2010. We plan to continue our ground beetle monitoring program in Coquitlam and expand the program to other Metro Vancouver municipalities. Long-term information on local beetle communities will provide a record of environmental change under the dual influences of human disturbance and climate change. We hope that ground beetle surveys can be used to predict adverse effects of urban development and inform municipal planning decisions when managing for ecosystem services and biodiversity (Angold et al 2006).

References

Angold, P.G. et al (2006) Biodiversity in urban habitat patches. Science of the Total Environment 360: 196-204.

Hartley, D.J. et al (2007) Effects of urbanization on ground beetle assemblages (Coleoptera, Carabidae) of grassland habitats in western Canada. Ecography 30: 673-684.

Latty, E.F. et al (2005) Response of ground beetle (Carabidae) assemblages to logging history in northern hardwood–hemlock forests. Forest Ecology & Management 222: 335-347.

Lemieux, J.P. & B.S. Lindgren (2004) Ground beetle responses to patch retention harvesting in high elevation forests of British Columbia. Ecography 27: 557-566.

Magura, T. et al (2004) Changes in carabid beetle assemblages along an urbanisation gradient in the city of Debrecen, Hungary. Landscape Ecology 19: 747-759.

Pierce, J.L. & L.A. Venier (2006) The use of ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and spiders (Aranae) as bioindicators of sustainable forest management: a review. Ecological Indicators 6: 780-793.

Rainio, J. & J. Niemela (2003) Ground beetles as bioindicators. Biodiversity and Conservation 12: 487-506.

Raworth, D.A., S.J. Clements & C. Cirkony (1997) Carabid beetles in commercial raspberry fields in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia and a sampling protocol for Pterostichus melanarius (Coleoptera: Carabidae). Journal of the Entomological Society of British Columbia 94: 51-58.

Fighting pests, naturally

Youtube Video

UNIBUG tests alternatives to chemical pesticides in gardens.