Water Soldier in the Trent Severn Waterway: Monitoring, Management and Community Engagement

Project by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

Location: Trent Hills, Northumberland County, ON.

For more information on this project, please contact Sophie Monfette, Invading Species Awareness Program Coordinator, Peterborough, ON.

Purpose

Water soldier (Stratiotes aloides) is an invasive aquatic plant native to Europe and Northwest Asia. Most likely introduced by the improper disposal of water garden plants, water solider was first discovered in the Trent Severn Waterway (TSW) in 2008, 58km upstream of Lake Ontario. Water soldier can have several adverse effects in the waterbodies it invades, such as forming dense mats of floating vegetation and crowding out native vegetation resulting in decreased plant biodiversity, altering water chemistry which may harm phytoplankton and other aquatic organisms, out-competing native vegetation that can be an important food source for resident and migratory birds, and forming dense floating mats that can hinder the use of habitat for native and migrating species.

The current population of water soldier is located 58km upstream of Lake Ontario and, in the last few years, has spread 18km downstream to Percy’s Reach. The populations of water soldier in Percy’s Reach are located in very close proximity to the provincially significant wetland – Murray Marsh (760ha).

Coordinated monitoring and surveillance efforts need to be implemented in Percy’s Reach in order to inform management and control of water soldier populations. In addition, community engagement is critical to ensuring that all efforts are sustainable and that members of the community are aware of the presence of this plant and the implications of its spread. By managing populations of water soldier in Percy’s Reach, this project will protect, conserve and enhance wetland and related habitat that provides significant waterfowl migration, breeding and staging sites which can contribute to sustaining optimal waterfowl populations, as well as the ecological health of our surrounding landscapes.

Long-term conservation impacts and benefits

The long-term conservation impact from this project is a resource that is healthy and sustainable, ensuring healthy abundant waterfowl populations continue to thrive and habitat continues to exist. Furthermore, a major component of funding for waterfowl research comes directly from hunter revenue or indirectly from beneficiaries of waterfowl hunting. We need to ensure that opportunities exist to go waterfowl hunting. These opportunities are two-fold. First, as mentioned above, we need a healthy, sustainable resource. Secondly, we need to ensure that there are areas available for waterfowlers who wish to hunt because fewer hunters means fewer dollars going back into waterfowl and habitat conservation programs.

New tools, methodologies, landscape practices or protocols

A protocol will be developed for the application of jute mats to control water soldier. In the summer of 2015, Trent University conducted research on the effectiveness of jute mats to control water soldier. The results concluded that the jute mats were successful; therefore, the water soldier working group will adopt these findings into the Integrated Management Plan for water soldier and start the process to develop new protocols for the implementation of this activity.

Stewardship

This project will engage and promote the following stewardship activities:

  1. Volunteer Monitoring: provide members of the community with materials and resources needed to identify and report water soldier sightings to the Invading Species Awareness Program. We will also provide an opportunity to participate in monitoring activities through a coordinated volunteer monitoring day.
  2. Information Session: provide community members and stakeholder/agency representatives with materials and resources on wetland stewardship as it relates to the initiative being carried out in this project.
  3. Habitat protection/enhancement projects: provide direct benefits to wetland habitats and create education opportunities (during project implementation for both community members and stakeholders/agencies).