Ecosystem Ausable River: action plan
Official title: Action plan for the Ausable River in Canada: an ecosystem approach
This document lays out the detailed steps we can take to help the Northern Riffleshell, Snuffbox, Kidneyshell, Mapleleaf, Rainbow, Lake Chubsucker, Pugnose Shiner, and Eastern Sand Darter populations in the Ausable River in Canada.
List of figures
- Figure 1. Map of the Ausable River watershed in southwestern Ontario
- Figure 2. Areas within which critical habitat for fishes and freshwater mussels may be found in the Ausable River watershed
- Figure 3. Priority sub-watersheds for stewardship activities to benefit critical habitat
List of tables
- Table 1. Aquatic Species at Risk found in the Ausable River watershed
- Table 2. Aquatic Species at Risk addressed by this Action Plan
- Table 3. Species population status and distribution by sub-watershed
- Table 4a. List of general and specific threats to species at risk in sub-watersheds of the main Ausable River (modified from Nelson et al. 2003)
- Table 4b. List of general and specific threats to species at risk in the Dunes and Mud Creek sub-watersheds (modified from Nelson et al. 2003)
- Table 5. Measures to be undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Table 6. Measures to be undertaken collaboratively between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and its partners
- Table 7. Measures that represent opportunities for other jurisdictions, organizations or individuals to lead
Freshwater mussels: Northern Riffleshell, Snuffbox, Kidneyshell, Mapleleaf and Rainbow
Fishes: Lake Chubsucker, Pugnose Shiner and Eastern Sand Darter
Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2018. Action Plan for the Ausable River in Canada: an ecosystem approach [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Action Plan Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. v + 47 pp.
For copies of the action plan, or for additional information on species at risk, including COSEWIC Status Reports, residence descriptions, action plans, and other related recovery documents, please visit the SAR Public Registry.
Cover illustration: Lake Chubsucker © Joseph R. Tomelleri
Également disponible en français sous le titre
« Plan d'action pour la rivière Ausable au Canada : Une approche écosystémique »
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2018. All rights reserved.
ISBN ISBN to come
Catalogue no. Catalogue no. to come
Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.
The federal, provincial, and territorial government signatories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk (1996) agreed to establish complementary legislation and programs that provide for effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada. Under the Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) (SARA) the federal competent ministers are responsible for the preparation of action plans for species listed as Extirpated, Endangered, and Threatened for which recovery has been deemed feasible. They are also required to report on progress five years after publication of the final document on the Species at Risk Public Registry.
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is the competent minister under SARA for the five freshwater mussels (Kidneyshell, Northern Riffleshell, Snuffbox, Mapleleaf and Rainbow) and three fishes (Eastern Sand Darter, Lake Chubsucker and Pugnose Shiner) and has prepared this ecosystem-based Action Plan to implement the applicable recovery strategies, as per section 47 of SARA. In preparing this Action Plan, the competent minister has considered, as per Section 38 of SARA, the commitment of the Government of Canada to conserving biological diversity and to the principle that, if there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to the listed species, cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for a lack of full scientific certainty. To the extent possible, this Action Plan has been prepared in cooperation with the Government of Ontario, Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority and the University of Guelph as per section 48(1) of SARA.
As stated in the preamble to SARA, success in the recovery of these species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions and actions set out in this Action Plan and will not be achieved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, or any other jurisdiction alone. The cost of conserving species at risk is shared amongst different constituencies. All Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing this Action Plan for the Ausable River to benefit the five freshwater mussels and three fishes and Canadian society as a whole.
Under SARA, an action plan provides the detailed recovery planning that supports the strategic direction set out in the recovery strategy for the species. The plan outlines recovery measures to be taken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other jurisdictions and/or organizations to help achieve the population and distribution objectives identified in the recovery strategy. Implementation of this Action Plan is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada would like to thank the following authors for their contributions: K. Jean, M. Veliz and S. Staton. The following organizations, that are members of the Ausable River Recovery Team, offered their support in the development of the Ausable River Action Plan: Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority, Huron Stewardship Council, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ontario Parks and the University of Guelph.
The Ausable River, located on the northern edge of the Carolinian Zone in southwestern Ontario, supports one of the most diverse and unique assemblages of aquatic fauna for a watershed of its size in Canada. At least 26 species of freshwater mussels and 85 species of fish have been found here. Many of these species are rare and 12 species, including six mussels and six fishes, have been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern. The majority of these species are protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) and/or the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA). Five freshwater mussels (Kidneyshell, Northern Riffleshell, Snuffbox, Mapleleaf and Rainbow) and three fishes (Eastern Sand Darter, Lake Chubsucker and Pugnose Shiner) are the focus of this Action Plan. The needs of these at risk fishes and mussels within the Ausable River watershed will be addressed using a multi-species, ecosystem-based approach. The present plan is guided by seven SARA recovery strategies for these eight species and builds on the draft ecosystem-based Ausable River Recovery Strategy that was developed (Shawn Staton, ARRT, unpublished, 2005).
