Jock River Subwatershed Report 2016
KINGS CREEK CATCHMENT
The RVCA produces individual reports for 12 catchments in the Jock River subwatershed. Using data collected and analyzed by the RVCA through its watershed monitoring and land cover classification programs, surface water quality and in-stream conditions are reported for the Jock River along with a summary of environmental conditions for the surrounding countryside every six years.
This information is used to better understand the effects of human activity on our water resources, allows us to better track environmental change over time and helps focus watershed management actions where they are needed the most to help sustain the ecosystem services (cultural, aesthetic and recreational values; provisioning of food, fuel and clean water; regulation of erosion/natural hazard protection and water purification; supporting nutrient/water cycling and habitat provision) provided by the catchment’s lands and forests and waters (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).
The following sections of this report for the Kings Creek catchment are a compilation of that work.
|Surface Water Quality Conditions
|Land Stewardship and Water Resources Protection
For other Jock River catchments and the Jock River Subwatershed Report, please visit the RVCA website at www.rvca.ca
Figure 1 Land cover in the Kings Creek catchment
1.0 Kings Creek Catchment: Facts
1.1 General/Physical Geography
- Beckwith (39 km2; 43% of catchment)
- Montague (25 km2; 27% of catchment)
- Ottawa: (27 km2; 30% of catchment)
- The Kings Creek Catchment resides with an extensive physiographic region known as the Smith Falls Limestone Plain. In this catchment, the limestone plain is discontinuously overlain by organic soils and localized areas of beach sands and gravels
- In this catchment, bedrock consists of interbedded sandstone and dolostone of the March Formation in the southern parts, and dolostone of the Oxford Formation in the northern parts
- The ground surface ranges in elevation from approximately 142 masl at the head to approximately 100 masl at the catchment’s outlet
- 91 square kilometers; occupies 16 percent of the Jock River subwatershed, two percent of the Rideau Valley watershed
- Kings Creek and tributaries: 143 km
1.2 Vulnerable Areas
- The Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection initiative has mapped scattered parts of this catchment as a significant groundwater recharge areas and all the catchment as Highly Vulnerable Aquifer. Parts of Wellhead Protection Area (WHPA) D for the municipal wells in Kemptville underlie the southern extent of this catchment
- A watershed model developed by the RVCA in 2009 was used to study the hydrologic function of wetlands in the Rideau Valley Watershed, including those found in the Kings Creek catchment
1.3 Conditions at a Glance
- Surface chemistry water quality on Kings Creek catchment is “Good” due to a few of the measured parameters exceeding their respective guidelines
- Instream biological water quality conditions at the Kings Creek sample location range from “Fair” to “ Poor” from 2004 to 2015 (using a grading scheme developed by Ontario Conservation Authorities in Ontario for benthic invertebrates) with an overall benthic invertebrate water quality rating of “Poor” determined for this period
Instream and Riparian
- Overall instream and riparian condition for the Kings Creek catchment as assessed by the stream characterization and headwater drainage feature assessment programs show that the Kings Creek and its tributaries are in generally good condition. The majority of the system has low erosion levels and a healthy forested/wetland riparian corridor along Kings Creek. Instream diversity of aquatic habitat is fairly complex in the lower reaches of Kings Creek, while the upper and middle reaches are dominated by wetland which is a very important wetland feature with high values that support catchment health
- Warm/cool water thermal guild supporting the Jock River fishery
- Twenty-nine species of recreational and bait fish
Shoreline Cover Type (30 m. riparian area; 2014)
- Wetland (55%)
- Crop and Pasture (19%)
- Woodland (19%)
- Transportation (3%)
- Settlement (2%)
- Meadow-Thicket (1%)
- Aggregate (<1)
Land Cover Type (2014)
- Woodland (40%)
- Wetland (26%)
- Crop and Pasture (22%)
- Meadow-Thicket (6%)
- Settlement (4%)
- Transportation (2%)
- Aggregate (<1%)
- Water (<1%)
Land Cover Change (2008 to 2014)
- Meadow-Thicket (-26 ha)
- Woodland (-17 ha)
- Crop and Pasture (0 ha)
- Water (0 ha)
- Aggregate (+1 ha)
- Transportation (+5 ha)
- Wetland (+11 ha)
- Settlement (+24 ha)
Significant Natural Features
- Franktown Swamp Provincially Significant Wetland
- Nichols Creek Provincially Significant Wetland
- North Montague Swamp Area of Natural and Scientific Interest
- North Mud Lake Provincially Significant Wetland
- Pinery Road Provincially Significant Wetland
- Prospect Bog Provincially Significant Wetland
- Richmond Fen Provincially Significant Wetland
- Several hundred (~ 430) operational private water wells in the Kings Creek Catchment. Groundwater uses are mainly domestic but also include livestock watering and municipal and other public water supplies
- Four sand and gravel pits within the catchment. Sand and gravel resources are limited and of tertiary importance
Species at Risk (Elemental Occurrence)
- Loggerhead Shrike, Spotted Turtle (Endangered)
- Blanding’s Turtle, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Gray Ratsnake (Threatened)
- Black Tern, Snapping Turtle (Special Concern)
1.4 Catchment Care
- Thirty-four stewardship projects undertaken (see Section 5)
- Chemical surface (in-stream) water quality collection since 2003 (see Section 2)
- Benthic invertebrate (aquatic insect) surface (in-stream) water quality collection since 2003 (see Section 3.3.1)
- Fish survey along the Jock River (see Section 3.3.11)
- Stream characterization survey on the Jock River in 2015, working upstream to the headwaters from the mouth of the creek where it empties into the Jock River, taking measurements and recording observations on instream habitat, bank stability, other attributes and preparing a temperature profile (see Section 3)
- Twenty-five headwater drainage feature assessments in 2015 at road crossings in the catchment. The protocol measures zero, first and second order headwater drainage features and is a rapid assessment method characterizing the amount of water, sediment transport, and storage capacity within headwater drainage features (see Section 3.4)
- Groundwater chemistry information is available from the Ontario Geological Survey for a well located in this catchment
- Development along Kings Creek and in and adjacent to the Provincially Significant Wetlands in the catchment (Franktown Swamp, Nichols Creek, North Mud Lake, Pinery Road, Prospect Bog, Richmond Fen) are subject to Ontario Regulation 174-06 (entitled “Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses”) that protects the hydrologic function of the wetland and also protects landowners and their property from natural hazards (flooding, fluctuating water table, unstable soils) associated with them
- One active Permit To Take Water (PTTW) in the Kings Creek catchment issued for pit/quarry dewatering
- Environmental Compliance Approvals issued for a municipal and private sewage work and a municipal or private water works in the catchment
2.0 Kings Creek Catchment: Surface Water Quality Conditions
Surface water quality conditions in the Kings Creek catchment are monitored by the City of Ottawa Baseline Water Quality Monitoring Program. This program provides information on the condition of Ottawa’s surface water resources; data is collected for multiple parameters including nutrients (total phosphorus, total Kjeldahl nitrogen and ammonia), E. coli, metals (like aluminum and copper) and additional chemical/physical parameters (such as alkalinity, chlorides, pH and total suspended solids). The locations of monitoring sites are shown in Figure 2 and Table 1.
Figure 2 Water quality monitoring site on Kings Creek in the Kings Creek Catchment
2.1 Kings Creek Water Quality Rating
The RVCA's water quality rating for the Kings Creek site CK75-01 is “Good” (Table 1) as determined by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Water Quality Index. A “Good” rating indicates that water quality is protected with only a minor degree of threat or impairment; conditions rarely depart from natural or desirable levels. Each parameter is evaluated against established guidelines to determine water quality conditions. Those parameters that are more likely to exceed guidelines are presented below. Table 1 shows the overall rating for the monitored surface water quality site within the Kings Creek catchment and Table 2 outlines the Water Quality Index (WQI) scores and their corresponding ratings.
