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Health of the Rideau River


A species of arrowhead.
A species of arrowhead.

Rich Biodiversity
According to results of the Project and previous research, the Rideau River is home to a wide variety of native species:


Eastern elliptios, Elliptio complanata.
Eastern elliptios, Elliptio complanata.

No Species in Peril

 

The River in Good Health?

The Rideau River, near Andrewsville.
The Rideau River, near Andrewsville.

Contrary to public perception the Rideau River is in relatively good health. Knowing the intensity with which a large number of people (not to mention thousands of boats) use it, even the scientists who studied the River for three years were surprised at the richness and diversity of species they found.

According to their analyses, the biodiversity of the River Rideau is similar to that of other Ontario rivers of similar size. As for the water quality, however, fertilizer levels are slightly higher in the Rideau River than in other rivers.

A Fragile Balance
Rideau River Biodiversity Project researchers' conclusions suggest that the health of the Rideau River is pretty good. The environment, however, is fragile. Scientists have found that there are three significant threats to the stability and health of its fauna and flora.

Bullet.
Green frog, Lithobates clamitans.
Green frog, Lithobates clamitans.
Shoreline development - The greatest threat to the biodiversity of the Rideau River is shoreline development. Often associated with building construction, development of the shoreline reduces the variety and abundance of natural habitats. For example, amphibians and reptiles are threatened by the limited availability of nesting and basking sites along certain areas of the River. Minnows and juvenile fish are threatened by fluctuating water levels and water turbidity.
Bullet. Exotic species - The invasion of exotic plants and animals threatens the survival of native species. Native freshwater mussels in particular are under serious threat from the invasion of zebra mussels.
Bullet. Fertilizers - Levels of phosphorus are high in the downtown Ottawa area, thereby causing an explosion of aquatic plant and algae growth.

A damselfly of the genus Enallagma captures a beetle.
A damselfly nymph of the genus Enallagma captures a beetle.
These threats have already led to the disappearance of several species of native freshwater mussels, and possibly the sensitive eastern silvery minnow. The survival of certain reptiles and amphibians is also jeopardized in certain parts of the River.

It is not known how much biodiversity can be lost before the entire ecosystem is unable to sustain itself any longer. Evidence of this disaster would be found in scarcity of wildlife and poor water quality.

Shoreline Preservation
Maintaining the diversity of the shorelines along the Rideau River is the best way of ensuring a healthy river. In order to protect the River's biodiversity and maintain its good health for many years, the entire community will have to work together to ensure that
Bullet. existing shoreline habitats remain,
Bullet. trees are replanted in denuded areas,
Bullet. phosphorus in the River is reduced by at least 10%.

 

 Health of the River  
Bullet. 
Arrow.  
Arrow.  
Arrow.  
A Project of the Canadian Museum of Nature
  
 Images: Chris Allaway, Thomas Cook, Ed Hendrycks, André Martel, Diane Pathy