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Watershed Information
Aquatic Habitat & Terrestrial Ecology — Shorelines
 
  Index  

 

   

Overview

Shorelines (riparian areas) are where the water meets the shore. Also known as the Ribbon of Life, shorelines perform important hydrologic, geomorphic and biological functions that are crucial to the good health of the Rideau Valley Watershed

Initial results from the field work performed in 2002 indicate that 61 percent of the shoreline from Kars to Mooney’s Bay is heavily or partially urbanized, about 31% of the shoreline is in a regenerative/natural state and 8% has erosion problems. 2002 results will be coming to the Watershed Information System soon.

Results from the field work performed in 2003 indicate that 38 percent of the shoreline from Kars to Merrickville is heavily or partially developed, about 62% of the shoreline is in a regenerative/natural state and 6% has erosion problems. Shrubs that provide vital wildlife habitat and slope stabilization cover 74% of the surveyed shoreline. Less ecologically sound groomed grass covers 18%.

In 2004, field crews continued upstream on the Rideau to Poonamalie locks, beyond Smiths Falls and the valuable “Swale” wetland. The navigable section of Kemptville Creek was also surveyed. 27% of the shoreline was observed as developed or degraded. The remainder was in either a natural or regenerative state. Observed erosion was less than 1% and groomed grass represented 12% of the total shoreline.

Information collected from the project will assist agencies with the review of development proposals along the shoreline of the Rideau River and to identify the riparian areas in need of restoration.

Only by periodically collecting this kind of information will we know if our collective shoreline and riparian zone stewardship efforts (through conservation awareness programs, regulations enforcement or financial incentive programs) are working.


 
   
   
     
     
    Understanding
     
    Shorelines
When classifying shorelines, the RVCA looks at the major natural and artificial features along the watercourse. We then categorize the shorelines based on the degree of degradation/health. Information on the following five features is available in the Watershed Information System. Click on each title to learn more about each attribute and how observations are made.
     
   

Download Shoreline Surveys Here!
— Shoreline Classification Project —2004 Report
— Rideau River Shoreline Classification Survey — 2003 Kars to Merrickville
— Rideau River Shoreline Classification Survey — 2002 Kars to Mooney's Bay

     
    Riparian Resource Information  
   

Groups/Agencies
— MAPLE
— Living By Water Project

Incentive Programs
— Shoreline Naturalization Program
City of Ottawa Rural Clean Water Program
— Rideau Valley Rural Clean Water Programs

Other Resources
— MAPLE Shoreline Classification Survey Manul
— OMNR Extension Note Series: Water Topics
— The Dock Primer
— The Shore Primer
— Working Around Water Fact Sheets
— Rideau River Biodiversity Project
— Caring for Shorelines
     
     

 

 

Aquatic Vegetation
Aquatic plants, rooted or floating, emergent or submergent, are also known as macrophytes. They are concentrated in shallow areas of a watercourse where light can penetrate enough to establish life. This area is known as the littoral zone. Habitats provided by these plants are vital to the survival of many fish and invertebrate species. Just as trees and shrubs provide cover and protection on land, macrophytes provide cover and protection underwater.  

The six strata at which vegetation were observed are outlined below.   Onshore emergent data were recorded as percent shoreline cover.The remaining five strata were recorded as percent littoral zone cover.

     
   
     
    Dominant Aquatic Plant Species
   
Strata Species — common name

scientific name

Onshore Emergent Common Cattail Typha latifolia
Broad-leaved Arrowhead Sagittaria latifolia
Stiff Arrowhead Sagittaria rigida
Pickerelweed Pontederia cordata
Offshore Emergent Flowering Rush Butomus umbellatus
Floating Yellow Pond Lily Nuphar variegatum
Fragrant White Water Lily Nymphaea odorata
European Frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae
Lesser Duckweed Lemna minor
Columbia Watermeal Wolffia columbiana
Dotted Watermeal Wolffia borealis
Algae There are more than 300 species in the Rideau River
Leafy Northern Water Milfoil Myriophillum sibiricum
Eurasian Water Milfoil Myriophillum spicatum
Bracted Water Milfoil Myriophillum verticillatum
Common Waterweed Elodea canadensis
Common Bladderwort Utricularia vulgaris
Coontail Ceratophyllum demersum
Common Water Starwort Callitriche hermaphroditica
Richardson's Pondweed Potamogeton richardsonii
Grass Tape Grass/Wild Celery Vallisneria americana
     
    Shoreline Classification
Shores are classified as one of the following: natural, regenerative, ornamental, and degraded. Learn more on each classification below.
     