There is one monitored water quality site on Kings Creek within the Kings Creek Catchment (CK75-01, Figure 2). Due to limited data availability, only data for the 2010-2015 period has been assessed. The water quality scores at this site is “Good” (Table 1), this score is largely due to few parameters that exceed their respective guideline. For more information on the CCME WQI, please see the Jock River Subwatershed Report.
Water Quality Index rating for the Kings Creek Catchment
|Sampling Site||Location ||2010-2015||Rating|
|CK75-01||Kings Creek upstream of Ashton Station Rd Bridge north east of Purdy Rd. ||81||Good|
Water Quality Index ratings and corresponding index scores (RVCA terminology, original WQI category names in brackets)
Total phosphorus (TP) is used as a primary indicator of excessive nutrient loading and may contribute to abundant aquatic vegetation growth and depleted dissolved oxygen levels. The Provincial Water Quality Objective (PWQO) is used as the TP Guideline and states that in streams concentrations greater than 0.030 mg/l indicate an excessive amount of TP.
Total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) and ammonia (NH3) are used as secondary indicators of nutrient loading. RVCA uses a guideline of 0.500 mg/l to assess TKN and the PWQO of 0.020 mg/l to assess NH3 concentrations in Kings Creek.
Tables 3, 4 and 5 summarize average nutrient concentrations at the monitored site within the Kings Creek Catchment and show the proportion of results that meet the guidelines.
Summary of total phosphorus results for the Kings Creek catchment, 2010-2015
|Total Phosphorous 2010-2015|
|Site||Average (mg/l)||Below Guideline||No. Samples|
Summary of total Kjeldahl nitrogen results for the Kings Creek catchment from 2010-2015. Highlighted values indicate average concentrations exceed the guideline
|Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen 2010-2015|
|Site||Average (mg/l)||Below Guideline||No. Samples|
Summary of ammonia results for Kings Creek catchment from 2010-2015
|Site||Average (mg/l)||Below Guideline||No. Samples|
Monitoring Site CK75-01
Elevated TP results were a rare occurrence at site CK75-01. Ninety-eight percent of samples were below the guideline in the 2010-2015 period (Figure 3). The average TP concentration was also well below the guideline at 0.015 mg/l (Table 3).
The bulk of TKN results have exceeded the guideline (Figure 4), with 17 percent of samples below the guideline in the 2010-2015. The average concentration was elevated and exceeded the guideline at 0.645 mg/l (Table 4).
The results for NH3 showed very few exceedances occurred. Ninety-eight percent of results were below the guideline in the 2010-2015 reporting period (Figure 5). The average NH3 was well below the PWQO of 0.004 mg/l (Table 5).
Figure 3 Total phosphorous concentrations in Kings Creek, 2010-2015
Figure 4 Total Kjeldahl nitrogen concentrations in Kings Creek, 2010-2015
Figure 5 Ammonia concentrations in Kings Creek, 2010-2015
Nutrient enrichment is not a significant feature at the monitored site on Kings Creek. Overall, average TP and NH3 concentrations are well below the guideline, while regular TKN exceedances were observed. The elevated TKN concentrations coupled with low NH3 and TP results provide evidence that nutrient environment may be a natural feature in this part of the creek. Upstream of CK75-01 there is limited development and large wetland areas which likely contribute to naturally high levels of organic nutrients. Best management practices such as minimizing storm water runoff, enhanced shoreline buffers, preventing the use of fertilizers and restricting livestock access should all be employed wherever possible to prevent unnecessary nutrient loading to downstream reaches and protect the “Good” water quality in this area.
2.3 Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is used as an indicator of bacterial pollution from human or animal waste; in elevated concentrations, it can pose a risk to human health. The PWQO of 100 colony forming units/100 millilitres (CFU/100 ml) is used. E. coli counts greater than this guideline indicate that bacterial contamination may be a problem within a waterbody.
Table 6 summarizes the geometric mean for the monitored site on Kings Creek within this catchment and shows the proportion of samples that meet the E. coli guideline of 100 CFU/100 ml. The results of the geometric mean with respect to the guideline for the 2010-2015 period is shown in Figure 6.
Summary of E. coli results for Kings Creek, 2010-2015
|E. coli 2010-2015|
|Site||Geometric Mean (CFU/100ml)||Below Guideline||No. Samples|
Monitoring Site CK75-01
E. coli counts at site CK75-01 were occasionally elevated. These exceedances generally occur in the mid-summer months where increased temperature would favour bacterial growth. Most samples (73 percent) are below the guideline in the 2010-2015 period (Figure 6). The count at the geometric was minimal at 42 CFU/100ml (Table 6).
Figure 6 Geometric mean of E. coli results in Kings Creek, 2010-2015
Bacterial contamination does not appear to be a significant concern in this reach of Kings Creek. As previously noted; best management practices such as enhancing shoreline buffers, restricting livestock access and minimizing storm water runoff should be employed wherever possible to help protect and enhance water quality conditions in Kings Creek.
1No Ontario guideline for TKN is presently available; however, waters not influenced by excessive organic inputs typically range from 0.100 to 0.500 mg/l, Environment Canada (1979) Water Quality Sourcebook, A Guide to Water Quality Parameters, Inland Waters Directorate, Water Quality Branch, Ottawa, Canada
2A type of mean or average, which indicates the central tendency or typical value of a set of numbers by using the product of their values (as opposed to the arithmetic mean which uses their sum). It is often used to summarize a variable that varies over several orders of magnitude, such as E. coli counts
3.0 Kings Creek Catchment: Riparian Conditions
3.1 Kings Creek Overbank Zone
3.1.1 Riparian Buffer Width Evaluation
Figure 7 demonstrates the buffer conditions of the left and right banks separately. Kings Creek had a buffer of greater than 30 meters along 98 percent of the right bank and 99 percent of the left bank.
Figure 7 Riparian Buffer Evaluation along Kings Creek
3.1.2 Riparian Buffer Alterations
Alterations within the riparian buffer were assessed within three distinct shoreline zones (0-5m, 5-15m, 15-30m), and evaluated based on the dominant vegetative community and/or land cover type (Figure 8). The riparian buffer zone along the Kings Creek was found to be dominated by forest and wetland conditions along the riparian corridor.
Figure 8 Riparian buffer alterations along Kings Creek
3.1.3 Adjacent Land Use
The RVCA’s Stream Characterization Program identifies seven different land uses along Kings Creek (Figure 9). Surrounding land use is considered from the beginning to end of the survey section (100m) and up to 100m on each side of the river. Land use outside of this area is not considered for the surveys but is nonetheless part of the subwatershed and will influence the creek. Natural areas made up 96 percent of the stream, characterized by forest, scrubland, meadow and wetland. Wetland habitat was dominant in the adjacent lands along Kings Creek at 57 percent. The remaining land use consisted of active agriculture, residential and infrastructure in the form of road crossings.
Figure 9 Land Use along Kings Creek
3.2 Kings Creek Shoreline Zone
3.2.1 Instream Erosion
Stream erosion is the process by which water erodes and transports sediments, resulting in dynamic flows and diverse habitat conditions. Excessive erosion can result in drastic environmental changes, as habitat conditions, water quality and aquatic life are all negatively affected. Bank stability was assessed as the overall extent of each section with “unstable” shoreline conditions. These conditions are defined by the presence of significant exposed soils/roots, minimal bank vegetation, severe undercutting, slumping or scour and potential failed erosion measures. The majority of Kings Creek had low levels of erosion with the exception of one location along the system which had moderate to high levels of erosion (Figure 10).
