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Catchment Reports

Leamy Creek

Jock River Subwatershed Report 2016

LEAMY 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 Leamy Creek catchment are a compilation of that work.

Catchment Facts Section 1.0
Surface Water Quality Conditions Section 2.0
Riparian Conditions Section 3.0
Land Cover Section 4.0
Land Stewardship and Water Resources Protection Section 5.0
Challenges/Issues Section 6.0
Actions/Opportunities Section 7.0

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 Leamy Creek catchment

 
Figure 1 Land cover in the Leamy Creek catchment

1.0 Jock River-Leamy Creek Catchment: Facts

1.1 General/Physical Geography

Municipalities

  • Ottawa: (20 km2; 100% of catchment)

Geology/Physiography

  • The Leamy Catchment resides within an extensive physiographic region known as the Ottawa Valley Clay Plain, which, in this catchment, can be greater than 15 metres deep. This sediment was deposited in the Champlain Sea after the last glaciation. In this catchment, the Kars Esker, a regional sand and gravel feature, lies along the eastern catchment boundary
  • In this catchment, the clay plain and esker are underlain mostly by dolostone from the Oxford Formation

Topography

  • The ground surface ranges in elevation from approximately 120 masl near Moodie Drive and Fallowfield Road to approximately 91 masl at the catchment’s outlet

Drainage Area

  • 20 square kilometers; occupies four percent of the Jock River subwatershed, less than one percent of the Rideau Valley watershed

Stream Length

  • Jock River and tributaries: 32 km

1.2 Vulnerable Areas

Flood/Erosion Hazard

  • Jock River is subject to a flooding hazard during the regional storm flood (the 100 year flood). Surveys and studies undertaken in accordance with provincial standards have determined that the 100 year flood elevation in the catchment ranges from 93.6 metres above mean sea level at the upper, mapped extent of the regulation limit at Eagleson Road to 92.7 metres above mean sea level at Moodie Drive

Aquifer Vulnerability

  • The Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection initiative has mapped the northern boundary of this catchment as a significant groundwater recharge area. There is little Highly Vulnerable Aquifer and there are no Well Head Protection Areas in the catchment

Wetland Hydrology

  • 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 Leamy Creek catchment
 

1.3 Conditions at a Glance

Water Quality

  • Surface chemistry water quality rating on the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment is “Fair” over two reporting periods (2004-2009 and 2010-2015), as determined by surface water chemistry data. Frequent high nutrient concentrations and occasional metal exceedances largely contributed to the rating
  • Instream biological water quality conditions in Leamy Creek and the Jock River within the catchment are unknown

Instream and Riparian

  • Overall instream and riparian condition for the Jock River-Leamy Creek catchment as assessed by the stream characterization and headwater drainage feature assessment programs show that the Jock River and its tributaries are in generally “Fair” condition. The majority of the system has low erosion levels and a moderately healthy riparian corridor along the Jock River. Instream diversity of aquatic habitat is fairly uniform in the Jock River

Thermal Regime

  • Warm/cool water thermal guild supporting the Jock River/Rideau River fishery

Fish Community

  • Thirty-six species of recreational and bait fish

Shoreline Cover Type (30 m. riparian area; 2014)

  • Crop and Pasture (62%)
  • Woodland (16%)
  • Transportation (9%)
  • Meadow-Thicket (7%)
  • Settlement (4%)
  • Aggregate (2%)

Land Cover Type (2014)

  • Crop and Pasture (68%)
  • Woodland (8%)
  • Aggregate (8%)
  • Settlement (6%)
  • Water (5%)
  • Transportation (3%)
  • Meadow-Thicket (2%)
 

Land Cover Change (2008 to 2014)

  • Woodland (-19 ha)
  • Meadow-Thicket (-7 ha)
  • Aggregate (0 ha)
  • Transportation (0 ha)
  • Settlement (+5 ha)
  • Water (+6 ha)
  • Crop and Pasture (+15 ha)

Significant Natural Features

  • Not applicable

Water Wells

  • One hundred (approximately) operational private water wells in the Leamy Creek Catchment. Groundwater uses are mainly domestic, but also include groundwater monitoring and testing, livestock watering and crop irrigation, and commercial and industrial uses

Aggregates

  • Six sand and gravel pit licenses located within the catchment. Sand and gravel resources are mainly of secondary importance

Species at Risk (Elemental Occurrence)

  • Henslow's Sparrow (Endangered)
  • Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark (Threatened)
  • Snapping Turtle (Special Concern)

1.4 Catchment Care

Stewardship

  • Seventeen stewardship projects undertaken (see Section 5)

