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Aquatic Habitat & Terrestrial Ecology — Macro Stream Assessment




The purpose of the RVCA Species at Risk Stewardship Fund “Fish Habitat Mapping Project” is to begin the long process of aquatic species recovery in the Rideau Valley Watershed by developing a model locating potential habitat for the Bridle Shiner Notropis bifrenatus, Pugnose Shiner Notropis anogenus and River Redhorse Moxostoma carinatum Species at Risk occuring in the Rideau Valley Watershed and refining it through field verification; by targeting specific areas needing instream and riparian zone improvements; by identifying restoration opportunities for stewardship funding and by partnering with landowners and other agencies willing to participate in the recovery of fish species at risk.


Goal: To locate and verify potential habitat for fish SAR and identify restoration opportunities for stewardship activities.


  • To organize and classify existing aquatic habitat information collected by the RVCA for use in identifying potential areas where suitable aquatic habitat for fish species at risk may be present.
  • To investigate and verify the results of the classified fish SAR habitat suitability mapping and further define their habitat requirements in the field; reclassify where necessary.
  • To identify potential sites for fish SAR habitat restoration and then prioritize according to restoration feasibility and perceived success.


The Fish SAR Habitat Mapping Project uses data from the Macro Stream Assessment protocol that has been collected on the physical and biological attributes of surveyed streams. Each stream assessment involves surveying 100 meter sections of the stream from its headwaters to its confluence. The information collected includes adjacent land use patterns, riparian vegetation, channel morphology, thermal regime, substrate type, barriers, bank stability, bank vegetation, instream vegetation and structure, fish and wildlife, agriculture impacts, tributaries, garbage and pollution. This information has been collected and entered into a database for streams throughout the RVCA watershed.

The existing macro stream assessment database has been used to generate a model of preffered habtiat types for the three species at risk using life history ifnormation that is known for each species. Some of the criteria that was used in appliying the model included the use of instream vegetation, substrate type and stream morphology to develop the means for identifying potential fish SAR habitat. For example, the percentage of instream vegetation observed along a 100 metre stream section is broken down as follows: extensive (choked with weeds), common (more than 50% vegetation), normal (25-50% vegetation), low (less than 25% vegetation) and rare (instream plants that are few and far between). Similarly, instream substrate are materials found on the streambed and can be classified in terms of its abundance (in percentage terms) for each type of instream substrate present along a 100 metre section, while stream morphology identifies some critical features such as pools, riffles and runs and the flow regime present (permanent vs. intermittent). These parameters were used in developing the model for preffered habitat types for the bridle shiner, pugnose shiner, and river redhorse. Field crews are using the model results to determine sites to be verified and habitat mapped (see field sheet links below).

Fish Habitat Verification Assessment Form
Fish Habitat Mapping Field Sheet

Once the sections are studied in more detail and the aquatic habitat is mapped the habitat suitability models will be further refined.

Species at Risk Fact Sheet — Bridle Shiner
Species at Risk Fact Sheet — Pugnose Shiner
Species at Risk Fact Sheet — River Redhorse

• Habitat mapping examples:
Jock River Watershed
Stillwater Creek Watershed



Aquatic Species at Risk in Southeastern Ontario: monitoring and recovery of SAR mussels, fish and invertebrates

The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority is working in partnership with the South Nation Conservation who received funding from the Ministry of Natural Resources for the study of Aquatic Species at Risk (SAR) in South-eastern Ontario. The goal of this project is to increase knowledge and awareness of aquatic SAR throughout South-eastern Ontario. This project is in collaboration with South Nation Conservation, City of Ottawa, Rideau Valley Conservation, Mississippi Valley Conservation, Cataraqui Region Conservation, Quinte Conservation, Ontario Ministry of Environment and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The program will monitor 10 minimally impacted sites for species at risk mussels, fish and invertebrates in the Rideau Valley Watershed in the summer and fall of 2010.  The protocols that will be used to collect data include the Ontario Stream Assessment Protocol (OSAP) and the Ontario Benthos Bio-Monitoring Network (OBBN). Water quality parameters will also be measured at each site including pH, total phosphorus, nitrates, alkalinity and metals.   All sites will be inventoried for potential species at risk mussels, fish and invertebrates. A detailed habitat description and threats inventory will be provided for all sites. Once all of the data is collected and analyzed, a summary report will be prepared for each sample location.