Figure 10 Erosion levels along Kings Creek
3.2.2 Undercut Stream Banks
Stream bank undercuts can provide excellent cover habitat for aquatic life, however excessive levels can be an indication of unstable shoreline conditions. Bank undercut was assessed as the overall extent of each surveyed section with overhanging bank cover present. Figure 11 shows that Kings Creek had low levels of undercut banks along the majority of the system with a few specific locations having moderate levels of undercut banks observed.
Figure 11 Undercut stream banks along Kings Creek
3.2.3 Stream Shading
Grasses, shrubs and trees all contribute towards shading a stream. Shade is important in moderating stream temperature, contributing to food supply and helping with nutrient reduction within a stream. Stream cover is assessed as the total coverage area in each section that is shaded by overhanging trees/grasses and tree canopy, at greater than 1m above the water surface. Figure 12 shows highly variable conditions of low to high levels of stream shading along Kings Creek.
Figure 12 Stream shading along Kings Creek
3.2.4 Instream Woody Debris
Figure 13 shows that the majority of Kings Creek had highly variable levels of instream woody debris in the form of branches and trees along the system. Instream woody debris is important for fish and benthic invertebrate habitat, by providing refuge and feeding areas.
Figure 13 Instream woody debris along Kings Creek
3.2.5 Overhanging Trees and Branches
Trees and branches that are less than one meter from the surface of the water are defined as overhanging. Overhanging branches and trees provide a food source, nutrients and shade which helps to moderate instream water temperatures. Figure 14 shows the system is highly variable with low to high levels of overhanging branches and trees along Kings Creek.
Figure 14 Overhanging trees and branches along Kings Creek
3.2.6 Anthropogenic Alterations
Stream alterations are classified based on specific functional criteria associated with the flow conditions, the riparian buffer and potential human influences. Figure 15 shows 67 percent of Kings Creek remains “unaltered” with no anthropogenic alterations. Thirty two percent of Kings Creek was classified as natural with minor anthropogenic changes while only two percent was considered altered. The alterations along Kings Creek were in the form of road crossings.
Figure 15 Anthropogenic alterations along Kings Creek
3.3 Kings Creek Instream Aquatic Habitat
3.3.1 Benthic Invertebrates
Freshwater benthic invertebrates are animals without backbones that live on the stream bottom and include crustaceans such as crayfish, molluscs and immature forms of aquatic insects. Benthos represent an extremely diverse group of aquatic animals and exhibit wide ranges of responses to stressors such as organic pollutants, sediments and toxicants, which allows scientists to use them as bioindicators. As part of the Ontario Benthic Biomonitoring Network (OBBN), the RVCA has been collecting benthic invertebrates at the Jock Trail Road site on Kings Creek since 2004. Monitoring data is analyzed for each sample site and the results are presented using the Family Biotic Index, Family Richness and percent Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera.
OBBN sampling location photo from spring 2015 at Jock Trail Road
Hilsenhoff Family Biotic Index
The Hilsenhoff Family Biotic Index (FBI) is an indicator of organic and nutrient pollution and provides an estimate of water quality conditions for each site using established pollution tolerance values for benthic invertebrates. FBI results for the Kings Creek catchment sample location at Jock Trail Road are summarized by year from 2004 to 2015. “Fair” to “Poor” water quality conditions was observed at the Kings Creek sample location (Figure 16) using a grading scheme developed by Conservation Authorities in Ontario for benthic invertebrates.
Figure 16 Hilsenhoff Family Biotic Index at the Kings Creek Jock Trail Road sample location
Family Richness measures the health of the community through its diversity and increases with increasing habitat diversity suitability and healthy water quality conditions. Family Richness is equivalent to the total number of benthic invertebrate families found within a sample. The Kings Creek site is reported to have “Fair” family richness (Figure 17).
Figure 17 Family Richness at the Kings Creek Jock Trail Road sample location
Ephemeroptera (Mayflies), Plecoptera (Stoneflies), and Trichoptera (Caddisflies) are species considered to be very sensitive to poor water quality conditions. High abundance of these organisms is generally an indication of good water quality conditions at a sample location. The community structure is typically dominated by species that are moderately tolerant and tolerant to poorer water quality conditions. As a result, the EPT indicates that the Kings Creek sample location is reported to have “Fair” to “Poor” water quality (Figure 18) from 2004 to 2015.
Figure 18 EPT at the Kings Creek Jock Trail Road sample location
Overall the Kings Creek sample location aquatic habitat conditions from a benthic invertebrate perspective is considered “Poor” from 2004 to 2015 as the samples are dominated by species that are moderately tolerant and tolerant to high organic pollution levels.
3.3.2 Habitat Complexity
Habitat complexity is a measure of the overall diversity of habitat types and features within a stream. Streams with high habitat complexity support a greater variety of species niches, and therefore contribute to greater diversity. Factors such as substrate, flow conditions (pools, riffles) and cover material (vegetation, wood structure, etc.) all provide crucial habitat to aquatic life. Habitat complexity is assessed based on the presence of boulder, cobble and gravel substrates, as well as the presence of instream woody material.
Low to high habitat complexity was identified for Kings Creek (Figure 19). Regions with increased habitat complexity were observed in the lower to middle reaches of the system within the catchment.
Figure 19 Habitat complexity along Kings Creek
3.3.3 Instream Substrate
Diverse substrate is important for fish and benthic invertebrate habitat because some species have specific substrate requirements and for example will only reproduce on certain types of substrate. The absence of diverse substrate types may limit the overall diversity of species within a stream. Figure 20 shows the overall presence of various substrate types observed along Kings Creek. Substrate conditions were highly diverse along Kings Creek with all substrate types being recorded at various locations along the creek. Figure 21 shows the dominant substrate type observed for each section surveyed along Kings Creek.
Figure 20 Instream substrate along Kings Creek
Figure 21 Dominant substrate type along Kings Creek
3.3.4 Instream Morphology
Pools and riffles are important habitat features for aquatic life. Riffles are fast flowing areas characterized by agitation and overturn of the water surface. Riffles thereby play a crucial role in contributing to dissolved oxygen conditions and directly support spawning for some fish species. They are also areas that support high benthic invertebrate populations which are an important food source for many aquatic species. Pools are characterized by minimal flows, with relatively deep water and winter/summer refuge habitat for aquatic species. Runs are moderately shallow, with unagitated surfaces of water and areas where the thalweg (deepest part of the channel) is in the center of the channel. Figure 22 shows that Kings Creek is highly variable; 64 percent consists of runs, 5 percent riffles and 31 percent pools. Figure xx shows where the riffle habitat areas were observed along Kings Creek.
Figure 22 Instream morphology along Kings Creek
3.3.5 Vegetation Type
Instream vegetation provides a variety of functions and is a critical component of the aquatic ecosystem. Aquatic plants promote stream health by:
- Providing direct riparian/instream habitat
- Stabilizing flows reducing shoreline erosion
- Contributing to dissolved oxygen through photosynthesis
- Maintaining temperature conditions through shading
For example emergent plants along the shoreline can provide shoreline protection from wave action and important rearing habitat for species of waterfowl. Submerged plants provide habitat for fish to find shelter from predator fish while they feed. Floating plants such as water lilies shade the water and can keep temperatures cool while reducing algae growth. Narrow leaved emergents were present at 95% of the sections surveyed, algae was observed in 80% of sections, while free floating plants were observed in 7% of surveyed sections. Broad leaved emergents were observed in 35% of sections, submerged plants in 97%, floating plants in 78% and robust emergents in 27% of sections surveyed. Fifty eight percent of the sections had no instream vegetation present, this is likely as a result of a large number of sections with bedrock as the dominant substrate type. It is very difficult for instream vegetation to establish in those sections with vegetation establishing only along the shoreline. Figure 23 depicts the plant community structure for Kings Creek. Figure 24 shows the dominant vegetation type observed for each section surveyed along the Kings Creek catchment.