Environmental Monitoring

  • Chemical surface (in-stream) water quality collection since 2003 (see Section 2)
  • Fish survey along the Jock River (see Section 3.3.9)
  • Stream characterization survey on the Jock River in 2015, working upstream to the headwaters from its mouth  where it empties into the Rideau River, taking measurements and recording observations on instream habitat, bank stability, other attributes and preparing a temperature profile (see Section 3)
  • One headwater drainage feature assessment in 2015 at a road crossing 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 level and chemistry data is available from a PGMN well located near the Twin Elm Bridge (W156). Additional groundwater chemistry information is available from the Ontario Geological Survey for a well located in this catchment

Environmental Management

  • Development along Leamy Creek and the Jock River in the catchment is subject to Ontario Regulation 174-06 (entitled “Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses”) that protects landowners and their property from natural hazards (flooding, fluctuating water table, unstable slopes/soils)
  • Seven active Permits To Take Water (PTTW) issued for ongoing municipal remediation purposes and aggregate washing
  • Two Environmental Compliance Approvals in the catchment for a municipal or private sewage work and an industrial sewage work

2.0 Jock River-Leamy Creek Catchment: Surface Water Quality Conditions

Surface water quality conditions in the Leamy Creek catchment of the Jock River 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 1. Water quality monitoring site in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 2 Water quality monitoring site in the Leamy Creek catchment

2.1 Jock River Water Quality Rating

The RVCA's water quality rating for Jock River site JR-05 is “Fair” (Table 1) as determined by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Water Quality Index[1]. A “Fair” rating indicates that water quality is usually protected but is occasionally threatened or impaired; conditions sometimes depart from natural or desirable levels. Each parameter is evaluated against established guidelines to determine water quality conditions. Those parameters that frequently exceed guidelines are presented below. Analysis of the data has been broken into two periods; 2004 to 2009 and 2010 to 2015 to examine if conditions have changed between these periods. Table 1 shows the overall rating for the monitored surface water quality site within the Leamy Creek catchment and Table 2 outlines the Water Quality Index (WQI) scores and their corresponding ratings.

There is one monitored water quality site on the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment (JR-05, Figure 2). The water quality score at this site had only a minor decline in the water quality score when compared between periods; reporting as “Fair” in each time frame (Table 1). The score at this site is largely influenced by frequent high nutrient concentrations and occasional metal exceedances. For more information on the CCME WQI, please see the Jock River Subwatershed Report.

Table 1 Water Quality Index ratings for the Leamy Creek Catchment
Sampling SitesLocation2004-2009Rating
JR-05Jock River underneath Moodie Dr. bridge at McKenna Casey Dr.74Fair
Sampling SitesLocation2010-2015Rating
JR-05Jock River underneath Moodie Dr. bridge at McKenna Casey Dr.71Fair
Table 2 Water Quality Index ratings and corresponding index scores (RVCA terminology, original WQI category names in brackets)
RatingIndex Score
Very Good (Excellent)95-100
Good80-94
Fair65-79
Poor (Marginal)45-64
Very Poor (Poor)0-44

2.2 Nutrients

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[2] and the PWQO of 0.020 mg/l to assess NH3 concentrations in the Jock River.

Tables 3, 4 and 5 summarize average nutrient concentrations at the monitored site within the Leamy Creek catchment and show the proportion of results that meet the guidelines.

Table 3 Summary of total phosphorus results for the Leamy Creek catchment, 2004-2009 and 2010-2015.  Highlighted values indicate average concentrations exceed the guideline
Total Phosphorous 2004-2009
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-050.04232%62
Total Phosphorous 2010-2015
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-050.04232%53
 
Table 4 Summary of total Kjeldahl nitrogen results for the Leamy Creek catchment from 2004-2009 and 2010-2015. Highlighted values indicate average concentrations exceed the guideline
Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen 2004-2009
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-050.75910%62
Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen 2010-2015
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-050.7960%53
Table 5 Summary of ammonia results for Leamy Creek catchment from 2004-2009 and 2010-2015.  Highlighted values indicate average concentrations exceed the guideline
Ammonia 2004-2009
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-050.03850%62
Ammonia 2010-2015
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-050.04413%52

Monitoring Site JR-05

Site JR-05 had elevated TP concentrations in both monitoring periods and remained consistent between the two time frames, 2004-2009 and 2010-2015 (Figures 3 and 4). In both time periods only 32 percent of samples were below the guideline and average TP concentrations exceeded the PWQO at 0.042 mg/l (Table 3).

Total Kjeldahl nitrogen concentrations were consistently high with only a few samples below the guideline of 0.500 mg/l. The proportion of samples below the guideline dropped from 10 percent in the 2004-2009 monitoring period to zero samples in the 2010-2015 period (Figures 5 and 6), the average concentrations increased from 0.759 mg/l to 0.796 mg/l during this timeframe (Table 4).

