Wetland Restoration in the Sydenham River Watershed

Project by the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority.

Location: Municipalities of Brooke-Alvinston, Dawn-Euphemia, Southwest Middlesex, Adelaide-Metcalfe; Counties of Lambton & Middlesex, ON.

For more information on this project, please contact Jessica Van Zwol, Healthy Watershed Specialist, Strathroy, ON.

Purpose

Agriculture plays a large socioeconomic role in southwestern Ontario. This industry also has a substantive impact on the wetlands and natural areas that waterfowl and migratory game birds inhabit for feeding and shelter opportunities. In the Sydenham River watershed, agriculture makes up over 80% of the land use, while wetland cover is less than 3%. This project addresses the reduction of these crucial wetlands on or near agricultural lands by restoring or enhancing (at least) 23 acres into habitats suitable for diverse wetland wildlife.

We are collaborating with conservation-minded landowners to retire fragile, wet agricultural and marginal land and establish wetlands and uplands that serve as habitat for migrating and resident waterfowl. In doing so, the project will provide waterfowl and wildlife habitat and improve water quality through increased filtration and reductions in overland erosion and sedimentation of nearby streams. By extension, this project will contribute to maintaining base flow to watercourses and natural heritage biodiversity in southwestern Ontario.

Wetlands provide valuable social and educational resources: these wetland projects will serve as conduits to engage the local community as well as the next generation of conservationists through hunting opportunities. We will engage the community through demonstration sites and signage, a stewardship bus tour highlighting wetlands, an aquatic species at risk newsletter, and site visits. We are expanding and improving habitat to increase the carrying capacity of a local watershed to support larger populations of waterfowl for enriched hunting opportunities.

This project supports efforts of the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture.

Long-term conservation impacts and benefits

As previously mentioned, re-establishing wetlands either through enhancement or restoration will improve wetland cover in southwestern Ontario, where wetland cover is well below what is recommended. In the long-term, these projects will continue to provide beneficial stopover habitat for migrating waterfowl and may contribute to bolstering populations of waterfowl (one of NAWMP’s goals). In turn, bolstered populations of waterfowl will provide greater hunting opportunities for future generations (one of NAWMP’s goals). By contributing to flood mitigation, less agricultural runoff will enter nearby watercourses which will beneficially impact water quality.

Stewardship

This project outlines a number of stewardship opportunities that will be engaged throughout this project. Landowners will be retiring active and marginal farm land to convert back to wetland, upland and woodland habitat. This will be a habitat improvement and will increase habitat and species biodiversity. Landowners may choose to install nest boxes to assist nesting of waterfowl that begin to inhabit their properties. We aim to host a community-based shrub and tree planting event at one of the properties (dependent on finalized landowner agreement) to encourage individuals to get involved in habitat restoration, which may in turn result in habitat improvements on their own properties. Additionally, we will promote the collection of anecdotal evidence of wildlife sightings reported by participating landowners.