     
       
 

  Natural

  • no significant human disturbance on land or in the waterbody
  • a thick buffer of healthy native vegetation provides habitat and food for various organisms
  • water quality and erosion control are good

 

 

 

 Regenerative

  • significant efforts have been made for restoration to a pre-development state
  • less than 25 percent of the shoreline is disturbed for dock/water access
  • the presence of native vegetation is vital to the regeneration of healthy ecosystems
  • the ability of the property to control erosion and runoff is good
   Ornamental
  • development has focused on shoreline aesthetics and industry
  • natural vegetation has been removed and replaced with groomed grass and other non-native vegetation
  • construction of retaining walls, onshore structures and docks has significantly impacted wildlife habitat and the ability of the shoreline to slow runoff inputs of nutrients and pollution
 

 Degraded

  • an area where restoration is needed as soon as possible
  • development with little consideration for river ecology or impacts from boat wakes can result in erosion, runoff from roads and driveways flows directly into the water, and/or garbage and debris is polluting the shoreline habitat
     
   

Erosion

Erosion is a process where natural forces of water and wind remove, transport and deposit soil and rock particles. Natural river flow causes erosion. However, the addition of boat traffic and shoreline development can increase erosional forces.

Deep rooting shrubs and trees provide bank stabilization. Grasses, especially groomed, ornamental varieties have weak, shallow root systems. They are simply not good enough at stabilizing shoreline soils. With roots that can penetrate soils to depths of 24 inches, the presence of shrubs in the riparian zone is vital for protection from erosion.

Percent shoreline frontage for each type of erosion was observed. The table below defines the types of erosion observed.

     
    Toe Erosion The flow of water at the base of a shoreline removes material and eventually causes an unstable, overhanging bank.
     
    Mass Wasting Erosion Once a bank has been undercut by toe erosion, gravity can cause a large mass of the shoreline to slide or slump. This can expose large areas of the shoreline. Erosion forces then have less difficulty removing the remaining exposed material further.
     
     
    Land Use
   

All natural systems within a watershed are linked in some way. Water connects the entire watershed through overland, drain, ground water and watercourse flow.   Therefore, what happens to the water on land directly affects the composition of ground water and surface water stores. Community species composition is significantly affected by land use.

Each property was given a Land Use designation based on the definitions below.

     
     
   
Strata Species — common name

scientific name

Onshore Emergent Common Cattail Typha latifolia
Broad-leaved Arrowhead Sagittaria latifolia
Stiff Arrowhead Sagittaria rigida
Pickerelweed Pontederia cordata
Offshore Emergent Flowering Rush Butomus umbellatus
Floating Yellow Pond Lily Nuphar variegatum
Fragrant White Water Lily Nymphaea odorata
European Frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae
Lesser Duckweed Lemna minor
Columbia Watermeal Wolffia columbiana
Dotted Watermeal Wolffia borealis
Algae There are more than 300 species in the Rideau River
Leafy Northern Water Milfoil Myriophillum sibiricum
Eurasian Water Milfoil Myriophillum spicatum
Bracted Water Milfoil Myriophillum verticillatum
Common Waterweed Elodea canadensis
Common Bladderwort Utricularia vulgaris
Coontail Ceratophyllum demersum
Common Water Starwort Callitriche hermaphroditica
Richardson's Pondweed Potamogeton richardsonii
Grass Tape Grass/Wild Celery Vallisneria americana
     
     
   

Terrestrial Vegetation
Vegetation provides a good base for terrestrial wildlife habitat. Within tree and shrub strata, animals and birds can nest, forage and hunt for food and hide from predators. riparian buffer can provide a continuous wildlife corridor that can allow for animal movement from place to place under protective cover. Overhanging trees in riparian areas provide shade for the littoral zone. Cooler temperatures increase dissolved oxygen levels and improve aquatic habitat.  

As mentioned in the erosion section above, riparian vegetation stabilizes soils, preventing loss of fine particles into the watercourse, where they can significantly degrade habitat

Inland Cover (2004 data only)

Dominant inland cover was included for 2004 because the Terrestrial Vegetation observations in 2002 and 2003 focused on the riparian buffer.   While the riparian zone is certainly the most significant in terms of erosion and nutrient control, Inland Cover will give an idea of the degree of development and the ability of a given property to provide good habitat, erosion control and water filtering.

Shoreline and Littoral Zone Development (2004 data only)

This attribute simply observes the total frontage of a property that has been developed from a natural state in any way. The RVCA observes a target of 25% or less development for any type of shoreline property.