Figure 23 Vegetation type along Kings Creek
Figure 24 Dominant vegetation type along Kings Creek
3.3.6 Instream Vegetation Abundance
Instream vegetation is an important factor for a healthy stream ecosystem. Vegetation helps to remove contaminants from the water, contributes oxygen to the stream, and provides habitat for fish and wildlife. Too much vegetation can also be detrimental. Figure 25 demonstrates that the Kings Creek reach had no vegetation to low levels of instream vegetation for 22 percent of its length. Normal to common levels of vegetation were recorded at 35 percent of stream surveys. Extensive levels of vegetation were observed along 43 percent of the systems length and were consistent with areas dominated by European Frogbit.
Figure 25 Instream vegetation abundance along Kings Creek
3.3.7 Invasive Species
Invasive species can have major implications on streams and species diversity. Invasive species are one of the largest threats to ecosystems throughout Ontario and can out compete native species, having negative effects on local wildlife, fish and plant populations. Seventy eight percent of the sections surveyed along Kings Creek reach had invasive species. The invasive species observed in the Kings Creek reach were European frogbit, poison/wild parsnip, purple loosestrife, rusty crayfish and Manitoba maple. Invasive species abundance (i.e. the number of observed invasive species per section) was assessed to determine the potential range/vector of many of these species (Figure 26).
Figure 26 Invasive species abundance along Kings Creek
3.3.8 Water Chemistry
During the stream characterization survey, a YSI probe is used to collect water chemistry information. Dissolved oxygen (DO), specific conductivity (SPC) and pH are measured at the start and end of each section.
220.127.116.11 Dissolved Oxygen
Dissolved oxygen is a measure of the amount of oxygen dissolved in water. The Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) suggest that for the protection of aquatic life the lowest acceptable dissolved oxygen concentration should be 6 mg/L for warmwater biota and 9.5 mg/L for coldwater biota (CCME, 1999). Figure 27 shows that the dissolved oxygen in Kings Creek was within the threshold for warmwater biota in this reach of the system. The average dissolved oxygen levels observed within Kings Creek was 5.05mg/L which is below the recommended levels for warmwater biota. The upper sections of the reach fell below the recommended 6.0mg/L for warmwater biota.
Figure 27 Dissolved oxygen ranges in Kings Creek
Conductivity in streams is primarily influenced by the geology of the surrounding environment, but can vary drastically as a function of surface water runoff. Currently there are no CCME guideline standards for stream conductivity; however readings which are outside the normal range observed within the system are often an indication of unmitigated discharge and/or stormwater input. The average conductivity observed within the main stem of Kings Creek catchment was 383.91 µs/cm. Figure 28 shows the conductivity readings for Kings Creek.
Figure 28 Specific conductivity ranges in Kings Creek
Based on the PWQO for pH, a range of 6.5 to 8.5 should be maintained for the protection of aquatic life. Average pH values for the Kings Creek catchment averaged 7.54 thereby meeting the provincial standard (Figure 29).
Figure 29 pH ranges in Kings Creek
18.104.22.168 Oxygen Saturation (%)
Oxygen saturation is measured as the ratio of dissolved oxygen relative to the maximum amount of oxygen that will dissolve based on the temperature and atmospheric pressure. Well oxygenated water will stabilize at or above 100% saturation, however the presence of decaying matter/pollutants can drastically reduce these levels. Oxygen input through photosynthesis has the potential to increase saturation above 100% to a maximum of 500%, depending on the productivity level of the environment. In order to represent the relationship between concentration and saturation, the measured values have been summarized into 6 classes:
- <100% Saturation / <6.0 mg/L Concentration. Oxygen concentration and saturation are not sufficient to support aquatic life and may represent impairment
- >100% Saturation / <6.0 mg/L Concentration. Oxygen concentration is not sufficient to support aquatic life, however saturation levels indicate that the water has stabilized at its estimated maximum. This is indicative of higher water temperatures and stagnant flows.
- <100% Saturation / 6.0-9.5 mg/L Concentration. Oxygen concentration is sufficient to support warm water biota, however depletion factors are likely present and are limiting maximum saturation.
- >100% Saturation / 6.0-9.5 mg/L Concentration. Oxygen concentration and saturation levels are optimal for warm water biota.
- <100% Saturation / >9.5 mg/L Concentration. Oxygen concentration is sufficient to support cold water biota, however depletion factors are likely present and are limiting maximum saturation.
- >100% Saturation / >9.5 mg/L Concentration. Oxygen concentration and saturation levels are optimal for cold water biota.
Figure 30 A bivariate assessment of dissolved oxygen concentration (mg/L) and saturation (%) in Kings Creek
Dissolved oxygen conditions on the Kings Creek catchment are generally sufficient for both warm and coolwater species (Figure 30). Dissolved oxygen conditions are higher in the lower reach and lower in the upper reaches which are dominated by wetland habitat. Oxygen levels in wetland habitats are typically lower than they are in areas where the substrate is dominated by cobble and riffle habitat.
22.214.171.124 Specific Conductivity Assessment
Specific conductivity (SPC) is a standardized measure of electrical conductance, collected at or corrected to a water temperature of 25⁰C. SPC is directly related to the concentration of ions in water, and is commonly influenced by the presence of dissolved salts, alkalis, chlorides, sulfides and carbonate compounds. The higher the concentration of these compounds, the higher the conductivity. Common sources of elevated conductivity include storm water, agricultural inputs and commercial/industrial effluents.
In order to summarize the conditions observed, SPC levels were evaluated as either normal, moderately elevated or highly elevated. These categories correspond directly to the degree of variation (i.e. standard deviation) at each site relative to the average across the system.
Normal levels were maintained along the majority of Kings Creek, however there were elevated areas in the middle reaches (Figure 31).
Figure 31 Relative specific conductivity levels along Kings Creek
3.3.9 Thermal Regime
Many factors can influence fluctuations in stream temperature, including springs, tributaries, precipitation runoff, discharge pipes and stream shading from riparian vegetation. Water temperature is used along with the maximum air temperature (using the Stoneman and Jones method) to classify a watercourse as either warm water, cool water or cold water. Figure 32 shows where the thermal sampling sites were located along Kings Creek. Analysis of the data collected indicates that Kings Creek catchment is classified as a warm water system with cool water reaches (Figure 33).
Figure 32 Temperature logger locations in the Kings Creek catchment
Figure 33 Temperature logger data for the three sites in the Kings Creek catchment
Each point on the graph represents a temperature that meets the following criteria:
- Sampling dates between July 1st and September 7th
- Sampling date is preceded by two consecutive days above 24.5 °C, with no rain
- Water temperatures are collected at 4pm
- Air temperature is recorded as the max temperature for that day
Groundwater discharge areas can influence stream temperature, contribute nutrients, and provide important stream habitat for fish and other biota. During stream surveys, indicators of groundwater discharge are noted when observed. Indicators include: springs/seeps, watercress, iron staining, significant temperature change and rainbow mineral film. Figure 34 shows areas where one or more of the above groundwater indicators were observed during stream surveys and headwater assessments.
