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Thousand Islands National Park of Canada

Park initiates long-term wetland study

Park ecologist Josh Van Wieren (right) and resource conservation student Tyler Kydd do a preliminary check on the aquatic macroinvertebrates collected during wetland monitoring.  Van Wieren has played a key role in developing a nation-wide standard for monitoring the health of wetlands, one of Canada's most important ecosystems.
Park ecologist Josh Van Wieren (right) and resource conservation student Tyler Kydd do a preliminary check on the aquatic macroinvertebrates collected during wetland monitoring. Van Wieren has played a key role in developing a nation-wide standard for monitoring the health of wetlands, one of Canada’s most important ecosystems.
© Parks Canada

Thousand Islands National Park’s park ecologist, Josh Van Wieren, has been at the forefront of a wetland monitoring project that will become a nation-wide standard.

“Wetlands are one of the most biologically diverse and important ecosystems in Canada,” said Van Wieren. “Municipal, provincial, and national organizations are searching for ways to monitor wetlands, but there has been no standard method to evaluate the overall health of freshwater wetlands across Canada.”

To address this problem, Van Wieren and Parks Canada’s monitoring ecologist for the Great Lakes bioregion, Paul Zorn, reviewed more than 300 wetland monitoring protocols across North America and chose six measures to give an accurate picture of long-term wetland health.

Annual assessment of amphibians, aquatic vegetation, landscape elements, macroinvertebrates, marsh birds, and water quality will help to paint a picture of the status of wetlands across the country.

Using the new standard protocol, data can be collected by organizations with varying levels of expertise and then compared regionally and nationally. The protocol has been designed in partnership with Canada’s Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN), which has already established national standards for monitoring the health of the country’s forests.

The new wetland monitoring protocol was successfully piloted by Thousand Islands National Park and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority in 2006. Next year, the program will be expanded across the country.

Canada has one quarter of the world’s wetlands and it is essential that we act as good stewards and protect these vital natural areas.

“Wetlands filter our drinking water, provide recreational activities and are critical to a variety of plant and animal species,” Van Wieren explained. “Yet they are quickly disappearing.”

In some areas of Canada, as much as 70 percent of the original wetlands have been lost. Many remaining wetlands are under pressure from stresses including pollution, human development, and invasive species.

Local residents and conservation organizations can participate in the wetland monitoring project through Thousand Islands National Park’s Citizen Science initiative. If you have a wetland on your property and would like to learn more about its health, call 613-923-5261.