3.0 Jock River-Barrhaven Catchment: Riparian Conditions
3.1 Jock River Overbank Zone
3.1.1 Riparian Buffer Land Cover Evaluation
Figure 15 demonstrates the buffer conditions of the left and right banks separately. The Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment had a buffer of greater than 30 meters along 52 percent of the right bank and 57 percent of the left bank. A five meter or less buffer was present along 29 percent of the right bank and 18 percent of the left bank.
3.1.2 Riparian Buffer Alterations
Alterations within the riparian buffer area 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 Barrhaven catchment was found to have highly variable conditions along the riparian corridor. These alterations were generally associated with road crossings, shoreline hardening and residential/infrastructure/agricultural land uses.
3.1.3 Adjacent Land Use
The RVCA’s Stream Characterization Program identifies seven different land uses beside the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment (Figure 17). 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 65 percent of the stream, characterized by forest, scrubland and meadow. Forest habitat was dominant in the adjacent lands along the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment at 42 percent. The remaining land use consisted of active agriculture, residential, recreational and infrastructure in the form of road crossings.
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. High levels of erosion were observed along the left bank immediately upstream of the Hearts Desire weir as well as at various locations downstream of the 416 crossing. Figure 18 shows low to high levels of erosion along the Jock River in the Barrhaven 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 the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment had low to high levels of undercut banks along the system. High levels of undercut banks were present in the upper reaches of the Barrhaven catchment at various locations upstream and downstream of the 416 highway crossing.
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 reaches of the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment.
3.2.4 Instream Woody Debris
Figure 21 shows that the majority of the Jock River in the Barrhaven 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.
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 the Jock River in the Barrhaven 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 31 percent of the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment remains “unaltered” with no anthropogenic alterations. Fifty three percent of the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment was classified as natural with minor anthropogenic changes, 14 percent was classified as altered and one percent was considered highly altered. The alterations along the Jock River in this reach were in the form of reduced buffers, shoreline modifications and road crossings.
3.3.1 Benthic Invertebrates
Freshwater benthic invertebrates are animals without backbones that live on the stream bottom and include crustaceans such as crayfish, molluscs and immature forms of aquatic insects. Benthos represent an extremely diverse group of aquatic animals and exhibit wide ranges of responses to stressors such as organic pollutants, sediments and toxicants, which allows scientists to use them as bioindicators. As part of the Ontario Benthic Biomonitoring Network (OBBN), the RVCA has been collecting benthic invertebrates at the Prince of Wales site on the Jock River since 2004. Monitoring data is analyzed for each sample site and the results are presented using the Family Biotic Index, Family Richness and percent Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera.
Hilsenhoff Family Biotic Index
The Hilsenhoff Family Biotic Index (FBI) is an indicator of organic and nutrient pollution and provides an estimate of water quality conditions for each site using established pollution tolerance values for benthic invertebrates. FBI results for the Jock River Barrhaven catchment sample location at Prince of Wales are separated by reporting period 2004 to 2009 and 2010 to 2015. “Good” to “Poor” water quality conditions being observed at the Jock River Barrhaven sample location for the period from 2004 to 2015 (Fig.24) using a grading scheme developed by Conservation Authorities in Ontario for benthic invertebrates.
Family Richness measures the health of the community through its diversity and increases with increasing habitat diversity suitability and healthy water quality conditions. Family Richness is equivalent to the total number of benthic invertebrate families found within a sample. The Jock River Barrhaven site is reported to have “Fair” to “Good” family richness (Fig.25).
Ephemeroptera (Mayflies), Plecoptera (Stoneflies), and Trichoptera (Caddisflies) are species considered to be very sensitive to poor water quality conditions. High abundance of these organisms is generally an indication of good water quality conditions at a sample location. As a result, the EPT indicates that the Jock River Barrhaven sample location is reported to have “Fair” to “Good” water quality (Fig.26) from 2004 to 2015.
Overall the Jock River Barrhaven sample location aquatic habitat conditions from a benthic invertebrate perspective is considered “Good” from 2004 to 2015 as the samples are dominated by species that are moderately sensitive and sensitive to high organic pollution levels.
3.3.2 Habitat Complexity
Habitat complexity is a measure of the overall diversity of habitat types and features within a stream. Streams with high habitat complexity support a greater variety of species niches, and therefore contribute to greater diversity. Factors such as substrate, flow conditions (pools, riffles) and cover material (vegetation, wood structure, etc) all provide crucial habitat to aquatic life. Habitat complexity is assessed based on the presence of boulder, cobble and gravel substrates, as well as the presence of instream woody material.