The Ausable River watershed is highly agricultural and dominated by row cropping with less than 15% wetland and forest habitat remaining. The river has three main tributaries: Nairn Creek, Black Creek and the Little Ausable River. Critical habitat has been previously identified on the main stem of the Ausable River; lower sections of two tributaries (Little Ausable River and Nairn Creek); and separate wetland habitats (Old Ausable Channel, L Lake and Old Mouth Lake) for seven of the eight species at risk (the Eastern Sand Darter has not been reported from the river since 1928). Known or suspected threats to these species in the watershed include: sediments, nutrient enrichment, low dissolved oxygen concentrations (Old Ausable Channel only), altered flow, contaminants, invasive species, thermal effects, habitat modification and changes in the fish community.
The Action Plan includes implementation schedules with 34 prioritized measures to support the recovery of the target fish and mussel species at risk. Where possible, multi-species approaches are recommended. The recovery measures include: inventory and monitoring (4 actions), research (9 actions), management and coordination (5 actions); and stewardship and outreach (17 actions). To maximize the effectiveness of threat mitigation, priority sub-watersheds of the Ausable River watershed have been identified for stewardship activities to benefit critical habitat. Best Management Practices in these regions will address the following medium to high threats: loadings of suspended solids and nutrients from overland runoff and livestock, altered flow regime, contaminants (e.g., chloride), invasive species and habitat modifications.
An evaluation of the socio-economic costs and benefits of the Action Plan are included; costs are anticipated to be low with the majority of funds for implementation being provided by various levels of government. Many ‘on the ground’ actions are voluntary and would provide benefits to both agricultural and non-farm land owners. Secondary benefits of implementing the Action Plan would include improved water quality as well as improved habitats supporting fisheries and wildlife.
Methods for measuring and reporting on progress of implementation are also included.
The Ausable River, located on the northern edge of the Carolinian Zone in southwestern Ontario, supports one of the most diverse and unique assemblages of aquatic fauna for a watershed of its size in Canada (Figure 1). At least 26 species of freshwater mussels and 85 species of fish have been found here. Many of these species are rare and 12 species, including six mussels and six fishes, have been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern (Table 1); in addition, the Ausable River also supports other rare semi-aquatic species at risk, specifically turtles and the endangered Queen Snake (Regina septemvittata). The majority of these species are protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) and/or the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA).
Previous studies have shown that the Ausable River population of the globally-rare Northern Riffleshell is one of only four known reproducing populations of this species remaining in North America (COSEWIC 2010; Baitz et al. 2008). The Snuffbox is also considered to be quite rare and its numbers have been significantly reduced throughout its range. Its status in the Ausable River was unknown until a 2006 study confirmed a reproducing population. In addition, an Ausable River oxbow known as L Lake is considered to have the healthiest population of Lake Chubsucker remaining in Canada (Fisheries and Oceans Canada [DFO] 2011). Consequently, the Ausable River watershed is of national significance to the survival of these and other species within Canada.
Figure 1. Map of the Ausable River watershed in southwestern Ontario. Eleven sub-watersheds are shown. The Mud Creek sub-watershed features two significant wetland oxbows: L Lake and Old Mouth Lake. Note that the two Parkhill Creek sub-watersheds are not included as part of this Action Plan as this water course has been severed as a tributary from the Ausable River system.
