Jock River Subwatershed Report 2016
JOCK RIVER-RICHMOND FEN 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 Jock River - Richmond Fen catchment are a compilation of that work.
|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 Jock River - Richmond Fen catchment
1.0 Jock River-Richmond Fen Catchment: Facts
1.1 General/Physical Geography
- Ottawa: (26 km2; 100% of catchment)
- The Richmond Fen Catchment resides within an extensive physiographic region known as the Ottawa Valley Clay Plain. This part of the clay plain, however, is generally very thin or absent; and is overlain by an extensive area of organic soil. Areas of glacial till and some beach sands and gravels and sand plains flank the organic soils to the east and west
- In this catchment, bedrock includes the interbedded limestone and dolostone, sandstone with shale and limestone, dolostone, and some limestone respectively from the Gull River, Rockcliffe, Oxford and Bobcaygeon Formations. In addition, numerous geologic faults may pass through the catchment
- The ground surface ranges in elevation from approximately 128 masl near Munster Hamlet to approximately 97 masl throughout the PSW and at the catchment’s outlet
- 26 square kilometers; occupies five percent of the Jock River subwatershed, less than one percent of the Rideau Valley watershed
- Jock River and tributaries: 42 km
1.2 Vulnerable Areas
- 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 101.8 metres above mean sea level at Franktown Road to 97.5 metres above mean sea level along the northern edge of the Richmond Fen Provincially Significant Wetland
- 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 Areas (WHPA) C and D for the municipal wells in Richmond underlie the eastern 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 Richmond Fen catchment
1.3 Conditions at a Glance
- Surface chemistry water quality rating for the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment is unknown
- Instream biological water quality conditions for the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment are unknown
Instream and Riparian
- Overall instream and riparian condition for the Jock River-Richmond Fen catchment as assessed by the stream characterization and headwater drainage feature assessment programs show that the Jock River and its tributaries are in generally good condition. The majority of the system has low erosion levels and a healthy forested riparian corridor along the Jock River. Instream diversity of aquatic habitat is fairly complex in the upper reach of the Jock River, while the lower reach is dominated by the Provincially Significant Richmond Fen wetland which is a very important wetland feature with high values that support catchment health
- Warm/cool water thermal guild supporting the Jock River/Rideau River fishery
- Eighteen species of recreational and bait fish
Shoreline Cover Type (30 m. riparian area; 2014)
- Wetland (56%)
- Crop and Pasture (24%)
- Woodland (9%)
- Transportation (6%)
- Settlement (4%)
- Meadow-Thicket (1%)
Land Cover Type (2014)
- Wetland (50%)
- Crop and Pasture (28%)
- Woodland (14%)
- Settlement (5%)
- Transportation (2%)
- Meadow-Thicket (1%)
- Aggregate (<1%)
- Water (<1%)
Land Cover Change (2008 to 2014)
- Crop and Pasture (-5 ha)
- Aggregate (0 ha)
- Meadow-Thicket (0 ha)
- Transportation (0 ha)
- Water (0 ha)
- Wetland (0 ha)
- Woodland (+2 ha)
- Settlement (+3 ha)
Significant Natural Features
- Richmond Fen Provincially Significant Wetland
- Richmond Fen Area of Natural and Scientific Interest
- Seventy operational (approximately) private water wells in the catchment. Groundwater uses are mainly domestic but also include livestock watering and crop irrigation
- No Aggregate Resources Act licenses in the catchment. Limited sand and gravel resources are of tertiary importance
Species at Risk (Elemental Occurrence)
- Bogbean Buckmoth, Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid, Henslow's Sparrow, Loggerhead Shrike, Spotted Turtle (Endangered)
- Barn Swallow, Blanding's Turtle, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Least Bittern (Threatened)
- Eastern Milksnake, Snapping Turtle, Yellow Rail (Special Concern)
1.4 Catchment Care
- Twenty-five stewardship projects undertaken (see Section 4)
- Fish survey along the Jock River (see Section 2.3.9)
- 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 2)
- Four 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 2.4)
- Development along the Jock River and in and adjacent to the Richmond Fen Provincially Significant Wetlands in the catchment is 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
- Three Active Permits To Take Water (PTTW) in the Richmond Fen catchment issued for a commercial water supply and golf course irrigation
2. Surface Water Quality Conditions
Barbers Creek Water Quality
Water Quality Rating
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2.0 Jock River-Richmond Fen Catchment: Riparian Conditions
2.1 Jock River Overbank Zone
2.1.1 Riparian Buffer Land Cover Evaluation
Figure 2 demonstrates the buffer conditions of the left and right banks separately. The Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment had a buffer of greater than 30 meters along 93 percent of the right bank and 91 percent of the left bank.
