Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring
How Do We Do it?
An aquatic ecosystem monitoring program will require the engagement of multiple partners to do research, design and support implementation. In the interim, we can begin to build partnerships and projects that will help to achieve proposals and partnerships for:
• Aquatic Macrophyte and Algae Monitoring (including Starry stonewort)
• Benthic Invertebrate Monitoring
• Turtle Monitoring
Aquatic Macrophyte and Algae Monitoring
Fleming College and/or Trent University will work directly with shoreline residents to document and map the occurrence of Starry stonewort in Ston(e)y and Clear Lakes. Additional data will also be collected with respect to co-occurrence of native aquatic plant species as well as habitat characteristics of the site (depth, sediment type, aspect, shoreline characteristics).
A select number of Starry stonewort sites will then be paired with control sites that exhibit similar habitat features (depth, aspect, shoreline characteristics) for the monitoring of macroinvertebrate communities.
Benthic Invertebrate Biomonitoring
The purpose of the project is to determine the health of select lakes to provide decision makers with the data they need to make meaningful changes to the health of their lakes. This will be accomplished by:
Developing and field testing a benthic biomonitoring protocol.
Providing training to engage youth involved in environmental programs and the local lake communities in long-term monitoring.
Applying benthic biomonitoring as an indicator of ecosystem health for these lakes.
The study is designed to help answer the following questions:
1. What is the baseline composition of the benthic communities of Ston(e)y, Clear and White Lakes to assess the long-term impacts of climate change, invasive species and development of the lakes.
2. What is the current state of aquatic benthic invertebrates in shoreline areas adjacent to existing or proposed developments or large scale developments (e.g., golf courses and marinas) and what is the effect of such developments on benthic invertebrate composition. This information will be used as a reference point to assess change over time and impacts to aquatic ecosystem health.
3. What are the impacts of Starry stonewort and other aquatic invasive on the benthic community in these lakes?
We are working with Fleming College and other partners to apply for Federal funding to support turtle research in the TSW. The purpose of the monitoring is to identify and map areas or habitat of turtle species at risk (e.g., Blanding's Turtle, Wood Turtle, Eastern Musk Turtle, Snapping Turtle, Northern Map Turtle). Information gathered from this work would help to inform future work to reduce the threats to these populations (e.g., road mortality, illegal harvest, water level fluctuation, invasive species and development impacts). Below are images of the eight turtles found in Ontario. It's important to note that federally all eight are at risk.
(Chelydra Serpentina) Canada's largest freshwater turtle. It has a large upper shell that can be olive, brown or black. Its legs are big and thick, and its tail – which can be longer than its body – is dinosaur like, with spikes along its upper edge. The Snapping turtle can be found under docks or hidden beneath the mud in shallow water.
(Emydoidea Blandingii) Endangered in Canada; threatened in Ontario. Medium sized with greyish brown domed shell and long bright yellow neck and chin. Semi-aquatic, the Blanding's turtle can be found wetlands (such as the Fraser Wetlands, Ston(e)y Lake) and shallow lakes with full of water plants.
Northern Map Turtle
(Graptemys geographica) Gets its name from the distinctive map-like markings on its brown upper shell. Its head and legs have intricate bright yellow patterning. Often spotted basking in the sun on logs, the Northern map turtle is shy and will scurry away if it senses movement.
(Chrysemys picta) An aquatic species that heads to land to nest or migrate, it can be found in lakes, ponds, rivers, and wetlands. Loves to bask in the sun. Its upper shell is green and flares gently at the edge where its underside appears to have painted patterns of red and black. Its undershell is bright yellow, matching the yellow strips on its green head.
(Clemmys guttata) One of Ontario's smallest turtles. An aquatic species that favours swamps and bogs. It is easily identified by its smooth shell and random, bright yellow spots. Loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation have led to population decline. The Spotted turtle is listed as Endangered provincially and federally.
Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle
(Apolone spinifera) Found in rivers and along the shorelines of lakes. Upper shell is soft and leathery in texture. Its feet are large and webbed – well suited to its aquatic habitat. Threatened provincially, endangered federally.
(Glyptemys insculpta) At one time called "old red leg" due to the orangey tone of its legs. Its shell is characterized by its markings which resemble woodcuts – hence the name. The Wood turtle is semi-terrestrial, spending time during the summer in fields and forests near streams while preferring to mate and hybernate over the winter in the water. Endangered in Ontario. Threatened federally.
Eastern Musk Turtle
(Glyptemys insculpta) Aka, the Common Stinkpot. Less familiar than other turtles because it is small, shy and hardly ever seen. One of the world's tiniest turtles, it seldom grows larger than 4 inches in length. Other distinguising feature: the yellow stripes that frame its eyes. Prefers shallow water with abundant vegetation. Listed as Threatened in Ontario, this turtle and its habitat are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre
If you're looking for more information about Ontario turtles – varieties, habitat, status, even ways to help turtles cross the road – check out the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre's website: www.ontarioturtle.ca.