Figure 1 is captioned “Map of the Ausable River watershed in southwestern Ontario. Eleven sub-watersheds are shown. The Mud Creek sub-watershed features two significant wetland oxbows: L Lake and Old Mouth Lake. Note that the two Parkhill Creek sub-watersheds are not included as part of this Action Plan as this water course has been severed as a tributary from the Ausable River system.” The figure is a map of the Ausable River watershed in southwestern Ontario, with an inset at the top left of the map showing the geographical location of this map on a larger scale map. Sub-watersheds indicated on the map are: Dunes, Mud Creek, Lower Ausable, Middle Ausable, Upper Ausable, Nairn Creek, Little Ausable, Black Creek, Ausable Headwaters, Lower Parkhill, and Upper Parkhill. The sub-watersheds are colour coded and outlined on the map. For the purposes of this action plan, the Ausable River watershed has been divided into nine sub-watersheds. The two Parkhill Creek sub-watersheds shown on this map are not included as part of the detailed action plan as this water course has been severed as a tributary from the Ausable River system, and no aquatic SAR have been documented in the Parkhill Creek system. An inset at the lower left of the map provides more detail for the Mud Creek sub-watershed and shows the two significant wetland oxbows: L Lake and Old Mouth Lake. A legend and scale is provided. Major watercourses, watercourses, and major roads are shown on the map. Technical details for the map are as follows: The map was produced by ABCA GIS Services and was compiled from various sources and is for information purposes only. The Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority takes no responsibility for, nor guarantees, the accuracy of all the information contained within the map. Copyright © Queen’s Printer, 2011. The Conservation Boundary – based on WRIP (Water Resources Information Program) Scientific Generalized Boundary Version 5.2 adopted by ABCA Oct 2007.Main Bayfield boundary – Created by WRIP and ArcHydro. Roads from Ontario Roads Network (LIO). Great Lakes and Named Places on inset map from ESRI. County Boundary from LIO. (Map file: T:\ARRS\2014 Action Plan ARAP\Mapping\ARRS_Watershed_Map_v4.mxd).
|Commonname||Species||COSEWIC status||SARA status||ESA status|
|Mapleleaf (Great Lakes-St. Lawrence population)||Quadrula quadrula||Threatened||Threatened||Threatened|
|Northern Riffleshell||Epioblasma torulosa rangiana||Endangered||Endangered||Endangered|
|Rainbow||Villosa iris||Special Concern||Endangered||Threatened|
|Wavyrayed Lampmussel||Lampsilis fasciola||Special Concern||Special Concern||Threatened|
|Black Redhorse||Moxostoma duquesnei||Threatened||No status||Threatened|
|Eastern Sand Darter (Ontario population)||Ammocrypta pellucida||Threatened||Threatened||Endangered|
|Grass Pickerel||Esox americanus vermiculatus||Special Concern||Special Concern||Special Concern|
|Lake Chubsucker||Erimyzon sucetta||Endangered||Endangered||Threatened|
|Pugnose Shiner||Notropis anogenus||Threatened||Endangered||Endangered|
|River Redhorse||Moxostoma carinatum||Special Concern||Special Concern||Special Concern|
To ensure the continued survival and recovery of these and other aquatic species at risk (SAR), the Ausable River Recovery Team (ARRT) was formed in 2002 and drafted a federal, ecosystem-based recovery strategy for this globally significant watershed (Shawn Staton, ARRT, unpublished, 2005). The ecosystem approach used recognizes the links between species, communities and the land and water base that support them. The intention is to maintain or enhance the natural aquatic communities in the Ausable River through managing the impacts of human activities on land and waters in the watershed. The ARRT identified the following benefits of an ecosystem approach:
- recovery actions are selected that benefit several target species at risk
- implementation is generally more cost-effective than a single-species approach
- addresses issues of scale (from site-specific to watershed level)
- targets mitigation and rehabilitation of impacts, and it restores ecosystem health to prevent the decline of other native species
- ensures that actions taken to benefit some species will not negatively impact other species at risk in the area
The recovery team prepared four background reports and a synthesis report on the Ausable watershed and the associated species at risk. The team recognized that planning and implementation of watershed-based activities requires the full involvement and support of landowners and stakeholders in the watershed. The recovery team included landowners in their membership, and held community meetings and information sessions with stakeholders in the watershed. Recovery efforts have included extensive stewardship projects, management actions, community awareness and outreach activities as well as research and monitoring. Most of the accomplishments of this recovery work have been detailed in the five year reports on two recovery strategies covering eight species of freshwater mussels (DFO 2012a; DFO 2013a). The present initiative will build on this foundation of recovery work and further advance restoration of the Ausable River ecosystem.
2. Scope of the action plan
Action plans are prepared for species that are listed under SARA as Endangered or Threatened and already have published recovery strategies in place. As such, this Action Plan addresses the needs of eight SARA-listed Endangered and Threatened freshwater mussels and fishes found within the Ausable River watershed (Table 2); these species have recovery strategies with critical habitat identified to the extent possible within the Ausable River and throughout their Canadian range. This Action Plan should be considered along with the seven applicable recovery strategies (references found in Table 2). These recovery strategies provide the strategic direction and approaches for recovery of these mussels and fishes throughout their range and provide background information on the species and their threats. Many of these species co-occur within the same habitats and share similar threats within this watershed, thus supporting an ecosystem or watershed-based approach to recovery implementation. As such, the focus of this Action Plan will be on targeted habitat improvement and stewardship as well as priority research and monitoring specific to the watershed.