Ammonia results also showed evidence of increased concentrations at site JR-05. The proportion of samples below the guideline dropped from 50 percent to only 13 percent between the two monitoring periods 2004-2009 and 2010-2015, (Figures 7 and 8). This also mirrors a slight increase in the NH3 concentration from 0.038 mg/l to 0.044 mg/l (Table 5).

image002
Figure 3 Total phosphorus concentration in the Jock River, 2004-2009
image008
Figure 4 Total phosphorus concentration in the Jock River, 2010-2015
image001
Figure 5 Total Kjeldahl nitrogen concentrations in the Jock River, 2004-2009
image007
Figure 6 Total Kjeldahl nitrogen concentration in the Jock River, 2010-2015
Figure 6 Ammonia concentrations in the Jock River, 2004-2009
Figure 7 Ammonia concentration in the Jock River, 2004-2009
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Figure 8 Ammonia concentration in the Jock River, 2010-2015

Summary

Nutrient enrichment is a feature in this reach of the Jock River. Overall, average nutrient concentrations have remained consistent through the monitoring periods. All parameters (total phosphorus, total Kjeldahl nitrogen and ammonia) are above guidelines.  Elevated nutrients may result in nutrient loading downstream and to the Rideau River. High nutrient concentrations can help stimulate the growth of algae blooms and other aquatic vegetation in a waterbody and deplete oxygen levels as the vegetation dies off. Best management practices such as enhanced shoreline buffers, limiting the use of fertilizers and restricting livestock access in upstream agricultural areas can help to reduce nutrient enrichment in Jock River. 

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[3] for the monitored site on the Jock River within the Leamy Creek 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 two periods, 2004-2009 and 2010-2015, are shown in Figures 9 and 10 respectively.

Table 6 Summary of E. coli results for the Jock River, 2004-2009 and 2010-2015
E. coli 2004-2009
SiteGeometric Mean (CFU/100ml)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-054374%62
E. coli 2010-2015
SiteGeometric Mean (CFU/100ml)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-054779%52

Monitoring Site JR-05

E. coli counts at site JR-05 are comparable to downstream sites (JR-01 and JR-02) in the Jock River-Barrhaven catchment.  The majority of samples were below the PWQO guideline and only increased slightly in the monitoring period from 74 percent (2004-2009, Figure 9) to 79 percent (2010-2015, Figure 10).  Though more samples were below the PWQO there was a small increase in the count at the geometric mean (Table 6) from 43 CFU/100 ml (2004-2009) to 47 CFU/100 ml (2010-2015).

Figure 8 Geometric mean of E. coli results in the Jock River, 2004-2009
Figure 9 Figure 8 Geometric mean of E. coli results in the Jock River, 2004-2009
Figure 9 Geometric mean of E. coli results in the Jock River, 2010-2015
Figure 10 Figure 9 Geometric mean of E. coli results in the Jock River, 2010-2015
 

Summary

Bacterial contamination does not appear to be a significant concern in this reach of the Jock River, this is comparable to findings by the City of Ottawa’s Water Environment Protection Program (2006). There are occasional exceedances and counts at the geometric mean were below the guideline of 100 CFU/100ml. Best management practices such as enhancing shoreline buffers and restricting livestock access, and improved storm water management can help to protect this reach of the Jock River into the future.

2.4 Metals

Of the metals routinely monitored in the Jock River (Leamy Creek Catchment) aluminum (Al) and copper (Cu) occasionally reported concentrations above their respective PWQOs. For Al, the PWQO is 0.075 mg/l and for Cu it is 0.005 mg/l. In elevated concentrations, these metals can have toxic effects on sensitive aquatic species.

Tables 7 and 8 summarize metal concentrations at site JR-05 as well as show the proportion of samples that meet guidelines. Figures 11 to 14 show metal concentrations with respect to the guidelines for the two periods of interest, 2003–2008 and 2009–2014.

Table 7 Summary of aluminum results in the Jock River from 2004-2009 and 2010-2015.  Highlighted values indicate average concentrations exceed the guideline
Aluminum 2004-2009
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-050.08268%62
Aluminum 2010-2015
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-050.10562%52
 
 
Table 8 Summary of copper results for the Jock River from 2004-2009 and 2010-2015
Copper 2004-2009
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-050.003277%62
Copper 2010-2015
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
JR-050.002881%52

Monitoring Site JR-05

The average Al concentrations at site JR-05 exceeded the guideline. The majority of samples (68 percent) were below the guideline (Figure 11) from 2004-2009, this declined marginally to 62 percent (Figure 12) of results reporting below the guideline from 2010-2015. The average concentration increased from 0.085 mg/l to 0.105 mg/l (Table 7).  It should be noted that a few but very high results are influencing the data set at this site.