Figure 34 Groundwater indicators observed in the Kings Creek catchment
3.3.11 Fish Community
The Kings Creek catchment is classified as a mixed community of warm and cool water recreational and baitfish fishery with 29 species observed. Figure 35 shows the sampling locations along the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment.
Figure 35 Fish species observed at sampling locations in the Kings Creek catchment
Fyke net set on Kings Creek
The following table contains a list of species observed in the watershed.
Fish community species observed in the Kings Creek catchment
|Fish Species||Fish code||Fish Species||Fish code|
|blackchin shiner||BcShi||fathead minnow||FhMin|
|blacknose dace||BnDac||finescale dace||FsDac|
|blacknose shiner||BnShi||golden shiner||GoShi|
|blacksided darter||BsDar||hornyhead chub||HhChu|
|bluntnose minnow||BnMin||Johnny darter||JoDar|
|brook stickleback||BrSti||northern pearl dace||PeDac|
|brown bullhead||BrBul||norther pike||NoPik|
|central mudminnow||CeMud||northern redbelly dace||NRDac|
|common shiner||CoShi||rock bass||RoBas|
|creek chub||CrChu||white sucker||WhSuc|
3.3.12 Migratory Obstructions
It is important to know locations of migratory obstructions because these can prevent fish from accessing important spawning and rearing habitat. Migratory obstructions can be natural or manmade, and they can be permanent or seasonal. Figure 36 shows that Kings Creek catchment had several debris dams and beaver dams identified along Kings Creek at the time of the survey in 2015.
Figure 36 Migratory obstructions in the Kings Creek catchment
3.3.13 Riparian Restoration
Figure 37 depicts the locations of riparian restoration opportunities as a result of observations made during the stream survey.
Figure 37 Riparian restoration opportunities in the Kings Creek catchment
3.4 Headwater Drainage Features Assessment
3.4.1 Headwater Sampling Locations
The RVCA Stream Characterization program assessed Headwater Drainage Features for the Jock River subwatershed in 2015. This protocol measures zero, first and second order headwater drainage features (HDF). It is a rapid assessment method characterizing the amount of water, sediment transport, and storage capacity within headwater drainage features (HDF). RVCA is working with other Conservation Authorities and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to implement the protocol with the goal of providing standard datasets to support science development and monitoring of headwater drainage features. An HDF is a depression in the land that conveys surface flow. Additionally, this module provides a means of characterizing the connectivity, form and unique features associated with each HDF (OSAP Protocol, 2013). In 2015 the program sampled 26 sites at road crossings in the Kings Creek catchment area (Figure 38).
Figure 38 Location of the headwater sampling site in the Kings Creek catchment
3.4.2 Headwater Feature Type
The headwater sampling protocol assesses the feature type in order to understand the function of each feature. The evaluation includes the following classifications: defined natural channel, channelized or constrained, multi-thread, no defined feature, tiled, wetland, swale, roadside ditch and pond outlet. By assessing the values associated with the headwater drainage features in the catchment area we can understand the ecosystem services that they provide to the watershed in the form of hydrology, sediment transport, and aquatic and terrestrial functions. The headwater drainage features in the Kings Creek catchment are primarily classified as wetland with twelve, six features classified as natural, one feature was classified as a road side ditch, one multi thread and six features as channelized. Figure 39 shows the feature type of the primary feature at the sampling locations.
Figure 39 Headwater feature types in the Kings Creek catchment
A spring photo of the headwater sample site in the Kings Creek catchment located on Bourne Road
A summer photo of the headwater sample site in the Kings Creek catchment located on Bourne Road
3.4.3 Headwater Feature Flow
The observed flow condition within headwater drainage features can be highly variable depending on timing relative to the spring freshet, recent rainfall, soil moisture, etc. Flow conditions are assessed in the spring and in the summer to determine if features are perennial and flow year round, if they are intermittent and dry up during the summer months or if they are ephemeral systems that do not flow regularly and generally respond to specific rainstorm events or snowmelt. Flow conditions in headwater systems can change from year to year depending on local precipitation patterns. Figure 40 shows the observed flow condition at the sampling locations in the Kings Creek catchment in 2015.
Figure 40 Headwater feature flow conditions in the Kings Creek catchment
3.4.4 Feature Channel Modifications
Channel modifications were assessed at each headwater drainage feature sampling location. Modifications include channelization, dredging, hardening and realignments. The Kings Creek catchment area had fourteen with no channel modifications observed, six site as having been recently dredged, three locations had mixed modifications, one had channel had been hardened and one had a pond area constructed. Figure 41 shows the channel modifications observed at the sampling locations for Kings Creek.
Figure 41 Headwater feature channel modifications in the Kings Creek catchment
3.4.5 Headwater Feature Vegetation
Headwater feature vegetation evaluates the type of vegetation that is found within the drainage feature. The type of vegetated within the channel influences the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem values that the feature provides. For some types of headwater features the vegetation within the feature plays a very important role in flow and sediment movement and provides wildlife habitat. The following classifications are evaluated no vegetation, lawn, wetland, meadow, scrubland and forest. Figure 42 depicts the dominant vegetation observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Kings Creek catchment.
Figure 42 Headwater feature vegetation types in the Kings Creek catchment
3.5.6 Headwater Feature Riparian Vegetation
Headwater riparian vegetation evaluates the type of vegetation that is found along the adjacent lands of a headwater drainage feature. The type of vegetation within the riparian corridor influences the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem values that the feature provides to the watershed. Figure 43 depicts the type of riparian vegetation observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Kings Creek catchment.
Figure 43 Headwater feature riparian vegetation types in the Kings Creek catchment
3.5.7 Headwater Feature Sediment Deposition
Assessing the amount of recent sediment deposited in a channel provides an index of the degree to which the feature could be transporting sediment to downstream reaches (OSAP, 2013). Evidence of excessive sediment deposition might indicate the requirement to follow up with more detailed targeted assessments upstream of the site location to identify potential best management practices to be implemented. Sediment deposition ranged from none to extensive for the headwater sites sampled in the Kings Creek catchment area. Figure 44 depicts the degree of sediment deposition observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Kings Creek catchment.
Figure 44 Headwater feature sediment deposition in the Kings Creek catchment
3.5.8 Headwater Feature Upstream Roughness
Feature roughness will provide a measure of the amount of materials within the bankfull channel that could slow down the velocity of water flowing within the headwater feature (OSAP, 2013). Materials on the channel bottom that provide roughness include vegetation, woody debris and boulders/cobble substrates. Roughness can provide benefits in mitigating downstream erosion on the headwater drainage feature and the receiving watercourse by reducing velocities. Roughness also provides important habitat conditions for aquatic organisms. Figure 45 shows the feature roughness conditions at the sampling location in the Kings Creek catchment.
Figure 45 Headwater feature roughness in the Kings Creek catchment
4.0 Kings Creek Catchment: Land Cover
Land cover and any change in coverage that has occurred over a six year period is summarized for the Kings Creek catchment using spatially continuous vector data representing the catchment during the spring of 2008 and 2014. This dataset was developed by the RVCA through heads-up digitization of 20cm DRAPE ortho-imagery at a 1:4000 scale and details the surrounding landscape using 10 land cover classes.
4.1 Kings Creek Catchment Change
As shown in Table 8 and Figure 1, the dominant land cover type in 2014 was woodland followed by wetland and crop and pastureland.
