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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
184.108.40.206 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.
Dissolved oxygen conditions on the Jock River in the Leamy Creek catchment are generally sufficient for both warm and coolwater species (Figure 36).
220.127.116.11 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).
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.
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.
|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|
|fathead minnow||FhMin||white sucker||WhSuc|
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.
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.
3.4.1 Headwater Sampling Locations
The RVCA Stream Characterization program assessed Headwater Drainage Features for the Middle Irish subwatershed in 2014. 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.