Copper concentrations occasionally exceeded the PWQO, with 77 percent of samples below the guideline in 2004-2009 (Figure 13), this improved to 81 percent of samples below the guideline in 2010-2015 (Figure 14). The average concentration of copper also decreased slightly during the two reporting periods from 0.0032 mg/l to 0.0028 mg/l (Table 8).

Figure 10 Average aluminum concentrations in the Jock River, 2004-2009
Figure 11 Average aluminum concentrations in the Jock River, 2004-2009
Figure 11 Average aluminum concentrations in the Jock River, 2010-2015
Figure 12 Average aluminum concentrations in the Jock River, 2010-2015
Figure 12 Average copper concentrations in the Jock River, 2004-2009
Figure 13 Average copper concentrations in the Jock River, 2004-2009
Figure 13 Average copper concentrations in the Jock River, 2010-2015
Figure 14 Average copper concentrations in the Jock River, 2010-2015

Summary

In the Leamy Creek catchment aluminum concentrations have increased at site JR-05 while copper concentrations have remained consistent with slight improvements.  Most increases in concentrations are observed during the spring likely due to increased runoff  from melt conditions, efforts should continue to be made to identify pollution sources and implement best management practices to reduce any inputs such as storm water runoff, metal alloys, fungicides and pesticides to improve overall stream health and lessen downstream impacts.


1 The City of Ottawa Baseline Water Quality Monitoring Program has also applied the CCME WQI to monitored sites. The parameters used and time periods differs between the RVCA and City of Ottawa’s application of the WQI, resulting in different ratings at some sites. 

2 No 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

3A 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 Jock River-Leamy Creek Catchment Riparian Conditions

3.1 Jock River Overbank Zone

3.1.1 Riparian Buffer Width Evaluation

Figure 15 demonstrates the buffer conditions of the left and right banks separately.  The Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment had a buffer of greater than 30 meters along 54 percent of the right bank and 76 percent of the left bank. A 15 meter or less buffer was present along 36 percent of the right bank and 18 percent of the left bank.

Figure XX Riparian Buffer Evaluation along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 15 Riparian Buffer Evaluation along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment  

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 16). The riparian buffer zone along the Jock River within the Leamy Creek catchment was found to have highly variable conditions along the riparian corridor. These alterations were generally associated with infrastructure in the form of roads and agricultural land use.

Figure XX Riparian buffer alterations within the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 16 Riparian buffer alterations within the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment

3.1.3 Adjacent Land Use

The RVCA’s Stream Characterization Program identifies eight different land uses beside the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment (Figure XX). 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 59 percent of the stream, characterized by forest, scrubland, meadow and wetland. Forest habitat was dominant in the adjacent lands along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment at 31 percent.  The remaining land use consisted of active agriculture, pasture, residential and infrastructure in the form of roads and road crossings.

Figure XX Land Use along Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 17 Land Use along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment

3.2 Jock River 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. Figure 18 shows low levels of erosion along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment.

Figure XX Erosion along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 18 Erosion along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
 

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 19 shows that Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment had minimal levels of undercut banks along the system.  

Figure XX Undercut stream banks along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 19 Undercut stream banks along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
 

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 20 shows low to moderate levels of stream shading dominate conditions in most sections of the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment.

Figure XX Stream shading along Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 20 Stream shading along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.2.4 Instream Woody Debris

Figure 21 shows that the majority of Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment had low to moderate levels of instream woody debris in the form of branches and trees. Instream woody debris is important for fish and benthic invertebrate habitat, by providing refuge and feeding areas.

Figure XX Instream woody debris along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 21 Instream woody debris along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
 

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 22 shows the system is highly variable with low to high levels of overhanging branches and trees along Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment. 

Figure XX Overhanging trees and branches along Jock River Leamy Creek
Figure 22 Overhanging trees and branches along the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
 

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 23 shows 38 percent of the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment remains “unaltered” with no anthropogenic alterations.   Fifty seven percent of Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment was classified as natural with minor anthropogenic changes and four percent was considered slightly altered.  The alterations along the Jock River in this reach were in the form of reduced buffers, roads and road crossings. 

Figure XX Anthropogenic alterations along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 23 Anthropogenic alterations along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.3 Jock River Instream Aquatic Habitat

3.3.1 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 moderate habitat complexity was identified for the Jock River Leamy Creek reach (Figure 24). Regions with increased habitat complexity were observed in a few locations along the system within the catchment.