Land cover (2008 vs. 2014) in the Kings Creek catchment
| Land Cover||2008||2014||Change - 2008 to 2014|
|Crop and Pasture||1971||22||1971||22||0||0|
* Does not include treed swamps ** Includes treed swamps
From 2008 to 2014, there was an overall change of 112 hectares (from one land cover class to another). Most of the change in the Kings Creek catchment is a result of crop and pastureland reverting to woodland and the conversion of woodland to crop and pastureland and settlement along with meadow-thicket areas being turned into crop and pastureland (Figure 46).
Figure 46 Land cover change in the Kings Creek catchment (2014)
Table 9 provides a detailed breakdown of all land cover change that has taken place in the Kings Creek catchment between 2008 and 2014.
Land cover change in the Kings Creek catchment (2008 to 2014)
|Land Cover||Change - 2008 to 2014|
|Crop and Pasture to Wooded Area||28.7||25.6|
|Wooded Area to Crop and Pasture||18.3||16.3|
|Meadow-Thicket to Crop and Pasture||16.4||14.6|
|Wooded Area to Settlement||13.2||11.8|
|Wooded Area to Unevaluated Wetland||8.5||7.6|
|Crop and Pasture to Settlement||6.2||5.5|
|Meadow-Thicket to Wooded Area||5.6||5.0|
|Meadow-Thicket to Settlement||3.2||2.8|
|Unevaluated Wetland to Crop and Pasture||3.1||2.7|
|Wooded Area to Transportation||2.9||2.6|
|Unevaluated Wetland to Settlement||1.8||1.6|
|Crop and Pasture to Transportation||1.5||1.3|
|Wooded Area to Aggregate||1.0||0.9|
|Crop and Pasture to Unevaluated Wetland||0.6||0.6|
|Meadow-Thicket to Unevaluated Wetland||0.5||0.4|
|Unevaluated Wetland to Transporation||0.4||0.4|
|Settlement to Transportation||0.4||0.3|
|Meadow-Thicket to Transportation||<0.1||<0.1|
|Aggregate Site to Water||<0.1||<0.1|
|Wooded Area to Water||<0.1||<0.1|
|Water to Transportation||<0.1||<0.1|
4.2 Woodland Cover
In the Environment Canada Guideline (Third Edition) entitled “How Much Habitat Is Enough?” (hereafter referred to as the “Guideline”) the opening narrative under the Forest Habitat Guidelines section states that prior to European settlement, forest was the predominant habitat in the Mixedwood Plains ecozone. The remnants of this once vast forest now exist in a fragmented state in many areas (including the Rideau Valley watershed) with woodland patches of various sizes distributed across the settled landscape along with higher levels of forest cover associated with features such as the Frontenac Axis (within the on-Shield areas of the Rideau Lakes and Tay River subwatersheds). The forest legacy, in terms of the many types of wildlife species found, overall species richness, ecological functions provided and ecosystem complexity is still evident in the patches and regional forest matrices (found in the Jock River subwatershed and elsewhere in the Rideau Valley watershed). These ecological features are in addition to other influences which forests have on water quality and stream hydrology including reducing soil erosion, producing oxygen, storing carbon along with many other ecological services that are essential not only for wildlife but for human well-being.
The Guideline also notes that forests provide a great many habitat niches that are in turn occupied by a great diversity of plant and animal species. They provide food, water and shelter for these species - whether they are breeding and resident locally or using forest cover to help them move across the landscape. This diversity of species includes many that are considered to be species at risk. Furthermore, from a wildlife perspective, there is increasing evidence that the total forest cover in a given area is a major predictor of the persistence and size of bird populations, and it is possible or perhaps likely that this pattern extends to other flora and fauna groups. The overall effect of a decrease in forest cover on birds in fragmented landscapes is that certain species disappear and many of the remaining ones become rare, or fail to reproduce, while species adapted to more open and successional habitats, as well as those that are more tolerant to human-induced disturbances in general, are able to persist and in some cases thrive. Species with specialized-habitat requirements are most likely to be adversely affected. The overall pattern of distribution of forest cover, the shape, area and juxtaposition of remaining forest patches and the quality of forest cover also play major roles in determining how valuable forests will be to wildlife and people alike.
The current science generally supports minimum forest habitat requirements between 30 and 50 percent, with some limited evidence that the upper limit may be even higher, depending on the organism/species phenomenon under investigation or land-use/resource management planning regime being considered/used.
As shown in Figure 47, 41 percent of the Kings Creek catchment contains 3665 hectares of upland forest and 89 hectares of lowland forest (treed swamps) versus the 26 percent of woodland cover in the Jock River subwatershed. This is greater than the 30 percent of forest cover that is identified as the minimum threshold required to sustain forest birds according to the Guideline and which may only support less than one half of potential species richness and marginally healthy aquatic systems. When forest cover drops below 30 percent, forest birds tend to disappear as breeders across the landscape.
Figure 47 Woodland cover and forest interior (2014)
4.2.1 Woodland (Patch) Size
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources’ Natural Heritage Reference Manual (Second Edition), larger woodlands are more likely to contain a greater diversity of plant and animal species and communities than smaller woodlands and have a greater relative importance for mobile animal species such as forest birds.
Bigger forests often provide a different type of habitat. Many forest birds breed far more successfully in larger forests than they do in smaller woodlots and some rely heavily on forest interior conditions. Populations are often healthier in regions with more forest cover and where forest fragments are grouped closely together or connected by corridors of natural habitat. Small forests support small numbers of wildlife. Some species are “area-sensitive” and tend not to inhabit small woodlands, regardless of forest interior conditions. Fragmented habitat also isolates local populations, especially small mammals, amphibians and reptiles with limited mobility. This reduces the healthy mixing of genetic traits that helps populations survive over the long run (Conserving the Forest Interior. Ontario Extension Notes, 2000).
The Environment Canada Guideline also notes that for forest plants that do not disperse broadly or quickly, preservation of some relatively undisturbed large forest patches is needed to sustain them because of their restricted dispersal abilities and specialized habitat requirements and to ensure continued seed or propagation sources for restored or regenerating areas nearby.
The Natural Heritage Reference Manual continues by stating that a larger size also allows woodlands to support more resilient nutrient cycles and food webs and to be big enough to permit different and important successional stages to co-exist. Small, isolated woodlands are more susceptible to the effects of blowdown, drought, disease, insect infestations, and invasions by predators and non-indigenous plants. It is also known that the viability of woodland wildlife depends not only on the characteristics of the woodland in which they reside, but also on the characteristics of the surrounding landscape where the woodland is situated. Additionally, the percentage of forest cover in the surrounding landscape, the presence of ecological barriers such as roads, the ability of various species to cross the matrix surrounding the woodland and the proximity of adjacent habitats interact with woodland size in influencing the species assemblage within a woodland.
In the Kings Creek catchment (in 2014), one hundred and eighteen (43 percent) of the 273 woodland patches are very small, being less than one hectare in size. Another 118 (43 percent) of the woodland patches ranging from one to less than 20 hectares in size tend to be dominated by edge-tolerant bird species. The remaining 37 (14 percent of) woodland patches range between 20 and 377 hectares in size. Twenty-nine of these patches contain woodland between 20 and 100 hectares and may support a few area-sensitive species and some edge intolerant species, but will be dominated by edge tolerant species.
Conversely, eight (three percent) of the 273 woodland patches in the drainage area exceed the 100 plus hectare size needed to support most forest dependent, area sensitive birds and are large enough to support approximately 60 percent of edge-intolerant species. Five patches top 200 hectares, which according to the Environment Canada Guideline will support 80 percent of edge-intolerant forest bird species (including most area sensitive species) that prefer interior forest habitat conditions.
