Biodiversity and the Millar Wetland 

Goldfish threaten to change biodiversity of larger area

By Veronica Woodruff,

Whistler Naturalist Society

What the heck is biodiversity and what does it have to do with me?

Biodiversity is a concept that we as human beings are hard pressed to really get a handle on. It is a measurement of how many things are here. Here being British Columbia, here being Whistler, here being a wetland, your backyard, or your flower pot.

Biodiversity also is a measurement of the processes that make them distinctive, including the relationships with the non-living environment. These relationships include the large scale, like the Coastal Western Hemlock biogeoclimatic zone, to the intricacies of the paper birch, the Douglas Fir and mycorrhizal fungi. It includes the bizarre world of the fen, where the sundew plants eat the black fly for sustenance and the Sweet Gale gets its nutrient by wheeling and dealing with the nitrogen fixing bacteria. All these relationships, as well as countless others, are unique and fascinating, however it doesn’t take much to upset the balance.

Native biodiversity becomes threatened when a non-native species is introduced and has the opportunity to establish itself with few or no predators. That is evident all over British Columbia. Scotch Broom has displaced many native habitats on Vancouver Island and its yellow bloom can be seen throughout coastal B.C., yet it is still a popular ornamental plant for some people’s garden.

The European Starling is an iridescent bird that has a tendency to let our native birds do all the work in building nests, so it can come along and move in while tossing out any birds or eggs that may be in the way. It has been so successful that the flocks in some areas of North America have grown to unsanitary proportions.

Another introduction, the Bullfrog, has taken over many wetlands in the Lower Mainland. The Bullfrog is larger than any of our native amphibians, has a voracious appetite for other frogs, salamanders, baby turtles and ducks and has even been known to go for the family cat. The bullfrog has been able to expand its population at an alarming rate.

Recently in Whistler it became public knowledge that someone had introduced goldfish ( Carassius auratus ) into a small wetland, Millars Pond. The natural biodiversity of this pond is astounding. There is a thriving population of Northwestern salamanders, whose large egg masses can be seen attached to underwater vegetation throughout the pond. The insect life this pond supports is stunning. Massive dragonfly larva, water scorpions, huge caddis and a number of species of diving beetles, just to name a few. This pond supports Red-legged frogs and the Pacific tree frog. Two Northern flickers were spotted on the snags within minutes of standing on shore as well as a pair of Mallards.

Possibly the original owner of these pet goldfish thought to give them a better life, sure that they would not survive the winter.

An initial dip net assessment at Millars Pond revealed at least three age classes, including the original goldfish that were released. It is unfortunate to know that during spring runoff this pond is connected to Alpha Creek by a storm drain pipe, which eventually leads into Millar Creek and the wetland area north of Function Junction.

At this point it is unknown whether the fish have made it down there. If they have, it is sure that the balance of Millar Creek’s biodiversity will be changed forever, as Millars Pond already has.

For more information please contact Veronica Woodruff at 604-935-8323 or

Upcoming Events

Weekly Nature Walks — Meet Veronica Woodruff at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 2nd at the entrance to the Catholic Church at the bottom of Lorimer Road for a tour of local fisheries, including a visit to see Rainbow Trout spawning.

Monthly Bird Walk — The next bird walk will take place Saturday, June 5th. Join Whistler experts in the monthly update of our feathered locals and migrants. For details, contact Michael Thompson at 604-932-5010.

Whistler Naturalists Speaker Series — Stargazing in Whistler from High Altitude with John Nemy of The Pacific Observatory, Whistler, B.C. Event will take place Tuesday, June 8th at MY Place at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.). Admission by donation, children free.

Calling all Aspiring Nature Writers and Photographers — Have an interest in natural history? Want to educate others about your favourite flora and/or fauna? Write your very own Naturespeak article or send us your photos to accompany our articles. For more information contact Sorcha Masterson at 604-932-5089 or sorc_m@hotmailcom

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