Figure XX Habitat complexity along Jock River Leamy Creek
Figure 24 Habitat complexity along the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.3.2 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 25 shows that 90 percent of the sections observed in the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment had the presence of clay and silt substrate.  Overall substrate conditions were not diverse along the Jock River Leamy Creek reach with clay and silt being the dominate substrate types recorded. Figure 26 shows the dominant substrate type observed for each section surveyed along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment.

Figure XX Instream substrate along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 25 Instream substrate along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure XX shows the dominant substrate type along the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment.
Figure 26 Dominant substrate type along the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment

3.3.3 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 27 shows that the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment is highly uniform; 97 percent consists of runs, 1 percent riffles and 2 percent pools. Figure 28 shows where the riffle habitat areas were observed along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment.

Figure XX Instream morphology along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 27 Instream morphology along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure XX Riffle habitat locations along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 28 Riffle habitat locations along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment

3.3.4 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 94% of the sections surveyed, algae was observed in 100% of sections, while free floating plants were observed in 100% of surveyed sections.   Broad leaved emergents were observed in 88% of sections, submerged plants in 90%, floating plants in 93% and robust emergents in only 25% of sections surveyed.  Figure 29 depicts the plant community structure for the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment. Figure 30 shows the dominant vegetation type observed for each section surveyed along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment.

Figure xx Vegetation type along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 29 Vegetation type along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure XX Dominant vegetation type along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 30 Dominant vegetation type along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment

3.3.5 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 31 demonstrates that the Jock River Leamy Creek reach had no vegetation to low levels of instream vegetation for 38 percent of its length.  Normal to common levels of vegetation were recorded at 52 percent of stream surveys.  Extensive levels were observed at 11 percent along the system.

Figure xx Instream vegetation abundance along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 31 Instream vegetation abundance along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.3.6 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. Ninety three percent of the sections surveyed along the Jock River Leamy Creek reach had invasive species. The invasive species observed in the Jock River Leamy Creek reach were European frogbit, poison/wild parsnip, carp, banded mystery snail, yellow iris, bull thistle, Eurasian milfoil, Chinese mystery snail, 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 32). 

Figure XX Invasive species abundance along the Jock River for the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 32 Invasive species abundance along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.3.7 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. 

3.3.7.1 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 33 shows that the dissolved oxygen in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment was within the threshold for warmwater biota in this reach of the system. The average dissolved oxygen levels observed within the main stem of Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment was 7.96 mg/L which is within the recommended levels for warmwater biota.

Figure XX Dissolved oxygen ranges in the Jock River for the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 33 Dissolved oxygen ranges in the Jock River for the Leamy Creek catchment
3.3.7.2 Conductivity

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 Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment was 556.8 µs/cm. Figure 34 shows the conductivity readings for the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment.

Figure XX Specific conductivity ranges in the Jock River for the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 34 Specific conductivity ranges in the Jock River for the Leamy Creek catchment
 
3.3.7.3 pH

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 Jock River Leamy Creek catchment averaged 7.93 thereby meeting the provincial standard (Figure 35).

Figure XX pH ranges in the Jock River for the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 35 pH ranges in the Jock River for the Leamy Creek catchment
3.3.7.4 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:

  1. <100% Saturation / <6.0 mg/L Concentration. Oxygen concentration and saturation are not sufficient to support aquatic life and may represent impairment
  2. >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.
  3. <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.
  4. >100% Saturation / 6.0—9.5 mg/L Concentration. Oxygen concentration and saturation levels are optimal for warm water biota.
  5. <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.
  6. >100% Saturation / >9.5 mg/L Concentration. Oxygen concentration and saturation levels are optimal for cold water biota.
Figure XX A bivariate assessment of dissolved oxygen concentration (mg/L) and saturation (%) on the Jock River Leamy Creek reach
Figure 36 A bivariate assessment of dissolved oxygen concentration (mg/L) and saturation (%) in the Jock River Leamy Creek reach

Dissolved oxygen conditions on the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment are generally sufficient for both warm and coolwater species (Figure 36).

 
3.3.7.5 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 the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment, with moderately elevated levels observed in a short section in the lower reach and longer section in the middle reach (Figure 37). 

Figure XX Relative specific conductivity levels on the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 37 Relative specific conductivity levels on the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.3.8 Groundwater

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 38 shows areas where one or more of the above groundwater indicators were observed during stream surveys and headwater assessments. 

Figure XX Groundwater indicators observed in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 38 Groundwater indicators observed in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.3.9 Fish Community

The Jock River Leamy Creek catchment is classified as a mixed community of warm and cool water recreational and baitfish fishery with 36 species observed. The following table contains a list of species observed in the watershed.