Table 10 presents a comparison of woodland patch size in 2008 and 2014 along with any changes that have occurred over that time. A decrease (of 17 ha) has been observed in the overall woodland patch area between the two reporting periods with most change occurring in the 20 to 50 woodland patch size class range.
Woodland patches in the Kings Creek catchment (2008 and 2014)
|Woodland Patch Size Range (ha)||Woodland* Patches||Patch Change|
|2008||2014||2008 to 2014|
|Count||Percent|| Ha||Percent||Count||Percent|| Ha||Percent||Count||Ha|
|Less than 1 ||114||42||44||42||118||43||45||1||4||1|
|1 to 20||121||45||603||45||118||43||582||16||-3||-21|
|20 to 50||17||6||507||6||20||8||642||17||3||135|
|50 to 100||9||3||571||3||9||3||599||16||0||28|
|100 to 200||4||2||449||2||3||1||356||9||-1||-93|
|Greater than 200||5||2||1596||2||5||2||1529||41||0||-67|
*Includes treed swamps
4.2.2 Woodland (Forest) Interior Habitat
The forest interior is habitat deep within woodlands. It is a sheltered, secluded environment away from the influence of forest edges and open habitats. Some people call it the “core” or the “heart” of a woodland. The presence of forest interior is a good sign of woodland health, and is directly related to the woodland’s size and shape. Large woodlands with round or square outlines have the greatest amount of forest interior. Small, narrow woodlands may have no forest interior conditions at all. Forest interior habitat is a remnant natural environment, reminiscent of the extensive, continuous forests of the past. This increasingly rare forest habitat is now a refuge for certain forest-dependent wildlife; they simply must have it to survive and thrive in a fragmented forest landscape (Conserving the Forest Interior. Ontario Extension Notes, 2000).
The Natural Heritage Reference Manual states that woodland interior habitat is usually defined as habitat more than 100 metres from the edge of the woodland and provides for relative seclusion from outside influences along with a moister, more sheltered and productive forest habitat for certain area sensitive species. Woodlands with interior habitat have centres that are more clearly buffered against the edge effects of agricultural activities or more harmful urban activities than those without.
In the Kings Creek catchment (in 2014), the 273 woodland patches contain 129 forest interior patches (Figure 47) that occupy seven percent (656 ha.) of the catchment land area (which is greater than the three percent of interior forest in the Jock River Subwatershed). This is below the ten percent figure referred to in the Environment Canada Guideline that is considered to be the minimum threshold for supporting edge intolerant bird species and other forest dwelling species in the landscape.
Most patches (115) have less than 10 hectares of interior forest, 77 of which have small areas of interior forest habitat less than one hectare in size. The remaining 14 patches contain interior forest between 10 and 127 hectares in area. Between 2008 and 2014, there has been a large change in the number of woodland patches containing smaller areas (below 10 hectares) of interior habitat with an overall loss of 26 hectares in the catchment (Table 11), suggesting an increase in forest fragmentation over the six year period.
Woodland interior in the Kings Creek catchment (2008 and 2014)
|Woodland Interior Habitat Size Range (ha)||Woodland Interior||Interior Change|
|2008||2014||2008 to 2014|
|Less than 1 ||24||45||7||1||77||60||16||19||53||9|
|1 to 10||15||28||64||9||38||29||139||2||23||75|
|10 to 30||8||15||143||21||9||7||167||21||1||24|
|30 to 50||2||4||84||12||3||2||111||25||1||27|
|50 to 100||2||4||139||20||1||1||96||17||-1||-43|
|Greater than 100||2||4||245||36||1||1||127||15||-1||-118|
4.3 Wetland Cover
Wetlands are habitats forming the interface between aquatic and terrestrial systems. They are among the most productive and biologically diverse habitats on the planet. By the 1980s, according to the Natural Heritage Reference Manual, 68 percent of the original wetlands south of the Precambrian Shield in Ontario had been lost through encroachment, land clearance, drainage and filling.
Wetlands perform a number of important ecological and hydrological functions and provide an array of social and economic benefits that society values. Maintaining wetland cover in a watershed provides many ecological, economic, hydrological and social benefits that are listed in the Reference Manual and which may include:
- contributing to the stabilization of shorelines and to the reduction of erosion damage through the mitigation of water flow and soil binding by plant roots
- mitigating surface water flow by storing water during periods of peak flow (such as spring snowmelt and heavy rainfall events) and releasing water during periods of low flow (this mitigation of water flow also contributes to a reduction of flood damage)
- contributing to an improved water quality through the trapping of sediments, the removal and/or retention of excess nutrients, the immobilization and/or degradation of contaminants and the removal of bacteria
- providing renewable harvesting of timber, fuel wood, fish, wildlife and wild rice
- contributing to a stable, long-term water supply in areas of groundwater recharge and discharge
- providing a high diversity of habitats that support a wide variety of plants and animals
- acting as “carbon sinks” making a significant contribution to carbon storage
- providing opportunities for recreation, education, research and tourism
Historically, the overall wetland coverage within the Great Lakes basin exceeded 10 percent, but there was significant variability among watersheds and jurisdictions, as stated in the Environment Canada Guideline. In the Rideau Valley Watershed, it has been estimated that pre-settlement wetland cover averaged 35 percent using information provided by Ducks Unlimited Canada (2010) versus the 21 percent of wetland cover existing in 2014 derived from DRAPE imagery analysis.
Using the same dataset, it is estimated that pre-settlement (historic) wetland cover averaged 51 percent in the Jock River subwatershed versus the 24 percent of cover existing in 2014 (as summarized in Table 12).
12 Wetland cover in the Jock River subwatershed and Kings Creek catchment (Historic to 2014)
This decline in wetland cover is also evident in the Kings Creek catchment (as seen in Figure 48) where wetland was reported to cover 42 percent of the area prior to settlement, as compared to 26 percent in 2014. This represents a 38 percent loss of historic wetland cover. To maintain critical hydrological, ecological functions along with related recreational and economic benefits provided by these wetland habitats in the catchment, a “no net loss” of currently existing wetlands should be employed to ensure the continued provision of tangible benefits accruing from them to landowners and surrounding communities.
Figure 48 Kings Creek catchment wetland cover
4.4 Shoreline Cover
The riparian or shoreline zone is that special area where the land meets the water. Well-vegetated shorelines are critically important in protecting water quality and creating healthy aquatic habitats, lakes and rivers. Natural shorelines intercept sediments and contaminants that could impact water quality conditions and harm fish habitat in streams. Well established buffers protect the banks against erosion, improve habitat for fish by shading and cooling the water and provide protection for birds and other wildlife that feed and rear young near water. A recommended target (from the Environment Canada Guideline) is to maintain a minimum 30 metre wide vegetated buffer along at least 75 percent of the length of both sides of rivers, creeks and streams.
Figure 49 shows the extent of the ‘Natural’ vegetated riparian zone (predominantly wetland/woodland features) and ‘Other’ anthropogenic cover (crop/pastureland, roads/railways, settlements) along a 30-metre-wide area of land, both sides of the shoreline of the Jock River and its tributaries in the Kings Creek catchment.
Figure 49 Natural and other riparian land cover in the Kings Creek catchment
This analysis shows that the riparian zone in the Kings Creek catchment in 2014 was comprised of wetland (55 percent), woodland (19 percent), crop and pastureland (19 percent), transportation (three percent), settlement (two percent), meadow-thicket (one percent) and aggregate (less than one percent). Additional statistics for the Kings Creek catchment are presented in Table 13 and show that there has been very little change in shoreline cover from 2008 to 2014.