Figure 2 Riparian Buffer Evaluation along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.1.2 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 3). The riparian buffer zone along the Jock River within the Richmond Fen catchment was found to have highly variable conditions along the riparian corridor. These alterations were generally associated with infrastructure in the form of railway, roads and agricultural land use.
Figure 3 Riparian buffer alterations within the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment
2.1.3 Adjacent Land Use
The RVCA’s Stream Characterization Program identifies nine different land uses beside the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment (Figure 4). 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 83 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 Richmond Fen catchment at 45 percent. The remaining land use consisted of active agriculture, pasture, abandoned agriculture, recreational and infrastructure in the form of railway and road crossings.
Figure 4 Land Use along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.2 Jock River Shoreline Zone
2.2.1 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 the Jock River had no signs of erosion with the exception of the upper extent of the system which had low levels of erosion and one area in the middle reach had high levels of erosion observed. Figure 5 shows erosion levels along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment.
Figure 5 Erosion along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.2.2 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 6 shows that Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment had low to moderate levels of undercut banks along the system.
Figure 6 Undercut stream banks along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.2.3 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 7 shows highly variable conditions of low to high levels of stream shading along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment.
Figure 7 Stream shading along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.2.4 Instream Woody Debris
Figure 8 shows that the majority of Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment 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 8 Instream woody debris along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.2.5 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 9 shows the system is highly variable with low to high levels of overhanging branches and trees along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment.
Figure 9 Overhanging trees and branches along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.2.6 Anthropogenic Alterations
Stream alterations are classified based on specific functional criteria associated with the flow conditions, the riparian buffer and potential human influences. Figure 10 shows 70 percent of the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment remains “unaltered” with no anthropogenic alterations. Thirty percent of Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment was classified as natural with minor anthropogenic changes. The alterations along the Jock River in this reach were in the form of reduced buffers and road crossings.
Figure 10 Anthropogenic alterations along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.3 Jock River Instream Aquatic Habitat
2.3.1 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 high habitat complexity was identified for the Jock River Richmond Fen reach (Figure 11). Regions with increased habitat complexity were observed in the upper reaches of the system within the catchment. The lower to middle reaches of the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment provide important wetland habitat.
Figure 11 Habitat complexity along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.3.2 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 12 shows that 73 percent of the sections observed in the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment had the presence of silt substrate. Overall substrate conditions were highly diverse along the Jock River Richmond Fen reach with all substrate types being recorded along the reach. Figure 13 shows the dominant substrate type observed for each section surveyed along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment. The map depicts the locations within the Richmond Fen wetland as being dominated by silt while the upper reaches of the Jock River within the catchment are dominated by cobble habitat.
Figure 12 Instream substrate along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
Figure 13 shows the dominant substrate type along the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment.
2.3.3 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 14 shows that the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment is highly variable; 82 percent consists of runs, 5 percent riffles and 13 percent pools. Figure 15 shows where the riffle habitat areas were observed along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment.
Figure 14 Instream morphology along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
Figure 15 Riffle habitat locations along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.3.4 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 86% of the sections surveyed, algae was observed in 85% of sections, while free floating plants were observed in 34% of surveyed sections. Broad leaved emergents were observed in 30% of sections, submerged plants in 84%, floating plants in 54% and robust emergents in only 38% of sections surveyed. Figure 16 depicts the plant community structure for the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment. Figure 17 shows the dominant vegetation type observed for each section surveyed along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment.
Figure 16 Vegetation type along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
Figure 17 Dominant vegetation type along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.3.5 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 18 demonstrates that the Jock River Richmond Fen reach had no vegetation to low levels of instream vegetation for 61 percent of its length. Normal to common levels of vegetation were recorded at 30 percent of stream surveys. Extensive levels were observed at 9 percent along the system.
