Long Point Waterfowl’s Lake St. Clair Initiative, 2013-14

Final Report: Long Point Waterfowl’s Lake St. Clair Initiative, 2013-2014

Goals and Objectives

In 1998, Long Point Waterfowl developed a similar document for the Long Point region titled “Waterfowl
and Wetlands of Long Point Bay and Old Norfolk County” (available online at
http://longpointbiosphere.com/Publications/Wetlands/contents.htm). The development of this document
was pivotal in focusing the direction of research in the Long Point region and in further developing the
Science program of Long Point Waterfowl.  Since 1998, Long Point Waterfowl has produced nearly 100
publications used in guiding conservation, restoration, and enhancement of wildlife habitat in the Long
Point region.We think that a similar document produced for the Lake St. Clair region also will contribute
substantially to the conservation, restoration and enhancement of wildlife habitat around Lake St. Clair.

During the first year we will hire a second staff  Scientist to collect available data sets pertaining to the
region, including waterfowl banding and recovery data, aerial survey data, LPW Tundra Swan and scaup
satellite tracking data, waterfowl harvest data, habitat metrics, dynamics of agricultural practices, wetland
management, wetland loss/conversion and invasive species. All of this data and information will be
analyzed and interpreted and a detailed report titled “Waterfowl and Wetlands of the Lake St. Clair
Region: Present Conditions and Future Options for Research and Conservation”
will be prepared.
The document will serve as direction for research in the region over the next 10-years

The wildlife habitat limitations and conservation options identified in the aforementioned document will
be used to develop a 5-year research program which will be conducted by our Scientist and graduate
student(s). We anticipate that one of the greatest limitations identified will be habitat loss, food availability
and invasive species. Three possible research projects include, but are not limited to: 1/ a study of habitat
use and factors that influence length of stay and survival of dabbling ducks (with a focus on mallards)
during fall migration, 2/ a determination of impacts of invasive Mute Swans on availability of spring and fall
foods for native waterfowl, and 3/ a determination of potential impacts (displacement) of placing industrial
wind turbines in or near critically important waterfowl habitats.

The detailed planning and assessment document and subsequent research papers and reports will be
instrumental in attracting attention to and developing conservation/research strategies and support for the
Lake St. Clair Region.

Specific Products/Results Supported by WHC’s Contributions

Long Point Waterfowl will produce a document titled “Waterfowl and Wetlands of the Lake St. Clair
Region: Present Conditions and Future Options for Research and Conservation” that will be an
exhaustive search and report of information on waterfowl and waterfowl habitats (wetlands and
agricultural lands) of the Lake St. Clair Region. The document will serve to focus future wetlands and
waterfowl research, conservation, and management in the region.

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

Lake St. Clair and its associated rivers provide abundant, quality habitat to continentally significant
populations of waterfowl during fall and spring migration. Heavily vegetated, open water areas of this
shallow lake provide forage for diving ducks and adjacent marshes and agricultural fields provide food
for millions of dabbling ducks, geese and swans. The Lake St. Clair region is a cross-roads for the
Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways of North American waterfowl. Waterfowl including tundra swans,
canvasback, and northern pintail breeding as far north and west as Alaska travel through Lake St. Clair
on their way to marshes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. To the east, mallards and geese hatched
in Ontario, Quebec, and the St. Lawrence River Valley rest and refuel at Lake St. Clair prior to migrating
to their wintering grounds in southern locales of the Mississippi Flyway. In total, an estimated 6.5 million
waterfowl use Lake St. Clair in fall (including 46% of the lower Great Lakes use by dabbling ducks) and
1.6 million during spring.

Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

Despite that Lake St. Clair is rich in waterfowling and outdoor heritage and remains important to North
American waterfowl populations; the region has seen substantial landscape change including loss of
nearly 1 million acres of wetlands. Wetland conversion and drainage continues to reduce availability
of habitat for waterfowl in southern Ontario and increases the need for intensive management of habitat
to ensure the needs of migrating waterfowl and other wildlife are met. Other stressors on wetland
habitats that may influence use of the area by waterfowl include invasive species (Phragmites and
mute swans) and industrial development (wind turbines). Combined, changes to the Lake St. Clair
ecosystem continue to reduce availability of quality habitat for waterfowl, thereby potentially reducing
length of stay and survival of waterfowl using the region. Research focused on determining factors
influencing length of stay and survival of waterfowl, as well as effects of invasive species and
development will provide conservation planners and wetland managers with information necessary to
sustain the rich waterfowl heritage of the St. Clair region. Preparation of this report will result in an
important educational tool while at the same time providing the direction necessary to conduct much-
needed research and conservation within the region.

Project Location

Lake St. Clair, Ontario. 

Lambton, Kent, Essex counties.

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Scott Petrie, Executive Director, Long Point
Waterfowl, Ontario.