Table 9 Fish species observed in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
Fish SpeciesFish codeFish SpeciesFish code
banded killifishBaKilgolden shinerGoShi
blackchin shinerBcShihornyhead chubHhChu
blacknose daceBnDaclargemouth bassLmBas
blacknose shinerBnShilogperchLogpe
bluegillBlueglongnose daceLnDac
bluntnose minnowBnMinminnow hybridsHy600
brassy minnowBrMinmottled sculpinMoScu
brook silversideBrSilmuskellungeMuske
brook sticklebackBrStinorthern pearl dacePeDac
brown bullheadBrBulnorthern pikeNoPik
carps and minnowsCA_MInorthern redbelly daceNRDac
central mudminnowCeMudpumpkinseedPumpk
chrosomus sp.PhoSprock bassRoBas
common shinerCoShismallmouth bassSmBas
creek chubCrChuspotfin shinerSpShi
etheostoma sp.EthspstonecatStone
fallfishFallfwalleyeWalle
fathead minnowFhMinwhite suckerWhSuc
finescale daceFsDac
 

3.3.10 Riparian Restoration

Figure 39 depicts the locations of various riparian restoration opportunities as a result of observations made during the stream survey.

Figure XX Riparian restoration opportunities along Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 39 Riparian restoration opportunities along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.3.11 Instream Restoration

Figure 40 depicts the locations of various instream restoration opportunities as a result of observations made during the stream survey. 

Figure XX Instream restoration opportunities along Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 40 Instream restoration opportunities along the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.4 Headwater Drainage Feature 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 one site at a road crossing in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment area (Figure 41).  

Figure XX Location of the headwater sampling site in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 41 Location of the headwater sampling site in the Jock River Leamy 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 that remain in the Leamy Creek catchment are primarily classified as municipal drains and the feature that was assessed was classified as having been channelized.  Figure 42 shows the feature type of the primary feature at the sampling location.

Figure XX Headwater feature types in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 42 Headwater feature types in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
A spring photo of the headwater sample site in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment located on Barnsdale Road
A spring photo of the headwater sample site in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment located on Barnsdale Road
A summer photo of the headwater sample site in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment located on Barnsdale Road
A summer photo of the headwater sample site in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment located on Barnsdale 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 43 shows the observed flow condition at the sampling location in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment in 2015.

Figure XX Headwater feature flow conditions in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 43 Headwater feature flow conditions in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.4.4 Headwater Feature Channel Moficiations

Channel modifications were assessed at each headwater drainage feature sampling location.  Modifications include channelization, dredging, hardening and realignments.  The Jock River Leamy Creek catchment area site was classified as having been recently dredged. Figure 44 shows the channel modifications observed at the sampling location for Jock River Leamy Creek.

Figure XX Headwater feature channel modifications in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 44 Headwater feature channel modifications in the Jock River Leamy 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 45 depicts the dominant vegetation observed at the sampled headwater site in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment.

Figure XX Headwater feature vegetation types in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 45 Headwater feature vegetation types in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.4.6 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 46 depicts the type of riparian vegetation observed at the sampled headwater site in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment.

Figure XX Headwater feature riparian vegetation types in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 46 Headwater feature riparian vegetation types in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.4.7 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. Figure 47 depicts the degree of sediment deposition observed at the sampled headwater site in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment.

Figure XX Headwater feature sediment deposition in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 47 Headwater feature sediment deposition in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
 

3.4.8 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 to aquatic organisms.  Figure 48 shows the feature roughness conditions at the sampling location in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment.

Figure Headwater feature roughness in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 48 Headwater feature roughness in the Jock River Leamy Creek catchment

4.0 Jock River-Leamy Creek Catchment: Land Cover

Land cover and any change in coverage that has occurred over a six-year period is summarized for the Jock River-Leamy 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 Leamy Creek Catchment Land Cover Change

As shown in Table 10 and Figure 1, the dominant land cover type across the Leamy catchment in 2014 was crop and pastureland.

Table 10 Land cover (2008 vs. 2014) in the Leamy catchment
Land Cover20082014Change - 2008 to 2014
AreaAreaArea
HaPercentHaPercentHaPercent
Crop & Pasture137867139368151
Woodland *18391648-19-1
Aggregate1628162800
Settlement1156120650
Water975103560
Transportation71371300
Meadow-Thicket312242-70
* Does not include treed swamps

From 2008 to 2014, there was an overall change of 44 hectares (from one land cover class to another). Most of the change in the Leamy Creek catchment is a result of the conversion of woodland and areas of meadow-thicket to crop and pastureland (Figure 49).