|Species||SARA status||Recovery strategy|
|Eastern Sand Darter||Threatened||DFO 2012 (b)|
|Kidneyshell||Endangered||DFO 2013 (b)|
|Lake Chubsucker||Endangered||Staton et al. 2010|
|Mapleleaf||Threatened||DFO 2016 (a)|
|Pugnose Shiner||Endangered||DFO 2012 (c)|
|Rainbow||Endangered||DFO 2016 (b)|
|Northern Riffleshell||Endangered||DFO 2018 (a)|
This Action Plan supports the population and distribution objectives for these eight species – that is to return/maintain self-sustaining populations within the Ausable River watershed. These species would be considered to have met their population and distribution objectives within the watershed when they have returned to historically estimated ranges and have demonstrated active reproduction and recruitment. Although not specifically addressed by this action plan, the other four at risk mussels and fishes found within the Ausable River (Table 1) will benefit from the recovery actions proposed for the eight species covered in this plan (Table 2) through overall improvement to shared aquatic habitats. Note that the Eastern Sand Darter and River Redhorse have not been detected in the Ausable River in the last 85 years and are possibly extirpated from the watershed (ARRT 2005). The Action Plan will support other recovery document actions and SARA management plans for Special Concern species (i.e., Grass Pickerel [Beauchamp et al. 2012], Wavyrayed Lampmussel, River Redhorse) and species that have been assessed by COSEWIC but are not currently listed under SARA (i.e., Black Redhorse). Other semi-aquatic SAR (i.e., reptiles such as turtles and snakes) are also expected to benefit from this plan but are not specifically addressed.
3.1 Ausable River watershed
The following background information has been summarized and updated from the Ausable River Recovery Strategy (ARRT 2005). The Ausable River drains 1142 km² of southwestern Ontario into the lower portion of Lake Huron. The main tributaries of the Ausable River include: Black Creek, Little Ausable River and Nairn Creek (Figure 1). The Ausable River is approximately J-shaped, arising near Staffa and flowing south through Ailsa Craig before curving west through Arkona where the river enters a deep gorge. From here, the Ausable River flows north to enter what is known as the Ausable River Cut, and then outlets to Lake Huron at Port Franks (Figure 1).
Diversions in the Ausable River watershed in the late 1800s caused the original river’s path to be altered. Downstream of Arkona, the original path of the Ausable River channel flowed northward towards Grand Bend, and then took a sharp turn to the southwest, traveling parallel to the Lake Huron shoreline to its outlet near Port Franks. In 1873, a channelized section (Ausable River Cut) was excavated from a point east of Port Franks where the river was flowing northward, to the river mouth at Port Franks. As a result, the present outlet of the Ausable River empties directly into Lake Huron at Port Franks. Since the completion of the Ausable River Cut in 1875, no water from the Ausable River has flowed into Grand Bend. There is a stretch of dry riverbed that extends northward from the Cut’s origin to the point where the Parkhill Creek joined the original course of the Ausable River as a tributary. In 1892, the residents of Grand Bend decided to make a second “cut” out to Lake Huron in order to create a harbor for their town. This caused Parkhill Creek to outlet directly to Lake Huron at Grand Bend, as it still does today. Parkhill Creek is no longer a tributary of the Ausable River, but is its own watershed.
The 1892 diversion created a remnant channel between Grand Bend and Port Franks known as the Old Ausable Channel (OAC) (Dunes sub-watershed) that is isolated from the rest of the river and characterized by clear water and dense aquatic vegetation. Similar habitat is found in remnant oxbow wetlands known as L Lake and Old Mouth Lake (OML) (Mud Creek sub-watershed) adjacent to the Lake Huron shoreline at Port Franks (Figure 1). Mud Creek was once a tributary of the Ausable River, but over the years has found its own direct outlet through the sand dunes to Lake Huron. The OAC, L Lake and OML provide distinctly different habitat compared to that of the Ausable River and its tributaries. This has resulted in different species occurring in the wetland habitat compared to the riverine habitat.