Riparian land cover (2008 vs. 2014) in the Kings Creek catchment
|Riparian Land Cover||2008||2014||Change - 2008 to 2014|
|Crop & Pasture||158||19||155||19||-3||0|
5.0 Kings Creek Catchment: Stewardship and Water Resources Protection
The RVCA and its partners are working to protect and enhance environmental conditions in the Jock River Subwatershed. Figure 50 shows the location of all stewardship projects completed in the Kings Creek catchment along with sites identified for potential shoreline restoration.
5.1 Rural Clean Water Projects
From 2010 to 2015, two well upgrades, two windbreak buffers, one septic system replacement and one clean water diversion project were completed. Between 2004 and 2009, two well upgrades, one septic system replacement, one well decommissioning and one well replacement were completed. Total value of all 11 projects is $65,519 with $14,786 of that amount funded through grant dollars from the RVCA.
Figure 50 Stewardship site locations
5.2 Private Land Forestry Projects
The location of RVCA tree planting projects is shown in Figure 50. From 2010 to 2015, 16,900 trees were planted at seven sites. Between 2004 and 2009, 15,600 trees were planted at three sites and prior to 2004, 74,560 trees were planted at 13 sites, In total, 107,060 trees were planted resulting in the reforestation of 52 hectares. One of these projects was completed within the 30 metre riparian zone of the Jock River. Total value of all 23 projects is $322,147 with $99,138 of that amount coming from fundraising sources.
Through the RVCA Butternut Recovery Program, an additional 20 butternut trees were planted in the Kings Creek catchment (Figure 50) between 2004 and 2015, as part of efforts to introduce healthy seedlings from tolerant butternuts into various locations across Eastern Ontario.
5.3 Valley, Stream, Wetland and Hazard Lands
The Kings Creek catchment covers 91 square kilometres with 16.5 square kilometres (or 18 percent) of the drainage area being within the regulation limit of Ontario Regulation 174/06 (Figure 51), giving protection to wetland areas and river or stream valleys that are affected by flooding and erosion hazards.
Wetlands occupy 23.4 sq. km. (or 26 percent) of the catchment. Of these wetlands, 9.1 sq. km (or 39 percent) are designated as provincially significant and included within the RVCA regulation limit. This leaves the remaining 14.3 sq. km (or 61 percent) of wetlands in the catchment outside the regulated area limit.
Of the 143.1 kilometres of stream in the catchment, regulation limit mapping has been plotted along 26.7 kilometers of streams (representing 19 percent of all streams in the catchment). Some of these regulated watercourses (21.7 km or 15 percent of all streams) flow through regulated wetlands; the remaining 5 km (or 19 percent) of regulated streams are located outside of those wetlands. Plotting of the regulation limit on the remaining 116.4 km (or 81 percent) of streams requires identification of flood and erosion hazards and valley systems.
Within those areas of the Kings Creek catchment subject to the regulation (limit), efforts (have been made and) continue through RVCA planning and regulations input and review to manage the impact of development (and other land management practices) in areas where “natural hazards” are associated with rivers, streams, valley lands and wetlands. For areas beyond the regulation limit, protection of the catchment’s watercourses is only provided through the “alteration to waterways” provision of the regulation.
Figure 51 RVCA regulation limits
5.4 Vulnerable Drinking Water Areas
The Kings Creek drainage catchment is considered to have a Highly Vulnerable Aquifer. This means that the nature of the overburden (thin soils, fractured bedrock) does not provide a high level of protection for the underlying groundwater making the aquifer more vulnerable to contaminants released on the surface. The Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Plan includes policies that focus on the protection of groundwater region-wide due to the fact that most of the region, which encompasses the Mississippi and Rideau watersheds, is considered Highly Vulnerable Aquifer.
For detailed maps and policies that have been developed to protect drinking water sources, please go to the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Region website at www.mrsourcewater.ca to view the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Plan.
6.0 Kings Creek Catchment: Challenges/Issues
Instream biological water quality conditions at the Kings Creek sample location range from “Fair” to “ Poor” from 2004 to 2015 (using a grading scheme developed by Ontario Conservation Authorities in Ontario for benthic invertebrates) with an overall benthic invertebrate water quality rating of “Poor” determined for this period
Natural hazard lands have not been identified
Existing hydrological and geochemical datasets and assessments (academic, RVCA, others) are only recently available and/or are not being considered in the characterization of the numerous hydrologic functions of the Jock River subwatershed. Further, there is a dearth of hydrologic information (hydroperiod, groundwater/surface water interactions, geochemistry) about the wetlands that remain in the Jock River subwatershed
Pre-settlement wetlands have declined by 38 percent and now cover 26 percent (2343 ha.) of the catchment (Figure 50). Sixty-one percent (1432 ha) of these wetlands remain unevaluated/unregulated and are vulnerable to drainage and land clearing activities in the absence of any regulatory and planning controls that would otherwise protect them for the many important hydrological, social, biological and ecological functions/services/values they provide to landowners and the surrounding community
7.0 Kings Creek Catchment: Opportunities/Actions
Landowners should consider taking advantage of The Rural Clean Water Programs which offer grants to landowners interested in implementing projects on their property that will help to protect and improve water quality:
- Homeowners may be interested in projects to repair, replace or upgrade their well or septic system, or addressing erosion through buffer plantings and erosion control
- Farmers can take advantage of a wide range of projects, including livestock fencing, manure storage, tile drainage control structures, cover crops, and many more
Continue to coordinate environmental monitoring and reporting activities with the City of Ottawa
Use wetland restoration as a tool to improve surface water quality and help restore the hydrologic integrity of the Jock River and its tributaries, including Kings Creek
List, share and when possible, synthesize and use existing hydrological and geochemical datasets and assessment outcomes to facilitate the characterization of subwatershed and catchment hydrological functions. In addition, prepare guidance on best practices for the preparation of water budget assessments to better understand the hydrologic cycle requirements that occur at site specific scales; and share existing catchment and subwatershed scale water budget assessment outcomes
Kings Creek flood risks are to be studied as part of ongoing efforts to prepare flood plain mapping for the Jock River subwatershed
Promote the Rideau Valley Shoreline Naturalization Programs to landowners to increase shoreline cover
Educate landowners about the value of and best management practices used to maintain and enhance natural shorelines and headwater drainage features
Work with the Townships of Beckwith and Montague and City of Ottawa to consistently implement current land use planning and development policies for water quality and shoreline protection (i.e., adherence to a minimum 30 metre development setback from water) adjacent to the Jock River and other catchment watercourses, including Kings Creek
Target shoreline restoration at sites identified in this report (shown as “Other riparian land cover” in Figure 49 and “Potential Riparian Restoration” in Figure 37) and explore other restoration and enhancement opportunities along Kings Creek and its tributaries
Promote the City of Ottawa Green Acres Reforestation Program and the Rideau Valley Trees for Tomorrow Program to landowners to increase existing woodland cover
Encourage the Townships of Montague and Beckwith and City of Ottawa to strengthen natural heritage policies in official plans and zoning by-laws where shoreline, wetland, woodland cover and watercourse setbacks are determined to be at or below critical ecological thresholds. Information for this purpose is provided in the RVCA’s subwatershed and catchment reports
Explore ways and means to more effectively enforce and implement conditions of land-use planning and development approvals to achieve net environmental gains
Re-consider the RVCA’s approach to wetland regulation where there is an identified hydrologic imperative to do so (i.e., significant loss of historic wetland cover (see Figure 48) and/or seasonal, critically low baseflows in the Jock River and/or areas of seasonal flooding)
Full Catchment Report