Project Change: Removal of Invasive Species at Fort Rodd Hill Alyssa Byrns, Jeet Jani, Kerry MacDonald & Adam Yeung IHMN 430 Royal Roads University

PROJECT CHANGE: REMOVAL OF INVASIVE SPECIES Project Change: Removal of Invasive Species at Fort Rodd Hill Introduction


Fort Rodd Hill is a national historic site located in Victoria, British Columbia. This 56 hectare property was established in 1890 as a defence artillery fort to protect Victoria and the Esquimalt Naval base. Today, visitors of Fort Rodd Hill can experience the authenticity of a historic military fort by exploring command posts, gun batteries, underground magazines and enjoy the naturally preserved Garry Oak ecosystem (Fort Rodd Hill, n.d.). The latter is significant because it is the only unchanged Garry Oak ecosystem in the area. Garry Oak is a species of tree indigenous to North America’s West Coast that grows naturally between South West British Columbia and Southern California. The Garry Oak ecosystem is facing extinction because it is vulnerable to disease, habitat loss, fire suppression and invasive species (Battling invasive species in Garry Oak ecosystems, n.d.). An invasive species that is currently threatening the Garry Oak Ecosystem at Fort Rodd Hill is Spurge Laurel, also known as Daphne Laurel which is derived from its scientific name, daphne laureola. This species is indigenous to Northern Africa, Southern Europe and Western Asia. Spurge Laurel can grow up to one meter in height, develops in clusters, can cause skin irritation, produces poisonous berries and overcrowds indigenous species (Severe skin irritation from Spurge Laurel, n.d.). As a team, we decided to partner with Parks Canada and volunteer our services to remove Spurge Laurel from Fort Rodd Hill’s Garry Oak ecosystem in order to protect and maintain the sustainability of the area. Our second objective was to raise awareness of the effects that invasive species have on our native ecosystems and encourage volunteers to help remove these species in the future.

PROJECT CHANGE: REMOVAL OF INVASIVE SPECIES Targeted Community Besides Spurge Laurel’s effects on the environment, the invasive species also impacts visitors’ experiences at Fort Rodd Hill as well as the local population of the surrounding community. Fort Rodd Hill receives approximately 50,000 visitors a year that visit the property to experience its historical aspects as well as the natural heritage


and beauty of the area. If the Garry Oak ecosystem is not maintained through the removal of Spurge Laurel, then the species will overcrowd and eliminate the indigenous flora that draw guests and enhance their experience. When visitors witness volunteers actively engaged in removing invasive species, it may also inspire them to participate and help protect British Columbia’s natural heritage. Another society that benefits from the removal of Spurge Laurel at Fort Rodd Hill is the surrounding local community. The ecosystem at Fort Rodd Hill has been relatively unchanged since military personnel were first stationed there in the late 1800s. This creates an authentic experience for members of the local community whose ancestors were stationed at Fort Rodd Hill. The same Garry Oak ecosystem has been appreciated through four generations of the surrounding communities. Today, the locals experience the scenery through the same perspective that their great-great-great grandparents did. This is possible because of the preservation efforts of Parks Canada and local volunteers. The removal of Spurge Laurel in the local Garry Oak ecosystem has positively benefitted both of these communities. Results Our team volunteered at Fort Rodd Hill with Parks Canada on November 12, 2011. The objective was to remove as many Spurge Laurel as possible within a specific