The Ausable River watershed is located on a relatively flat till plain bounded on both sides by moraines. Sand and gravel deposits in some areas of the watershed discharge groundwater, creating limited areas of cold or cool water stream habitat. However, the majority of the Ausable River supports a warm water fish community. Historical changes in the land use from lowland and upland forest to agriculture occurred primarily between the 1850s and 1940s. By 1983, approximately 75% of the watershed was under row cropping with forest cover reduced to 13% of the watershed. Since this time there has been little change. A 2003 study estimated wetland cover at only 2.5% across all Ausable sub-watersheds (Nelson et al. 2003). The amount of wetland lost between pre-settlement (c.1800) and 2002 was documented at over 75% in Ausable River watershed counties (Huron County 76%, Middlesex County 89%, Perth County 87% and Lambton County 97%) (Ducks Unlimited 2010). Wetland loss and extensive agricultural drainage development have contributed to more rapid runoff and lower base flows across the basin. The Ausable River generally has poor water quality due to non-point source runoff from agricultural lands, septic systems and manure runoff, as well as point-sources such as wastewater treatment plants.
For the purposes of this Action Plan, the Ausable River watershed has been divided into nine sub-watersheds. Note that two Parkhill Creek sub-watersheds shown in Figure 1 are not included as part of the detailed Action Plan as this water course has been severed as a tributary from the Ausable River system, and no aquatic SAR have been documented in the Parkhill Creek system.
3.2 Species at risk populations
The current population status (poor, fair, good or extirpated) and distribution of the Endangered and Threatened SAR in the Ausable River watershed was most recently summarized by DFO (DFO 2011; DFO 2012a, 2012b, 2012c; DFO 2013a, 2013b; DFO 2016a, 2016b, DFO 2018a ), Jean et al. (2013) and Staton et al. (2010), and is provided in Table 3. Species populations have been divided into two groups based on differences in habitat - Ausable River and tributaries, and wetland habitats (OAC, L Lake, OML) (Table 3). For freshwater mussels, Baitz et al. (2008), Upsdell et al. (2010a ), Upsdell et al. (2012), Jean et al. (2014), the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) (Kari Jean, ABCA, unpublished data, 2015), and DFO (Kelly McNichols-O’Rourke, DFO, unpublished data, 2013 ) were consulted for the most recent recruitment and density data to assist in determining sub-basin population status. The presence of specimens < 25 mm in shell length is considered to be indicative of recent recruitment (Metcalfe-Smith et al. 2007).
The seven aquatic species extant within the Ausable River drainage are concentrated in seven sub-watersheds with their population status ranging from poor throughout their current distribution (Northern Riffleshell) to fair in some sub-basins (Kidneyshell, Rainbow Pugnose Shiner, Snuffbox, Lake Chubsucker and Mapleleaf); the Kidneyshell and Lake Chubsucker are the only species with a population status of ‘good’ in one sub-basin each (Table 3). L Lake is considered to have the healthiest population of Lake Chubsucker remaining in Canada (DFO 2011). There is a single record of Eastern Sand Darter occurring in the Ausable River near Ailsa Craig (Upper Ausable sub-watershed) from a 1928 survey. Subsequent searches at this site, and elsewhere in the watershed by DFO, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) and ABCA in potentially suitable habitat, failed to recapture the species. This species has been presumed to be extirpated (DFO 2012b). However, additional targeted sampling using appropriate gears to detect Eastern Sand Darter is recommended in reaches with suitable habitat, as it is possible that the species may still persist in lightly sampled regions. A recent habitat modeling and prediction study identifies possible locations for investigation in the Ausable River (Dextrase et al. 2014). If further sampling for the Eastern Sand Darter fails to detect the species, overall improvement of aquatic habitats within the Ausable River would benefit the species if re-introduced in the future.
