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Lower Welland River Characterization Report - Niagara Peninsula ...

Lower Welland River Characterization Report - Niagara Peninsula ...

Lower

Lower Welland River Study Area Characterization Report ability to support species diversity. However, forest cover not only directly results in habitat, but forest cover is beneficial because it: reduces flooding and high flow events by intercepting runoff thereby encouraging infiltration, improves water quality by slowing the rate of runoff to watercourses, and trapping, using or breaking down some of the pollutants and nutrients found in runoff water, improves water quality by lowering water temperatures and shading water courses, improves groundwater quality by increasing the amount of rainfall that percolates to the groundwater table, reduces soil erosion, and preserves and increases flora and fauna diversity. In addition, prairies and meadows also play an important role in creating habitat diversity and foraging areas for wildlife. Many species rely on expanses of prairie and the loss of habitat has contributed to their decline. According to Environment Canada in A Guide to Establishing Prairie and Meadow Communities in Southern Ontario, more than 150 plant species occurring in Ontario prairies are considered provincially or nationally rare. Riparian Cover The area of land adjacent to a watercourse is the riparian or buffer zone. Environment Canada recommends that 75 percent of a streams length be naturally vegetated with a minimum of a 30 meter width naturally vegetated riparian zone on both sides of the watercourse. Headwater streams are highly dependent on vegetative cover for stream temperature moderation and the input of organic matter from adjacent vegetation for production. Riparian buffers, like wetlands, provide many benefits to a watershed, including improving water quality. The benefits of riparian buffers include the following: remove sediment and pollution such as chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria and road salt before they reach surface water, reduce the impacts of flooding, prevent erosion, improve water clarity, and provide shade and cooler water temperatures for fish and other aquatic organisms. Currently in the Lower Welland River watershed, approximately 27 percent of the watercourses have some riparian habitat. The density and width of the buffer varies throughout the study area. Important Bird Area The Niagara River Corridor, between Lakes Erie and Ontario, was dedicated as a globally significant Important Bird Area in December 1996. The Niagara River annually supports one of the largest and most diverse concentrations of gulls in the world. During fall and winter, over 100,000 individuals can be observed foraging along the river, and a total of 19 species have been recorded. During the fall and winter, water fowl concentrations also can regularly exceed 20,000 individuals of more than 20 species. In addition, due to the regional geography, large numbers of migrating raptors and landbirds cross the river during migration (Bird Studies Canada No Date). Table 3 is a summary of bird records available for the Niagara River Corridor from Bird Studies Canada. 28

Lower Welland River Study Area Characterization Report Table 3: Birds of Niagara River Corridor Species Black-crowned Night heron Bonaparte‟s Gull Canvasback Colonial Waterbirds/Seabirds Common Goldeneye Common Merganser Common Tern Greater Scaup Herring Gull Little Gull Long-tailed Duck Ring-billed Gull Wading Birds (Herons, Cranes ect.) Waterfowl Season Breeding, Spring Migration Fall Migration Wintering Breeding Wintering Wintering Breeding Wintering Wintering Spring Migration Wintering Breeding, Fall Migration Breeding Fall Migration In 2001 and 2002 Bird Studies Canada also conducted surveys in the area. Table 4 lists the bird species that were identified during these surveys in the Thompsons Creek and Lower Welland River subwatersheds. Table 4: Birds Identified in Thompsons Creek and Lower Welland River Subwatersheds Common Name Scientific Name American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis American Robin Turdus migratorius Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus European Starling Sturnus vulgaris House Sparrow Passer domesticus Killdeer Charadrius vociferus Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia 29

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