PROJECT CHANGE: REMOVAL OF INVASIVE SPECIES time frame. We began at 10:00 a.m. and worked until 3:00 p.m. with an hour break for lunch. Our group consisted of four Royal Roads University students, one Belmont Secondary School student and two Parks Canada employees. In order to accurately


measure the amount of species removed, we determined how many plants were pulled out by each person within a fifteen minute time frame. An average of 100 Spurge Laurel plants were removed by each individual, which resulted in the combined total amount of 10,400 plants removed. Each volunteer pulled out approximately 1,600 plants that day. Once Parks Canada has gathered 40 cubic yards of invasive species, they transport the plants to Nanaimo where they are burned and used as bio-fuel. Another objective set out by our team was to create awareness of invasive species removal through social media. After our day of volunteering, we created a Facebook page to educate others on the benefits of the removal of invasive plant species and we are encouraging them to volunteer at Fort Rodd Hill in the future. We provided information regarding how to volunteer, who to contact, what to expect, the benefits of this activity as well as a background on Spurge Laurel and other invasive species. The amount of people that we have reached to this date through our Facebook page is 12. This number will continue to grow in the future as more people become aware of our page. We also utilized Twitter in order to relay the importance of volunteering to preserve the state of natural ecosystems. Our Tweets have potentially reached and informed approximately 61 people. Lessons Learned & Insights Gained Our volunteer session with Parks Canada was very informative as we learned about the history of the Fort Rodd Hill historical site, the Garry Oak ecosystem and the

PROJECT CHANGE: REMOVAL OF INVASIVE SPECIES Spurge Laurel species. We were able to see the degree to which Spurge Laurel encroaches the growth of other indigenous and often rare species. We realize that the restoration process is not only limited to removing the invasive species, but it also encourages the growth and development of other indigenous plants. This gives native species the opportunity to thrive and challenge Spurge Laurel for space and resources. If Spurge Laurel is continuously removed from the area, it will allow native species to eventually overcome the invasive ones. The main goal of invasive plant removal is to


restore the original Garry Oak ecosystem that has always been present at Fort Rodd Hill. Volunteering enabled our team to grow and work collectively outside of the academic environment. We learned that we share the same motives that drive us towards a common goal. Although outdoor conditions were not ideal when we volunteered, we still put in a great deal of effort and encouraged each other to meet our objectives. It was eye-opening to see the change that our endeavours could generate for the related communities first-hand. Once we were exposed to the issue, we became much more aware of the impact that our project had on both the environmental and social aspects of the community. As a team, we gained hands-on volunteer experience through the work that we conducted with Parks Canada. We also gained inspiration to continue to volunteer at Fort Rodd Hill and with various other organizations. Through the use of social media, we connected with people who also feel passionate about creating change within a community. We realized that our project did not encompass just removing overcrowding plants, but it also had personal intangible benefits that cannot be measured. We understand that our actions have a significant impact on the people of the surrounding



communities. Restoration of the Garry Oak ecosystem enhances the relationship between the past and the present because people can appreciate the same scenery that their ancestors once witnessed. Our team recognizes that the removal of the invasive species, Spurge Laurel, is an on-going project in which the benefits are magnified when maintenance is conducted on a regular basis. This will allow the restoration process to have an even larger positive impact on the affected communities. For this reason, our team will attempt to return to Fort Rodd Hill as often as possible and help with the removal of additional invasive plant species within the Garry Oak ecosystem. In order to witness a consistent change, we will encourage others to frequently join us in eradicating all invasive species from this native setting. Conclusion In just four hours, our volunteer group of seven people managed to remove approximately 10,400 Spurge Laurel. This indicates that what seems like a minimal effort can still yield significant impacts and generate a change in the community. Both visitors and locals will benefit from the efforts our team made in the Garry Oak ecosystem. We also benefit personally from this endeavour because we are supporting our heritage by allowing native species to thrive. Our continued efforts can go a long way to preserving the Garry Oak ecosystem for future generations. We are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to make a difference in our local community through the removal of invasive plant species at Fort Rodd Hill. Being agents for change has allowed us to take pride in being ambassadors to a specific project and hopefully encourage others to also be



effective role models within their community. Project Change was a great experience and we feel lucky to have been a part of such a movement.

PROJECT CHANGE: REMOVAL OF INVASIVE SPECIES References Battling invasive species in Garry Oak ecosystems. (n.d.). Retrieved from Fort Rodd Hill. (n.d.). Retrieved from Severe skin irritation from Spurge Laurel. (n.d.). Retrieved from