Additional surveys are required for some species to confirm these assertions. Although all known data were used in the analysis, some is based on presence or absence. Recent quantitative data was available in most sub-watersheds for freshwater mussels from long term bio-monitoring stations established between 2006 and 2010 and resampled in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
|Species||Population status by sub-watershed|
|Ausable Headwaters||Upper Ausable||Middle Ausable||Lower Ausable||Black Creek||Little Ausable||Nairn Creek||Dunes - OAC||Mud Creek - L Lake||Mud Creek - OML|
|Species found in the main Ausable River and tributaries|
|Eastern Sand Darter||-||EXP||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Species found in the Old Ausable Channel and Mud Creek Oxbow Wetlands|
- Poor = Reproduction status is poor or unknown; population density is unknown or low; and, only a few individuals/site (for mussels density is <0.25/m²)
- Fair = Evidence of reproduction (as determined by ABCA and DFO data 2006-2014 for mussels); and, population density is unknown or low
- Good = Reproduction status is good; and, population density is moderate (for mussels density exceeds 1/m²)
- EXP = Species possibly extirpated from the watershed
- - = Species not present in sub-watershed (may indicate unsuitable habitat or no surveys)
3.3 Threats to species at risk
Known or suspected anthropogenic threats to aquatic SAR in the Ausable River were determined through a synthesis of all available background information (Nelson et al. 2003; Upsdell et al. 2010b ; Jean and Veliz 2011; Brock and Veliz 2013; Jean et al. 2013). The Ausable River sub-watersheds were divided into two areas, the main Ausable River sub-watersheds and the Dunes/Mud Creek sub-watersheds (Figure 1). The Dunes/Mud Creek sub-watersheds are isolated oxbow wetland habitats that provide different habitat for aquatic species compared with the Ausable River and its tributaries. Threats for the different species and their habitat are summarized in two tables according to this division (Table 4a and Table 4b), with additional information added from recovery strategies for the eight mussels and fish SAR (Table 2), and include: increased suspended sediment and sediment deposition, elevated concentrations of nutrients, low dissolved oxygen concentrations (OAC only), altered flow, contaminants, invasive species, thermal effects, habitat modification and changes in fish community (predominantly within the OAC). Based on available background information, the general and specific threats to SAR in sub-basins of the Ausable River watershed have been assigned ranks by the recovery team of high, medium, low or unknown to describe the relative severity that a certain cause is affecting, or has the potential to affect, SAR in a sub-basin. The probable success of threat mitigation has also been estimated by the recovery team as high, medium or low, and was informed through the approach used in the Sydenham River Action Plan (DFO 2018b). Note that the overall level of concern for each threat takes into account the extent, frequency, causal certainty and severity. The high or medium threats are:
- sediments (including siltation and suspended solids) – within riverine habitats only, impacting SAR mussels
- nutrient enrichment
- low dissolved oxygen (OAC only, impacting SAR fishes)
- altered flow regime
- contaminants (e.g., chlorides)
- invasive species
- habitat modifications
An overview of each of the predominant threats has been summarized below from the Ausable River Recovery Strategy (Shawn Staton, ARRT, unpublished, 2005), unless otherwise noted.
Sediments: The most significant threat for the majority of aquatic SAR in the Ausable River sub-watersheds (excluding the Dunes and Mud Creek sub-basins) is documented to be turbidity and associated siltation caused by sedimentation (generation of sediment and total suspended solids). The majority of rare fish and mussel species are sensitive to siltation (degradation) of their habitat (i.e., gravel and sand substrates). High turbidity levels may affect visual behavior of species including feeding, predator avoidance, and visual display used in reproduction (mussels). The main land use in the Ausable River watershed, agriculture (> 85 per cent of basin area), is considered to be a major contributor of suspended sediments to the system. The loss of riparian cover across the basin increases the susceptibility of the river to agricultural runoff as well as bank erosion. Other potential sources of suspended material include wastewater treatment plants and surface runoff from urban areas. Suspended sediment concentrations available from eight provincial water quality monitoring stations across the watershed collected over the past 40 years indicated no significant trend over time for the watershed as a whole (Veliz 2003). Mean concentrations were highest in the main Ausable channel where the majority of SAR occur. Mean suspended sediment concentrations (± standard error) from the Middle Ausable station between 1970 and 1993 were 117 ± 6 mg/L (n=289). Concentrations of suspended solids in this region, which is located within the known range of the Northern Riffleshell, were more than twice those found in the adjacent Sydenham River, which has a naturally reproducing population of this species (Dextrase et al.2003). Recent water quality analysis (Upsdell et al.2010b ) looked at total suspended solids (TSS) concentrations in the main Ausable River for the period of 2000 - 2008 at four locations. This study found TSS concentrations were relatively high (often exceeding 80 mg/L) and show no signs of decreasing during the study period. According to the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Committee (EIFAC 1965, cited by Kerr 1995), concentrations of total suspended solids between 80 and 400 mg/L are unlikely to support good fisheries. It is important to note that samples are typically collected during low flow conditions and therefore, under-represent times when total suspended solids concentrations are elevated such as during rain or rain on snow events.
A recent study in the OAC found average TSS concentrations at four sites (sampled from March to November, 2008-2014) were always below 30 mg/L; this is well below the 80 mg/L suggested limit for good fisheries (Jean et al. 2015). As such, suspended solids are considered a low threat to the SAR fishes found here.