Figure xx Land cover change in the Leamy catchment (2014)
Figure 49 Land cover change in the Leamy catchment (2014)

Table 11 provides a detailed breakdown of all land cover change that has taken place in the Leamy catchment between 2008 and 2014.

Table 11 Land cover change in the Leamy catchment (2008 to 2014)
Land CoverChange - 2008 to 2014
Area
Ha.Percent
Wooded Area to Crop and Pasture16.236.7
Meadow-Thicket to Crop and Pasture7.717.3
Aggregate to Water4.810.9
Wooded Area to Aggregate4.49.9
Crop and Pasture to Settlement3.98.7
Crop and Pasture to Wooded Area3.78.4
Wooded Area to Settlement1.22.8
Crop and Pasture to Water1.12.5
Wooded Area to Water0.61.4
Water to Aggregate0.51.2
Crop and Pasture to Aggregate0.10.3
 

4.2 Woodland Cover

In the Environment Canada Guideline (Third Edition) entitled “How Much Habitat Is Enough?” 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 Rideau 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 50, eight percent of the Leamy Creek catchment contains 164 hectares of upland forest versus the 26 percent of woodland cover in the Jock River subwatershed. This is less 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 xx Woodland cover and interior forest (2014)
Figure 50 Woodland cover and interior forest (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 Leamy Creek catchment (in 2014), thirty-seven (57 percent) of the 65 woodland patches are very small, being less than one hectare in size. Another 28 (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.

No patch exceeds the 100 plus hectare size needed to support most forest dependent, area sensitive birds and which are large enough to support approximately 60 percent of edge-intolerant species. No patch tops 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 12 presents a comparison of woodland patch size in 2008 and 2014 along with any changes that have occurred over that time. A decrease (of 19 ha) has been observed in the overall woodland patch area between the two reporting periods with all change occurring in the one to 20-hectare woodland patch size class range.

Table 12 Woodland patches in the Leamy Creek catchment (2008 and 2014)
Woodland Patch Size Range (ha)Woodland* PatchesPatch Change
200820142008 to 2014
NumberAreaNumberAreaNumberArea
CountPercentHaPercent CountPercent HaPercentCountHa
Less than 1 36541793757171010
1 to 20314616691284314790-3-19
Totals6710018310065100164100-2-19
*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 Leamy catchment (in 2014), the 65 woodland patches contain seven forest interior patches (Figure 50) that occupy less than one percent (5 ha.) of the catchment land area (which is less 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.

All seven patches have less than 10 hectares of interior forest, five of which have small areas of interior forest habitat less than one hectare in size. Between 2008 and 2014, there was an overall loss of less than one hectare of interior forest habitat in the catchment (Table 13).

Table 13 Woodland interior in the Leamy Creek catchment (2008 and 2014)
Woodland Interior Habitat Size Range (ha)Woodland InteriorInterior Change
200820142008 to 2014
NumberAreaNumberAreaNumberArea
CountPercentHaPercentCountPercent HaPercentCountHa
Less than 1 6751.2225710.816-10.4
1 to 102254.2782294.28400
Totals81005.410071005100-1-0.4

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 14).

 
Table 14 Wetland cover in the Jock River subwatershed and Leamy Creek catchment (Historic to 2014)
Wetland Cover Pre-settlement20082014Change - Historic to 2014
Area  Area  Area  Area  
Ha Percent Ha Percent Ha Percent Ha Percent 
Leamy Creek1194581<11<1-1193-100
Jock River285275113282241323024-15297-54
Rideau Valley13411535------8207621-52039-39

This decline in wetland cover is also evident in the Leamy Creek catchment (as seen in Figure 51) where wetland was reported to cover 58 percent of the area prior to settlement, as compared to less than one percent in 2014. This represents an almost 100 percent loss of historic wetland cover and what remains (in 2014) falls far below the 40 percent historic wetland threshold cited in the Environment Canada Guideline for maintaining key ecological and hydrological functions. To maintain critical hydrological, ecological functions along with related recreational and economic benefits provided by these wetland habitats in the catchment, the Guideline recommends a “no net loss” approach for currently existing wetlands combined with efforts to work towards restoring upwards of 40 percent of the historic wetland coverage, where feasible.

Figure xx Leamy Creek catchment wetland cover
Figure 51 Leamy 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 52 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 Leamy Creek catchment.

Figure xx Natural and other riparian land cover in the Leamy Creek catchment
Figure 52 Natural and other riparian land cover in the Leamy Creek catchment

This analysis shows that the riparian buffer in the Leamy Creek catchment in 2014 was comprised of crop and pastureland (62 percent), woodland (16 percent), transportation (nine percent), meadow-thicket (seven percent), settlement (four percent) and aggregate (two percent). Additional statistics for the Leamy Creek catchment are presented in Table 15 and show that there has been very little change in shoreline cover from 2008 to 2014.