Diverse habitat cover was identified throughout the Jock River Barrhaven reach, with considerable coverage across the surveyed stream (Figure 27). Many of these sections represent potentially crucial habitat for resident species. Regions with reduced habitat complexity were observed in the middle reaches within the catchment.
3.3.3 Instream Substrate
Diverse substrate is important for fish and benthic invertebrate habitat because some species have specific substrate requirements and for example will only reproduce on certain types of substrate. The absence of diverse substrate types may limit the overall diversity of species within a stream. Figure 28 shows that 78 percent of the sections observed on the Jock River Barrhaven had the presence of clay substrate and 71% of the sections contained silt. Cobble was present within 70% of the sections, while boulders were present in 55% of surveyed sections. Overall substrate conditions were diverse along the Jock River Barrhaven reach. Figure 29 shows the dominant substrate type observed for each section surveyed along the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment.
3.3.4 Instream Morphology
Pools and riffles are important habitat features for aquatic life. Riffles are fast flowing areas characterized by agitation and overturn of the water surface. Riffles thereby play a crucial role in contributing to dissolved oxygen conditions and directly support spawning for some fish species. They are also areas that support high benthic invertebrate populations which are an important food source for many aquatic species. Pools are characterized by minimal flows, with relatively deep water and winter and 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 30 shows that the Jock River Barrhaven catchment is fairly diverse; 61 percent consists of runs, 18 percent riffles and 21 percent pools. Figure 31 shows where the riffle habitat areas were observed along the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment.
3.3.5 Vegetation Type
Instream vegetation provides a variety of functions and is a critical component of the aquatic ecosystem. Aquatic plants promote stream health by:
- Providing direct riparian/instream habitat
- Stabilizing flows reducing shoreline erosion
- Contributing to dissolved oxygen through photosynthesis
- Maintaining temperature conditions through shading
For example emergent plants along the shoreline can provide shoreline protection from wave action and important rearing habitat for species of waterfowl. Submerged plants provide habitat for fish to find shelter from predator fish while they feed. Floating plants such as water lilies shade the water and can keep temperatures cool while reducing algae growth. Narrow leaved emergents were present at 96% of the sections surveyed, algae was observed in 86% of sections, while free floating plants were observed in 67% of surveyed sections. Broad leaved emergents were observed in 58% of sections, submerged plants in 57%, floating plants in 53% and robust emergents in only 33% of sections surveyed. Figure 32 depicts the plant community structure for the Jock River Barrhaven catchment. Figure 33 shows the dominant vegetation type observed for each section surveyed along the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment.
3.3.6 Instream Vegetation Abundance
Instream vegetation is an important factor for a healthy stream ecosystem. Vegetation helps to remove contaminants from the water, contributes oxygen to the stream, and provides habitat for fish and wildlife. Too much vegetation can also be detrimental. Figure 34 demonstrates that the Jock River Barrhaven reach had no vegetation to low levels of instream vegetation for 76 percent of its length. Clay and bedrock substrate conditions can limit the amount of instream vegetation which is the likely factor for low vegetation levels along this reach of the Jock River. Normal to common levels of vegetation were recorded at only 22 percent of stream surveys.
3.3.7 Invasive Species
Invasive species can have major implications on streams and species diversity. Invasive species are one of the largest threats to ecosystems throughout Ontario and can out compete native species, having negative effects on local wildlife, fish and plant populations. Sixty nine percent of the sections surveyed along the Jock River Barrhaven reach had invasive species (Figure 35). The invasive species observed in the Jock River Barrhaven reach were European frogbit, purple loosestrife, poison/wild parsnip, carp, banded mystery snail, dog strangling vine, yellow iris, bull thistle, Eurasian milfoil 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 36).
3.3.8 Water Chemistry
During the stream characterization survey, a YSI probe is used to collect water chemistry information. Dissolved oxygen (DO), specific conductivity (SPC) and pH are measured at the start and end of each section.
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 37 shows that the dissolved oxygen in the Jock River Barrhaven 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 Barrhaven catchment was 8.67 mg/L.
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 Barrhaven catchment was 662 µs/cm. Figure 38 shows the conductivity readings for the Jock River Barrhaven 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 Barrhaven catchment averaged 7.94 thereby meeting the provincial standard (Figure 39).
22.214.171.124 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 coldwater biota.
Dissolved oxygen conditions on the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment are generally sufficient for both warm and coldwater species (Figure 40).
126.96.36.199 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 of the Jock River Barrhaven catchment, with moderately elevated levels observed in the lower reaches (Figure 41). Highly elevated conditions were identified in the lower reach of the system, and generally correspond with proximity to the Hearts Desire weir and storm water inputs.