Click on thumbnail to see map

Media Release — Fish Habitat Mapping

August 25, 2010 — Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, are cooperating on a $62,000 project to begin the long process of aquatic species recovery in our watershed.   The Fish Habitat Mapping project, is being sponsored by the Ministry’s Species at Risk Stewardship Fund and RVCA’s Watershed Sciences group.   
It involves organizing and verifying potential habitat for three fish species at risk using RVCA’s extensive database of Macro Stream Assessment information collected on many local creeks and streams over the past ten years.    This information has been collected by surveying 100-metre sections of each stream from headwaters to the mouth.   We measure and observe habitat information such as shoreline and instream vegetation, migration barriers, water temperatures, bottom type, bank stability, adjacent land uses and more.   
Each of the three targeted fish species at risk (Bridle Shiner, Pugnose Shiner and River Redhorse) has preferred habitat types and spawning locations.  By looking for matches in preferred habitat and observed habitat, RVCA will be able to identify general areas of local streams where instream and shoreline conditions appear to be suitable as preferred habitat for the species at risk.  These habitat suitability maps will then be refined and field-checked.   Finally, the best restoration opportunities within these suitable habitat areas will be identified and available for funding and implementation with partner landowners and other agencies willing to participate in the recovery of fish species at risk.
The project is being steered by a collaborative of fish specialists from Carleton University, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ministry of Natural Resources and RVCA. A team of two technicians are out on area watercourses daily checking the habitat suitability mapping and following up with sampling of the current fish community.
This local fish habitat mapping project complements existing stewardship activities (shoreline naturalization, tree planting, clean water projects) by drawing attention to fish species at risk sites for improvement and protection.   The project will enhance the recovery of several eastern Ontario fish species at risk and improve the overall health of the aquatic environment and all the species dependent on it.
Fish are an important part of the province’s economy. Ontario’s fisheries sustain the sport fishing and tourist industries, as well as the commercial fishery. About 1.2 million anglers fish in the province each year.   These anglers spend more than $2.5 billion dollars on fisheries-related products and services.

More information:
Jennifer Lamoureux, Aquatic & Fish Habitat Biologist, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority
613-692-3571 ext 1108 jennifer.lamoureux@rvca.ca

Media Release — The Ultimate Aquatic Workshop: River Bugs and Fly Fishing
Opportunity for Volunteer

September 7, 2010 — City Stream Watch and the Ottawa Flyfishers Society are teaming up on Saturday, September 18 for the third annual aquatic insect and flyfishing workshop!   Please register for this popular, free workshop as soon as possible.
Aquatic insects (also known as freshwater benthic macroinvertebrates) are small animals without backbones and these valuable creatures live in our streams during some period of their life. They are an important part of the food chain and play a large role as biological indicators of river health. Hence, these bugs are of extreme interest to both stream watchers and fly fishers.  
The day will be broken into morning and afternoon sessions. During the morning session (9:30 to 11:30 am) participants will learn how to sample for benthic macroinvertebrates and how to identify the different types.  This portion will be of a “hands on” nature and will be taught by Conservation Authority staff.
After a light lunch, generously provided by the Monterey Inn Resort and Conference Centre, the Ottawa Flyfishers Society will take over, providing fly casting demonstrations and pairing up with other participants for a little more “hands on” experience of a fishing nature.  Equipment will be provided.  This part of the program should run from about 12:30 to 3:00 pm.  
A presentation will be made by RVCA staff regarding the Fish Habitat Mapping project, sponsored by the Ministry’s Species at Risk Stewardship Fund and RVCA’s Watershed Sciences group. The program organizes and verifies potential habitat for three Rideau fish species at risk (bridle shiner, pugnose shiner, river redhorse) based on information collected on many local streams by RVCA staff and volunteers.   
Due to the nature of the program, we must limit the session to 25 people.  Signup will be by email, and there will be a waiting list for those who email after signup is full, in case of cancellations.  Here are the details:
WHEN: Saturday, September 18, 2010, 9:30 am to 3:00 pm
WHERE:  Jock River Landing (mouth of the Jock River at the Rideau River)
COST: No charge thanks to our amazing community sponsors
PLEASE BRING: Drinking water, snacks, personal sun block, sunglasses, rain gear (if necessary)
 TO REGISTER: Email your name, phone number and email address to Julia Sutton, City Stream Watch Coordinator at julia.sutton@rvca.ca.

For More Information:
Julia Sutton, City Stream Watch Coordinator, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority
 613-692-3571 ext 1180, julia.sutton@rvca.ca

  News Releases