McMaster geographer helps reopen Fletcher Creek Ecological Preserve
Waddington will outline the research project work taking place onsite. He also will lead a short guided tour of the site restoration and fen wetland research, with Hamilton Conservation Authority staff.
Over time, ecological improvements at Fletcher Creek will be significant and include the expansion of a fen plant community, creation of additional habitat for rare plants and animals already in the area, a new breeding area for leopard frogs, snakes, and a variety of small mammals, such as groundhogs, foxes and bats. A mix of coniferous and deciduous trees will create a canopy that will provide valuable shelter for wintering birds and mammals. A community planting was recently held at the site, with volunteers planting a variety of native trees and shrubs.
Quarry rehabilitation was prompted in 2002 by concerns that unauthorized use of the property by swimmers and bush partygoers was jeopardizing sensitive wetland habitat and groundwater quality. These activities were also causing serious safety issues and disturbing neighbouring property owners.
"Society increasingly relies on the function of both natural and constructed wetland systems to address both water quantity and quality problems that are often a consequence of urbanization and resource extraction," says Waddington, "but although wetlands are crucial ecological and energy linkages in the landscape, they have been all but lost in southern Ontario."
"So when we heard that that the Hamilton Conservation Authority planned to restore a wetland we just had to be involved."
Waddington and his research team worked with The Ontario Aggregate Resources Corporation to create a 'living lab' to determine the best ways to rehabilitate aggregate quarries into a functioning wetlands.
Ph.D. student, Tim Duval, is investigating the ecohydrology of a rare wetland referred to as a calcareous fen. "The hydrological and geochemical conditions in these wetlands is similar to the conditions in abandoned quarries," says Duval. "We want to learn what the optimal conditions are to restore these quarries into functioning wetlands."
Joint with the University of Toronto, researchers at McMaster University also plan to equip this site with state-of-the-science equipment through funding from CFI. A globally unique network of experimental wetland laboratories is planned to study the complex, interacting effects of climate and land-use change on ecosystem function, pollutant behaviour, environmental health and societal attitudes toward land use change.
Waddington and members of the Peatland Ecology Research Group won the
NSERC Synery Award last autumn for their research in restoring peat bogs in eastern Quebec. "Having this rehabilitation site so close to the University is an awesome learning opportunity," adds Scott Ketcheson, an earth and environmental sciences co-op student working in Waddington's lab.
The re-opening and restoration of Fletcher Creek was made possible by sponsors, The Ontario Aggregate Resources Corporation (TOARC), the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Lafarge Canada Inc. and community partners McMaster University and Puslinch Township. TOARC provided the HCA and McMaster with $166,821 in grants to fund phase 2 of the site restoration and fen wetland research. The Ontario Trillium Foundation provided an additional $54,500 for passive recreation and interpretive features such as trails, lookout points and a boardwalk. Puslinch Township partnered with the HCA to apply for this grant and also provided council and administrative support for the project. Lafarge Canada Inc. gave an in-kind grant of $16,594 by supplying the crushed stone and screenings for the service road and newly-created wetland edge. McMaster University also donated $62,023 in student researcher time in 2004.