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Βυφφερ Προϕεχτ Υπδατε

This has been a very productive year for the ‘Building Stream Buffers for Niagara’s Rivers’ Project. The two buffer plantings that occurred in the spring of 2004 (Pelham Hills Golf Course and Maple Park) were very successful. They have proved themselves ecologically, aesthetically, and socially. Maple Park especially generated significant media attention and a great deal of neighbourhood support. In fact, the planting day at Maple Park brought volunteers from 4 different adjacent households, 5 different interested organizations, and over 40 volunteers in all!! The City of Welland was so satisfied, that they have asked us to expand the current riparian project at Maple Park, and also to do another buffer project on another property; the Welland Soccer Club.

Three buffer projects are planned for the spring of 2005. They include a continuation of the Maple Park Project, the Welland Soccer Club (another very high traffic area) and another section of the Pelham Hills Golf Course. This project has allowed us to create a better relationship with the owner of the Pelham Hills Golf Course, and in doing so, has allowed us to generate a plan to remove the dam on the property (one of the most detrimental of three barriers to fish migration in the Niagara AOC). The dam has already been partially opened, and the creek upstream will be the target of our next riparian restoration. The much needed vegetation will stabilize the banks, that have not experienced severe current since 1978.

Fish Barrier Report

This has been a wonderful year for the Niagara River Area of Concern (AOC) Fish Barrier Project. This year, the NRC was able to remove 6 barriers, have engineered drawings completed for an additional 2, and a third is at the engineered drawing phase. Therefore, we are confident that these last three (which are all significant barriers to fish migration) will be removed next year.

One of the 6 barriers removed this year was the Pelham Hills Golf Course Dam. This was one of the worst 3 barriers within the Niagara AOC watershed. Not only were we able to open the dam (full removal will occur in 2005-06), but we also have the support of the landowner to implement a habitat enhancement project on the creek affected by the dam, and we have acquired funding (Ontario Trillium Foundation etc.) to build an (up to) 2 hectare model golf course wetland, that promotes the needs of golf course irrigation while incorporating the enhancement and creation of wildlife habitat into the pond. We hope that other golf courses will follow suit and consider creating ‘wildlife friendly’ golf course ponds on their courses.

As well, an analysis of the total habitat that has been opened up has been completed. The Target Goal Achievement Report details all of the remaining barriers that need to be remediated, what kind of barriers they are, and an estimated timeline until their completion. We hope to post this report on our website in the coming months.

So far to date, 134 barriers have been removed and 208 have been inventoried (some of which would never be feasibly remediated). In total, there was approximately 864 km of locked up fish habitat when this project began. This project has removed enough barriers to unlock 404 km of the 864 km. Adding this number to the amount of habitat that never had barriers totals 558 km of fish habitat that is now open and devoid of fish barriers.

White Wood Aster

By Anita Imrie

The white wood aster is a threatened herbaceous species that flowers in the fall. It has heart shaped basal leaves and a distinctive zigzag pattern in the growth of the stem. In all of Canada this flower is only found in 25 sites in the Niagara Peninsula and southern Quebec. This species was listed by the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as threatened in 1995. A recovery plan is being drafted by the Ministry of Natural Resources to aid in ensuring the survival of this species. Some of the potential threats currently facing the aster include deer grazing, consumption by weevils, trampling, loss of habitat, and possibly competition with garlic mustard. Garlic mustard is an invasive, exotic species that aggressively out-competes many native species in forest understories of North America.

Very little information is currently known on the ecology of the white wood aster at this northern extent of its range. In order to change this, four Niagara College students in the Ecosystem Restoration program conducted a study this fall and winter to determine the environmental gradients that the white wood aster grows along. This study also tried to uncover some of the possible threats to its populations in Short Hills Provincial Park. This information will aid in the further protection and recovery of this unique flower.

Photo courtesy of www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca

Trees, understory vegetation, and soils were sampled to try to find biological or climatic differences between sites that contained the white wood aster and neighbouring areas where the aster does not currently grow. It was found that in areas where the white wood aster was most common, garlic mustard occurred in lower abundance. Likewise, areas with a lot of garlic mustard did not have any of the asters growing amongst them. White wood aster also tended to occur in areas of greatest biological diversity while garlic mustard was found in low diversity areas. These relationships may be caused by the ability of garlic mustard to decrease the diversity in the areas it occurs through competition. This competition could be excluding white wood aster from establishing in areas with high quantities of garlic mustard. Conversely, the highly diverse areas that contain white wood aster may be able to prevent garlic mustard from becoming dominant in these systems.

The Ministry of Natural Resources is continuing these studies over the summer to gather data on the vegetation and light conditions in these areas throughout the entire growing season. Further monitoring and mapping of the known populations is necessary in order to adequately protect this species.

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