On an unseasonably warm and sunny day in March, SHADOW’s staff met two members of the Department of Natural Resources’ Washington Natural Heritage Program (DNR’s WNHP) for a different type of bog tour. Joe Rocchio (right) and Tynan Ramm-Granberg (left), the program’s vegetation ecologists, made the trip from Olympia to take the DNR’s first-ever survey of SHADOW Lake Bog.
The day in the field included surveying for peat (bog’s signature soil type), identifying different plant communities, and looking closely at the characteristic sphagnum moss. Although our bog has been classified as a Class 1 Wetland and sensitive area by King County, until recently, the WNHP had not yet classified the bog’s plant associations according to the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. WNHP assigns a conservation status rank to each plant association, which indicates a plant association’s rarity or risk of extirpation. During the field day, SHADOW staff shared SHADOW’s rich history, gave insight into management practices, and learned more about the region’s other wetlands.
Joe and Tynan were quite impressed to see our beautiful bog with its shady Hemlock trees and pillowy, sphagnum moss hummocks as well as vast patches of Bog Laurel and Labrador Tea. During the field day, the ecologists taught staff about the importance of the bog’s lagg which can be glimpsed when one first steps onto SHADOW’s Boardwalk Trail and surrounds much of Shadow Lake Bog. The lagg serves as a moat, preventing invasive spread into the bog and is a mixing spot for runoff from the uplands, neighboring land, and acidic bog water.
After the field day, SHADOW staff learned that the Nature Preserve is home to two “element occurrences ” of rare plant community types:
- The open areas of the bog with some conifer trees, sphagnum moss, Bog Laurel, and Labrador Tea are one type of element occurrence and have moderate conservation priority ranking in Washington and globally.
- Our shady, hemlock and sphagnum area of the bog, closest to the boardwalk, received the rarest and highest conservation priority ranking for ecosystems both at the state and global level. (pictured above)
Our bog received a ranking of a B- for ecological integrity. This score was primarily due to the increasing urbanization of the land around the nature preserve. For example, the road, 188th Ave, bordering SHADOW, was built on top of what was, historically, bog habitat.
This distinction underscores how important our mission of preservation is. As precious, imperiled wetland ecosystems receive increasing pressure from development, SHADOW will continue to protect this rare ecosystem and the land surrounding it.
We hope this distinction will inspire more funding from private donors and granting foundations. SHADOW staff and board are proud of our commitment to providing access to and education about this important resource and we are excited to have partners in the Natural Heritage Program guiding us in our management practices and monitoring efforts.