 
Table 15 Riparian land cover (2008 vs. 2014) in the Leamy Creek catchment
Riparian Land Cover20082014Change - 2008 to 2014
AreaAreaArea
Ha.Percent Ha.PercentHa.Percent
Crop & Pasture118621186200
Woodland33173116-2-1
Transportation17917900
Meadow-Thicket11613721
Settlement848400
Aggregate424200

5.0 Jock River-Leamy 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 53 shows the location of all stewardship projects completed in the Leamy Creek catchment along with sites identified for potential shoreline restoration.

5.1 Rural Clean Water Projects

From 2010 to 2015, one precision farming project was completed. Between 2004 and 2009, two septic system replacements, one windbreak buffer and one well upgrade were completed. Prior to 2004, four crop residue projects, two manure storage/wastewater runoff projects, one septic system replacement and one milkhouse wastewater treatment facility. Total value of all 13 projects is $106,974 with $25,982 of that amount funded through grant dollars from the RVCA.

Figure xx Stewardship and potential restoration locations
Figure 53 Stewardship site locations

5.2 Private Land Forestry Projects

The location of RVCA tree planting projects is shown in Figure 53. No trees were planted in the catchment between 2004 and 2015. Prior to 2004, 1,950 trees were planted at two sites for a total value of $9,065 with $3,795 of that amount coming from various fundraising sources.

 

5.3 Shoreline Naturalization Projects

With the assistance of the RVCA’s Shoreline Naturalization Program, 715 trees and shrubs were planted at a total project value of $12,158.

5.4 Valley, Stream, Wetland and Hazard Lands

The Leamy Creek catchment covers 20 square kilometres with 6.7 square kilometres (or 33 percent) of the drainage area being within the regulation limit of Ontario Regulation 174/06 (Figure 54), giving protection to wetland areas and river or stream valleys that are affected by flooding and erosion hazards.

Wetlands occupy 1.2 ha (or less than one percent) of the catchment and are located outside the regulated area limit.

Of the 32.2 kilometres of stream in the catchment, regulation limit mapping has been plotted along 23.9 kilometers of streams (representing 74 percent of all streams in the catchment). Plotting of the regulation limit on the remaining 8.4 km (or 26 percent) of streams requires identification of flood and erosion hazards and valley systems.

Within those areas of the Leamy 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 xx RVCA regulation limits
Figure 54 RVCA regulation limits

6.0 Jock River-Leamy Catchment: Creek Challenges/Issues

Water Quality/Quantity

Surface chemistry water quality on the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment is “Fair” over the two reporting periods (2004-2009 and 2010-2015). Frequent high nutrient concentrations and occasional metal exceedances largely contributed to the rating

Instream biological water quality conditions in the Jock River within the catchment are unknown

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

Headwaters/Instream/Shorelines

‘Natural’ vegetation covers 23 percent of the riparian zone of Leamy Creek, the Jock River and its tributaries (Figure 52) and is below the recommended 30 metre wide, naturally vegetated target along 75 percent of the length of the catchment’s watercourses

Water crossing (stone causeway) along the Jock River acts as a barrier to fish migration (located immediately downstream of the Monahan Drain confluence)

Land Cover

Woodlands cover eight percent of the catchment and is less than the 30 percent of forest cover that is identified as the minimum threshold for sustaining forest birds and other woodland dependent species (Figure 50)

Pre-settlement wetlands have declined by 100 percent and are now absent in the catchment (Figure 51)

7.0 Jock River-Leamy Creek Catchment: Opportunities/Actions

Water Quality/Quantity

Focus on nutrient reductions via non-point and point source pollution control though best management practices such as riparian zone enhancement, tile drainage controls, erosion mitigation, reforestation and protection of natural cover

Private 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 Leamy 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

Headwaters/Instream/Shorelines

Promote the Rideau Valley Shoreline Naturalization Program to landowners to increase existing 23 percent of natural 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 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 streams, including Leamy Creek

Target shoreline restoration at sites identified in this report (shown as “Other riparian land cover” in Figure 52 and “Potential Riparian/Instream Restoration” in Figures 39/40) and explore other restoration and enhancement opportunities along the Jock River, its tributaries and Leamy Creek

 

Land Cover

Promote the City of Ottawa’s Green Acres Reforestation Program to landowners to increase existing eight percent of woodland cover

Encourage the City of Ottawa to strengthen natural heritage and water resources 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 51) and/or seasonal, critically low baseflows in the Jock River and/or areas of seasonal flooding)

Full Catchment Report