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Aquatic Habitat & Terrestrial Ecology — Wetlands




The Rideau River Watershed contains many wetlands, many of which have been evaluated using the Ontario Wetland Classification System.

he RVCA is committed to protecting these wetlands because of the extensive ecological, social and economic benefits that can be attributed to them. Wetlands moderate water flow, reduce flooding, maintain stream base flows, recharge groundwater, enhance water quality, sequester carbon and provide habitat for a plethora of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects and plants.

Despite their value to our quality of life and the existence of several provincial and municipal policies and regulations to protect them, wetlands are still being lost or degraded throughout the province, including within the Rideau Valley Watershed. Amendments recently made to the Conservation Authorities Act (Section 28) will strengthen the protection of wetlands by allowing Conservation Authorities to adopt specific development regulations affecting the use of land in and around wetlands.

To address this matter, the RVCA and Ducks Unlimited Canada have entered into a project to prioritize those wetlands already evaluated. This will better enable the RVCA to monitor and protect evaluated wetlands within the Rideau Valley Watershed. Information will be collected to assist with daily planning and regulations activities undertaken on behalf of the member municipalities of the RVCA and the general public, who are seeking a higher level of protection for wetlands.

Another important aspect of the protection of wetlands is to establish a wetland monitoring program, in partnership with other governmental/non-governmental organizations. The wetland data to be collected will be used in conjunction with other aquatic and terrestrial information being collected by the RVCA, as part of its Watershed Information System, to better understand the general health of the Rideau Valley Watershed.

Learn about the RVCA’s wetland monitoring pilot project using benthic invertebrates as indicators of water quality, habitat quality and biodiversity here.


What is a Wetland?
Wetlands are quite simply — wet lands! Wetlands occur intermittently across the landscape. Seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water, wetlands are areas where the water table is close to or at the surface. Wetlands are transition zones between land and open water. Wetlands can be found along lakes, rivers, streams or low lying open fields and wooded areas.

Wetlands cover 14 per cent of Canada. That amounts to 127 million hectares of wetlands.

In the Rideau, evaluated wetlands cover 9.3 percent of the watershed. Most of this is swamp at 7 percent.


Wetlands cover 14 per cent of Canada. That amounts to 127 million hectares of wetlands.

  In the Rideau, evaluated wetlands cover 9.3 percent of the watershed. Most of this is swamp at 7 percent.  

  1. Swamps are often flooded in the spring and are characterized by deciduous and coniferous plant species such as soft maple, cedar, tamarack and willows.
  2. Marshes usually have standing or slow moving water. Rich in nutrients and oxygen, marshes have dense emergent vegetation of mostly cattails and reeds, but no trees. they are the most "productive' of all wetlands. Abundant in wildlife and waterfowl, marshes provide ideal nesting, feeding and rearing sites.
  3. Fens are less common in Southern Ontario than other wetlands. They contain sedges and grasses and are home to rare plants. Fens are usually located on limestone or clay.
  4. Bogs are also found less frequently in southern Ontario. They contain peatlands that are acidic and poorly drained. Orchids and insectivorous plants, such as the pitcher plant, can be found here.
Source: A Wetland Conservation Plan, LandOwner Resource Centre