What are wetlands?
According to Environment Canada, wetlands are lands that are seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water, including lands where the water table is at or close to the surface. The abundance of water in these areas causes water to pool on the surface of the soil, allowing water-tolerant plants to flourish. There are five main types of wetlands: marshes, swamps, bogs, fens, and shallow open waters.
The Importance of Wetland Environments
Wetlands are central life support systems in the natural environment, providing services like water filtration, unique habitat, spawning ground, and shoreline protection. Wetlands also protect coastal areas from being eroded, and provide sources of oxygen and water vapour to the atmosphere. Most importantly, many wetlands -- especially peat bogs -- naturally store carbon from the atmosphere, making them important regulators of climate change.
Wetland Flora and Fauna in the Coves
Several areas within the Coves subwatershed are wetlands, as the same processes that formed the Coves also led to the development of diverse wetland communities. According to the “Natural Heritage Inventory and Evaluation for the Coves ESA,” five wetland plant communities are present in the Coves. The first community is located in two small patches at the south end of McAlpine Avenue; the second is found at the base of the slope of the west pond, south of Springbank Drive and east of Greenwood Avenue; the third is located along the eastern bank of the eastern pond; the fourth is located south of the west pond, east of Ridgewood Crescent; and the fifth is found within the ponds themselves.
In addition to plants, the Coves are also home to a variety of animal species that are characteristic of wetland environments. Birds like the Wood Duck, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, and Red-winged Blackbird all use wetlands as breeding ground. Unsurprisingly, these birds are found in the Coves. Also observed in the Coves are frogs, which are indicators of a healthy wetland because they are able to absorb toxins through their skin, and are thus extremely sensitive to environmental change. The four species of frogs found in the Coves are the American Toad, American Bullfrog, Green Frog and Leopard Frog. It is interesting to note that the Coves are an important breeding ground for American Bullfrogs, which can be found in the small inlet on the Thames River at the extreme north end of the Coves ESA, and in the southeast Coves pond.
Conserving our Wetlands
The most imminent threat to wetland flora and fauna in the Coves are sediment inputs from surrounding urban development. Increasing the amount of sediment that enters the ponds causes the water to become more shallow, which can have a negative impact on wetland plants and animals. Fortunately, this problem has a solution: shoreline enhancement and pond deepening. Shoreline enhancement involves planting riparian species and adding snags (i.e. dead trees) and rocks to increase the diversity and structural integrity of these wetland habitats. The primary purpose of pond deepening is to create spawning habitat for wildlife.
If you would like to become involved with our wetland restoration projects, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 519-663-8274.
North-South Environmental Inc. “Natural Heritage Inventory and Evaluation for the Coves ESA.” Dec. 2012.