Nutrient enrichment: Nutrient concentrations (total phosphorus and nitrate) in the Ausable River typically exceed provincial water quality objectives and potentially pose a risk to the health of aquatic fauna. Nutrient sources to the Ausable River watershed include: agricultural runoff, livestock, tile drainage, wastewater treatment plants and septic system loadings. Recent water quality analysis (Upsdell et al. 2010b ) looked at nutrient concentrations in the main Ausable River for the period of 2000 - 2008 at four locations and found that concentrations of nitrate and total phosphorus were high (frequently exceeding guidelines) at locations in the watershed in the vicinity of SAR; however, nitrate did show a slight declining trend during this time period. Recent municipal sewage treatment plant reports for locations in the Ausable watershed indicate that total phosphorus concentrations are meeting the effluent quality limits (Scott Abernethy, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change [MOECC], pers. comm., 2014). However, total phosphorus concentrations are still exceeding the Provincial Water Quality Objective (0.03 mg/L) in some cases. Furthermore, as noted by Simmons et al. (2013), water samples collected during low flow conditions under-represent the range of total phosphorus conditions; additional sampling during periods of high flow within the Ausable River watershed could help quantify this tendency.
Recent water quality analysis also looked at total phosphorus concentrations in the OAC, L Lake and OML (Jean et al. 2013; Jean et al. 2015). In the OAC, concentrations of total phosphorus were higher (often exceeding the provincial objective) in northern areas during the period of 2008 - 2014. Water samples taken from L Lake and OML during 2012 found that total phosphorus did not exceed Provincial Objectives.
Low dissolved oxygen concentrations: SAR fishes have been killed in the OAC during recent winters due to suspected low dissolved oxygen levels when the OAC was covered with ice. Increases in aquatic plant growth (related to elevated nutrient concentrations) could exacerbate this problem, as increased bacterial decomposition of plant material would further decrease dissolved oxygen available for fish during the winter. Concentrations of dissolved oxygen were summarized at six locations in the OAC in 2013 and 2014 (Jean et al. 2015). It is apparent from the summarized data that during the study period, each of the six sites experienced a daily average of 0 mg/L dissolved oxygen for an extended period of time. This period of 0 mg/L dissolved oxygen occurred at all sites during the winter from 69 to 110 days depending on the site location.
Altered flow: The change in land use surrounding the Ausable River from a predominantly forested, unsettled landscape to its current agricultural, settled state over the last 200 years has been associated with severe alterations to the drainage pattern of the basin. The creation of channel diversions, major dams and water impoundments, subsurface and surface drainage, as well as the transformation of open surface drains to closed tiled drains has greatly affected the natural structure and course of the Ausable River and its tributaries. The creation of the Ausable River Cut, ironically, has proved beneficial to some SAR and created one of the most unique areas in the entire watershed. The Ausable River Cut effectively isolated the Old Ausable Channel from the rest of the river system, and in so doing, reduced its susceptibility to the deteriorating water quality issues affecting the rest of the system. Due to the nature of the climate, geology and soils of the Ausable River basin, flow is strongly dependent upon precipitation. It is believed that landscape changes that have occurred during the past 200 years (and associated drainage alterations) have likely intensified the natural flow variability of the Ausable River and may now pose a threat to aquatic species. In comparison with other rivers in the Great Lakes basin, the Ausable River was classified as “event responsive” in terms of flow responsiveness to precipitation events and as one of the most susceptible rivers in southern Ontario to experience repeated low base flow events (Richards 1990). Flow variability may impact species in many ways causing effects such as: substrate instability (which is a particular habitat requirement of many mussel species), scouring during excessive flows, increased erosion and by reducing riffle habitat availability during droughts, which can result in mussel stress or mortalities when individuals are exposed to desiccation and predation.
Alteration of flow in the OAC is related to level manipulation by both humans and nature. Beavers are quite active in the OAC, often leading to increased water depths through dam building or blocked culverts. In some cases, beaver dams have been removed by humans causing considerable water level drops affecting aquatic SAR.
Contaminants: Contaminants affecting aquatic SAR and their habitat are associated with agricultural practices, and are also found in both urban runoff and municipal waste water (Gillis 2012, 2014a, 2014b). Pesticide runoff (e.g., herbicides and insecticides) associated with agricultural practices and urban areas could have negative impacts, including oxidative stress (Gillis et al. 2014b), on Ausable River SAR mussels. It is likely that this threat is widespread in the Ausable River watershed as the primary source of pesticides is from agricultural land. However, it is difficult to adequately assess the impact specifically to Ausable SAR as this type of data has only just begun to be collected in the watershed. The current data set is preliminary and there is presently only one stream site that has been consistently sampled for a very short amount of time (Katie Stammler, MOECC, pers comm., 2014). Other contaminants such as chloride have been investigated in a long term study at select locations in the Ausable system. The study found chloride concentrations have increased significantly at two locations (Upper Ausable and Little Ausable sub-watersheds) in the Ausable watershed between 1975 and 2009 during the warm season (Todd and Kaltenecker 2012). The maximum chloride concentrations noted in this study exceeded the long term guideline for chloride (Canadian Water Quality Guideline [CCME 2011], 120 mg/L) at the Upper Ausable location, but not at the Little Ausable site. This long-term guideline may not be protective of certain species of endangered and special concern freshwater mussels (CCME 2011). A separate study has shown that high concentrations of chloride can be toxic to juvenile mussels (Gillis 2011). The risks from contaminants to some species may be heightened at juvenile life stages (particularly for mussels) and at times of increased stress.