Figure 18 Instream vegetation abundance along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.3.6 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 Richmond Fen reach had invasive species. The invasive species observed in the Jock River Richmond Fen 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 19).
Figure 19 Invasive species abundance along the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.3.7 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.
184.108.40.206 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 20 shows that the dissolved oxygen in the Jock River Richmond Fen 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 the Jock River Richmond Fen was 8.98mg/L which is within the recommended levels for warmwater biota.
Figure 20 Dissolved oxygen ranges in the Jock River for the Richmond Fen catchment
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 Richmond Fen catchment was 495.9 µs/cm. Figure 21 shows the conductivity readings for the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment.
Figure 21 Specific conductivity ranges in the Jock River for the Richmond Fen catchment
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 Richmond Fen catchment averaged 8.12 thereby meeting the provincial standard (Figure 22).
Figure 22 pH ranges in the Jock River for the Richmond Fen catchment
220.127.116.11 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 23 A bivariate assessment of dissolved oxygen concentration (mg/L) and saturation (%) in the Jock River Richmond Fen reach
Dissolved oxygen conditions on the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment are generally sufficient for both warm and coolwater species (Figure 23). Dissolved oxygen conditions are higher in the upper reach which is a function of the riffle habitat in those sections of the Jock River. Oxygen levels in wetland habitats are typically lower than they are in areas where the substrate is dominated by cobble and riffle habitat.
18.104.22.168 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 Richmond Fen catchment, with highly elevated areas immediately upstream of the Richmond Fen wetland and moderately elevated levels observed in the middle and lower reaches within the Richmond Fen (Figure 24).
Figure 24 Relative specific conductivity levels on the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
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 25 shows areas where one or more of the above groundwater indicators were observed during stream surveys and headwater assessments.
Figure 25 Groundwater indicators observed in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment
2.3.9 Fish Community
The Jock River Richmond Fen catchment is classified as a mixed community of warm and cool water recreational and baitfish fishery with 18 species observed. Figure 26 shows the sampling locations along the Jock River in the catchment.
Figure 26 Fish sampling locations and observations for the Richmond Fen catchment
The following table contains a list of species observed in the watershed.
Fish species observed in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment
2.3.10 Riparian Restoration
Figure 27 depicts the locations of riparian restoration opportunities as a result of observations made during the stream survey.
Figure 27 Riparian restoration opportunities along Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.3.11 Instream Restoration
Figure 28 depicts the locations of instream restoration opportunities as a result of observations made during the stream survey. Only one small stream garbage cleanup restoration opportunity was observed in the Ruchmond Fen catchment.
Figure 28 Instream restoration opportunities along Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment
2.4 Headwater Drainage Features Assessment
2.4.1 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 4 sites at road crossings in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment area (Figure 29).
Figure 29 Location of the headwater sampling site in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment
2.4.2 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 Richmond Fen catchment are primarily classified as wetland with one feature classified as a road side ditch. Figure 30 shows the feature type of the primary feature at the sampling locations.
Figure 30 Headwater feature types in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment
A spring photo of the headwater sample site in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment located on Munster Road
A summer photo of the headwater sample site in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment located on Munster Road
2.4.3 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 31 shows the observed flow condition at the sampling locations in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment in 2015.
Figure 31 Headwater feature flow conditions in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment
2.4.4 Feature Channel Modifications
Channel modifications were assessed at each headwater drainage feature sampling location. Modifications include channelization, dredging, hardening and realignments. The Jock River Richmond Fen catchment area had one site as having been recently dredged, while three locations had no channel modifications observed. Figure 32 shows the channel modifications observed at the sampling locations for Jock River Richmond Fen.
Figure 32 Headwater feature channel modifications in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment
2.4.5 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 33 depicts the dominant vegetation observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment.
Figure 33 Headwater feature vegetation types in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment
2.4.6 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 34 depicts the type of riparian vegetation observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment.
Figure 34 Headwater feature riparian vegetation types in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment
2.4.7 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. Sediment deposition ranged from none to extensive for the headwater sites sampled in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment area. Figure 35 depicts the degree of sediment deposition observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment.
