Wetland Restoration in the Upper Sydenham River Watershed, 2013-14

Final Report: Wetland Restoration in the Upper Sydenham River Watershed, 2013-2014

Goals and Objectives

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. The proposed project addresses the reduction of these crucial wetlands on or near
agricultural lands that fall within SCRCA watersheds by strategically restoring or enhancing lands into
habitats suitable for diverse wetland wildlife. This project aims to collaborate and establish relationships with
interested and conservation-minded landowners to retire fragile, wet agricultural fields and establish wetlands
that serve as habitat for migrating and resident waterfowl. Our objectives include creating or improving
existing wetlands in the Upper Sydenham River watershed and Strathroy-Caradoc sand plain; a focused area
within Middlesex and Lambton counties that will provide wildlife habitat and improve water quality through
increased water filtration and reductions in overland erosion, sedimentation, and nutrient load of nearby
streams. By improving wetland habitat in southwestern Ontario, this project will contribute to maintaining
base flow to watercourses and natural heritage biodiversity. Wetlands are important carbon sinks that also
provide valuable social and educational resources. For example, these wetland projects serve as conduits
to engage the local community as well as the next generation of conservationists through hunting
opportunities. The community, including students, will be engaged through a community information session
and tree planting days. Conservation priorities are addressed by expanding habitat that can increase the
carrying capacity of local watersheds to support larger populations of waterfowl for increased hunting
opportunities.


Specific Habitat Products/Results Supported by WHC’s Contributions

As a result of WHC’s contribution to this wetland restoration project, a minimum of 15 acres of agricultural
land in southwestern Ontario will be retired and returned to crucial wetland and wildlife habitat for waterfowl
and migratory game birds. These converted lands will boast native emergent vegetation to provide feeding
and shelter habitat for wetland species and tall grass prairie and tree and shrub planting nearby to provide
feeding and shelter habitat for migratory game birds.


Benefits to Waterfowl, Wetlands-Associated Species, and/or Other Wildlife

While we all benefit from the transition of land to agricultural use and development, this change has come
with significant impacts to fish and wildlife. This initiative seeks to reverse some of the impacts humans
have had on the local environment. Wetlands will be constructed, trees and tallgrass prairie planted, and
riparian buffers created. Our strategic approach will ensure that this restoration work increases wildlife travel
corridors and habitat connectivity. As a result, there will be more wildlife feeding and shelter habitat as well
as stopover habitat for migratory game birds, ensuring benefits for the most number and diversity of species
of waterfowl, wetland-associated bird species and migratory game birds.


Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

The initiative will protect wetlands and preserve diversity in an area that has experienced drastic reductions
in wetland habitat. These efforts will enhance the legacy of habitat conservation across North America. As
wetland cover has been reduced to less than 3%, wetland restoration and enhancement projects are
extremely important for maintaining base flow to watercourses, water filtering functions, and natural heritage
biodiversity. These projects are crucial in that wetlands act as carbon sinks, filter the air, and provide valuable
social and educational resources. Riparian buffers have also declined and are in need of strengthening.

Over time, the landscape in southern Ontario has changed dramatically.  This initiative seeks to reverse some
of the impacts humans have had on the local environment and seeks to restore habitat with a strategic
approach. Wetlands will be built, trees and tallgrass prairie planted, and riparian buffers created. The strategic
approach will ensure that this restoration work increases wildlife travel corridors and habitat connectivity.

Project Location

Middlesex and Lambton Counties, Ontario.


Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact Jessica Van Zwol, Healthy Watershed Specialist,
St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, Ontario.