Many factors can influence fluctuations in stream temperature, including springs, tributaries, precipitation runoff, discharge pipes and stream shading from riparian vegetation. Water temperature is used along with the maximum air temperature (using the Stoneman and Jones method) to classify a watercourse as either warm water, cool water or cold water. Figure 42 shows where the thermal sampling sites were located along the Jock River Barrhaven catchment. Analysis of the data collected indicates that the Jock River Barrhaven catchment is classified as a warm water system with cool to warm water reaches (Figure 43).
Each point on the graph represents a temperature that meets the following criteria:
- Sampling dates between July 1st and September 7th
- Sampling date is preceded by two consecutive days above 24.5 °C, with no rain
- Water temperatures are collected at 4pm
- Air temperature is recorded as the max temperature for that day
Groundwater discharge areas can influence stream temperature, contribute nutrients, and provide important stream habitat for fish and other biota. During stream surveys, indicators of groundwater discharge are noted when observed. Indicators include: springs/seeps, watercress, iron staining, significant temperature change and rainbow mineral film. Figure 44 shows areas where one or more of the above groundwater indicators were observed during stream surveys and headwater assessments.
The Jock River Barrhaven catchment is classified as a mixed community of warm and cool water recreational and baitfish fishery with 36 species observed. Figure 45 shows the sampling locations along the Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment.
The following table contains a list of species observed in the watershed.
|Fish Species||Fish code||Fish Species||Fish code|
|banded killifish||BaKil||golden shiner||GoShi|
|blackchin shiner||BcShi||hornyhead chub||HhChu|
|blacknose dace||BnDac||largemouth bass||LmBas|
|bluntnose minnow||BnMin||minnow hybrids||Hy600|
|brassy minnow||BrMin||mottled sculpin||MoScu|
|brook stickleback||BrSti||northern pearl dace||PeDac|
|brown bullhead||BrBul||northern pike||NoPik|
|carps and minnows||CA_MI||northern redbelly dace||NRDac|
|chrosomus sp.||PhoSp||rock bass||RoBas|
|common shiner||CoShi||smallmouth bass||SmBas|
|creek chub||CrChu||spotfin shiner||SpShi|
3.3.12 Migratory Obstructions
Migratory obstructions represent limitations to fish dispersal within a system and may restrict access to important spawning and rearing habitat. Migratory obstructions can be natural or manmade, and they can be permanent or seasonal. Figure 46 shows that Jock River in the Barrhaven catchment had two weir barriers at the time of the survey in 2015. One is the seasonal barrier known as the Hearts Desire weir and the other is a low level crossing upstream of Highway 416. A debris dam was observed on a headwater system within the catchment.
3.3.13 Riparian Restoration
Figure 47 depicts the locations of various riparian restoration opportunities as a result of observations made during the stream surveys.
3.3.14 Instream Restoration
Figure 48 depicts the locations of instream restoration opportunities as a result of observations made during the stream surveys.
3.4.1 Headwaters 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 5 sites at road crossings in the Jock River Barrhaven catchment area (Figure 49).
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. Three features were classified as having been channelized, one feature was identified as a roadside drainage features and one feature was classified as natural. Figure 50 shows the feature type of the primary feature at the sampling locations.
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 51 shows the observed flow conditions at the sampling locations in the Jock River Barrhaven catchment in 2015.
3.4.4 Feature Channel Modifications
Channel modifications were assessed at each headwater drainage feature sampling location. Modifications include channelization, dredging, hardening and realignments. The Jock River Barrhaven catchment area had one site classified as having no channel modifications, one feature was classified as being hardened and two had mixed modifications. Figure 52 shows the channel modifications observed at the sampling locations for Jock River Barrhaven.
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 fish and wildlife habitat. The following classifications are evaluated no vegetation, lawn, wetland, meadow, scrubland and forest. The features assessed in the Jock River Barrhaven catchment were classified being dominated by wetland and meadow. Figure 53 depicts the dominant vegetation observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Jock River Barrhaven 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. The sample locations in Jock River Barrhaven were dominated by natural vegetation in the form of meadow and wetland vegetation. Figure 54 depicts the type of riparian vegetation observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Jock River Barrhaven 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. Conditions ranged from no deposition observed to extensive deposition recorded. Figure 55 depicts the degree of sediment deposition observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Jock River Barrhaven 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. The sample locations in the Jock River Barrhaven catchment area ranged from moderate to extreme roughness conditions. Figure 56 shows the feature roughness conditions at the sampling locations in the Jock River Barrhaven catchment.