Figure 35 Headwater feature sediment deposition in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment
2.4.8 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 for aquatic organisms. Figure 36 shows the feature roughness conditions at the sampling location in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment.
Figure 36 Headwater feature roughness in the Jock River Richmond Fen catchment
3.0 Jock River-Richmond Fen Catchment: Land Cover
Land cover and any change in coverage that has occurred over a six year period is summarized for the Richmond Fen 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.
3.1 Richmond Fen Catchment Change
As shown in Table 2 and Figure 1, the dominant land cover type in 2014 was wetland followed by crop and pastureland and woodland.
Land cover (2008 vs. 2014) in the Richmond Fen catchment
*Does not include treed swamps **Includes treed swamps
From 2008 to 2014, there was an overall change of 12 hectares (from one land cover class to another). Most of the change in the Richmond Fen catchment is a result of crop and pastureland reverting to woodland and the conversion of woodland to crop and pastureland and settlement (Figure 37).
Figure 37 Land cover change in the Richmond Fen catchment
Table 3 provides a detailed breakdown of all land cover change that has taken place in the Richmond Fen catchment between 2008 and 2014.
Land cover change in the Richmond Fen catchment (2008 to 2014)
3.2 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 38, 18 percent of the Richmond Fen catchment contains 370 hectares of upland forest and 279 hectares of lowland forest (treed swamps) 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 38 Woodland cover and forest interior (2014)
3.2.1 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 Richmond Fen catchment (in 2014), forty-three (48 percent) of the 90 woodland patches are very small, being less than one hectare in size. Another 39 (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 eight (nine percent of) woodland patches range between 20 and 50 hectares in size and may support a few area-sensitive species and some edge intolerant species, but will be dominated by edge tolerant species. No patch exceeds the 100 plus hectare size needed to support most forest dependent, area sensitive birds and which are, when present, large enough to support approximately 60 percent of edge-intolerant species. Nor does any patch 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 4 presents a comparison of woodland patch size in 2008 and 2014 along with any changes that have occurred over that time. An increase (of 3 ha) has been observed in the overall woodland patch area between the two reporting periods with most change occurring in the one to 20 hectare woodland patch size class range.
Woodland patches in the Richmond Fen catchment (2008 and 2014)
*Includes treed swamps
3.2.2 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 Richmond Fen catchment (in 2014), the 90 woodland patches contain 25 forest interior patches (Figure 38) that occupy one percent (34 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.
Most patches (17) have less than one hectare of interior forest. The remaining eight patches contain interior forest ranging between one and 12 hectares in area. Between 2008 and 2014, there has been a change in the number of woodland patches containing smaller areas (below one hectare) of interior habitat with an overall increase of one hectare in the catchment (Table 5).
Woodland interior in the Richmond Fen catchment (2008 and 2014)
3.3 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 6).
Table 6 Wetland cover in the Jock River subwatershed and Richmond Fen catchment (Historic to 2014)
This decline in wetland cover is also evident in the Richmond Fen catchment (as seen in Figure 39) where wetland was reported to cover 70 percent of the area prior to settlement, as compared to 50 percent in 2014. This represents a 29 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 39 Richmond Fen catchment wetland cover
3.4 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 40 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 Richmond Fen catchment.
Figure 40 Natural and other riparian land cover in the Richmond Fen catchment
This analysis shows that the riparian zone in the Richmond Fen catchment in 2014 was comprised of wetland (56 percent), crop and pastureland (24 percent), woodland (nine percent), transportation (six percent), settlement (four percent) and meadow-thicket (one percent). Additional statistics for the Richmond Fen catchment are presented in Table 7 and show that there has been very little change in shoreline cover from 2008 to 2014.
Riparian land cover (2008 vs. 2014) in the Richmond Fen catchment
4.0 Jock River-Richmond Fen 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 41 shows the location of all stewardship projects completed in the Jock River-Richmond Fen catchment along with sites identified for potential shoreline restoration.
4.1 Rural Clean Water Projects
From 2004 to 2009, two well decommissionings and one crop residue project were finished and prior to 2004, two crop residue projects and one livestock fencing were completed. One of these projects was undertaken within the 30 metre riparian zone of the Jock River. No projects were undertaken between 2010 and 2015. Total value of all six projects is $10,023 with $6,017 of that amount funded through grant dollars from the RVCA.
Figure 41 Stewardship site locations
4.2 Private Land Forestry Projects
The location of RVCA tree planting projects is shown in Figure 41. From 2010 to 2015, 1,000 trees were planted at one site. Between 2004 and 2009, 3,260 trees were planted at two sites and prior to 2004, 91,080 trees were planted at 16 sites, In total, 95,340 trees were planted resulting in the reforestation of 47 hectares. Three of these projects were completed within the 30 metre riparian zone of the Jock River. Total value of all 19 projects is $302,216 with $99,034 of that amount coming from fundraising sources.
4.3 Valley, Stream, Wetland and Hazard Lands
The Richmond Fen catchment covers 26 square kilometres with 14.7 square kilometres (or 57 percent) of the drainage area being within the regulation limit of Ontario Regulation 174/06 (Figure 42), giving protection to wetland areas and river or stream valleys that are affected by flooding and erosion hazards.
Wetlands occupy 12.9 sq. km. (or 49 percent) of the catchment. Of these wetlands, 12 sq. km (or 93 percent) are designated as provincially significant and included within the RVCA regulation limit. This leaves the remaining 0.9 sq. km (or seven percent) of wetlands in the catchment outside the regulated area limit.
Of the 42 kilometres of stream in the catchment, regulation limit mapping has been plotted along 30.2 kilometers of streams (representing 72 percent of all streams in the catchment). Some of these regulated watercourses (21.2 km or 51 percent of all streams) flow through regulated wetlands; the remaining 9 km (or 30 percent) of regulated streams are located outside of those wetlands. Plotting of the regulation limit on the remaining 11.8 km (or 28 percent) of streams requires identification of flood and erosion hazards and valley systems.
Within those areas of the Richmond Fen 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 42 RVCA regulation limits
4.4 Vulnerable Drinking Water Areas
Portions of the Wellhead Protection Areas around the Munster municipal drinking water source and the Richmond (King’s Park) drinking water source are located within the Jock River-Richmond Fen drainage catchment. These areas are subject to mandatory policies in the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Plan developed under the Clean Water Act. These policies specifically regulate land uses and activities that are considered drinking water threats, thereby reducing the risk of contamination of the municipal drinking water source.
The Jock River-Richmond Fen drainage catchment is also 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.
The lands immediately to the west and north of Munster Hamlet are also considered a Significant Groundwater Recharge Area. This means that there is a volume of water moving from the surface into the ground and groundwater serves either as a municipal drinking water source or supplies a coldwater ecosystem such as a brook trout stream. The Plan was not required to include policies to specifically address Significant Groundwater Recharge Areas.
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.
5.0 Jock River-Richmond Fen Catchment: Challenges/Issues
Surface chemistry water quality rating for the Jock River in the Richmond Fen catchment is unknown
Instream biological water quality conditions for the Jock River in the Richmond Fen 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
‘Natural’ vegetation covers 67 percent of the riparian zone of the Jock River and its tributaries (Figure 40) and is below the recommended 30 metre wide, naturally vegetated target along 75 percent of the length of the catchment’s rivers, creeks and streams
Woodlands cover 18 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 38)
Pre-settlement wetlands have declined by 29 percent and now cover 50 percent (1290 ha.) of the catchment (Figure 39). Eight percent (101 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
6.0 Jock River-Richmond Fen Catchment: Opportunities/Actions
Consider establishing a surface water quality sampling location along the Jock River at Munster Road
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
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
Promote the Rideau Valley Shoreline Naturalization Program to landowners to increase existing 67 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
Target shoreline restoration at sites identified in this report (shown as “Other riparian land cover” in Figure 40 and “Potential Riparian/Instream Restoration” in Figures 27/28) and explore other restoration and enhancement opportunities along the Jock River and its tributaries
Promote the City of Ottawa’s Green Acres Reforestation Program to landowners to increase existing 18 percent of woodland cover
Encourage the 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
Maintain critical hydrological and ecological functions along with related recreational and economic benefits provided by the Richmond Fen wetland in the catchment by employing a no net loss strategy to ensure the continued provision of tangible benefits accruing from them to landowners and surrounding communities
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 39) and/or seasonal, critically low baseflows in the Jock River and/or areas of seasonal flooding)
Full Catchment Report