Invasive species: Invasive species may have negative impacts on SAR in the Ausable River. Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) are widespread in the Ausable watershed and are a threat to SAR due to their destructive feeding behaviour, which tends to uproot aquatic vegetation and cause elevated turbidity levels. This species may be a particular threat to the highly vegetated, clear water habitats that support Pugnose Shiner and Lake Chubsucker (DFO 2012 c; Staton et al. 2010). Common Carp also feed on sediment-associated fauna (which may include juvenile mussels).
Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus) has been found in the lower reaches of the Ausable River and are a threat to native species (Poesch et al. 2010). It may utilize native mussels as a food source (a direct threat to juvenile mussels) and compete with benthic fishes such as sculpins and darters if it was to move upstream. Many species of darters act as hosts for mussel SARFootnote 1 and mussel populations could therefore be indirectly threatened by an invasion of Round Goby (Poesch et al. 2010); further, Tremblay et al. (2016) suggest that the Round Goby may directly limit recruitment success of freshwater mussels as it serves more as a sink for glochidia than as a host.
Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) has been found in the mouth region of the Ausable River Cut (K. Jean, pers. comm., 2016); its impact to native freshwater mussels are well documented and its colonization could be a future threat, although much of the river is not navigable by motorized boats and no immediate impoundments are present that could support a permanent colony.
Phragmites may have impacts to wetland habitats and the lower Ausable River where it is currently present. Additional introductions of invasive species could occur through the movement of boats from infested areas, the illegal act of dumping live baitfish (which may include incidentally caught illegal species), or the natural invasion of species already introduced into the Great Lakes basin.
Thermal effects: Aquatic species may be impacted by thermal changes, particularly increasing water temperatures, in the Ausable River watershed. The loss of riparian areas can increase the amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the watercourse, leading to warming of the river’s water. Field observations have noted limited riparian vegetation along the Ausable River and its tributaries, particularly in headwater areas. Two major dams (Morrison and Exeter dams) are present in the Ausable River watershed. Both are located in the Ausable headwater’s sub-watershed. Small scale property owners’ dams, low level crossings and beaver dams can be found throughout the watershed. Their associated reservoirs and impoundments increase surface area and hold water causing warming. While the Ausable River generally supports a warm water aquatic community with species tolerant of warm water, an increase in water temperatures may be an additional stress. Nairn and Black creeks support cold water species that would be affected by increases in water temperatures. In addition to dams and riparian zone loss, climate change is expected to cause increases in surface water temperatures in southern Ontario (Dove-Thompson et al. 2011).
Thermal conditions in OAC, L Lake and OML are considered more stable as these areas have more forest cover, are more vegetated, are groundwater-fed and are not subjected to the same threats as the Ausable River.
Habitat modifications: Preferred habitat of Pugnose Shiner and Lake Chubsucker has become fragmented as a result of habitat loss or degradation across their range. In the OAC, a decline in water quality (due to increased nutrients) may be contributing to an increased rate of natural succession that, over the long term, will alter the aquatic habitat to more of a terrestrial one (Jean et al. 2013); this is most apparent in the northern portion of the OAC where high nutrient levels have resulted in vegetation and algal overgrowth causing increased sedimentation and habitat loss. The situation is exacerbated by the historical channel alternations of the past century that resulted in the OAC being isolated from the flow of the Ausable River. Alterations to the aquatic vegetation community as a result of degradation (due to increased nutrient inputs) pose a threat to these species as they depend on dense aquatic vegetation as part of their critical habitat (Staton et al. 2010; DFO 2012c; Jean et al. 2013).
Changes in fish community: Within the OAC, a shift in fish communities from a cyprinid (minnow) dominated community to one dominated by centrarchids (sunfishes) is suggested to have negative impacts on Pugnose Shiner and Lake Chubsucker (Edwards et al. 2005). These effects could be a result of an increase in predators and/or an increase in competition for resources. Also of concern is the illegal dumping of bait buckets by fisherman that can result in the introduction of undesirable species to habitat occupied by SAR.
|General threat||Specific threat||General cause||Specific cause||Sub-watershed||Expected mitigation success rate
(High, Medium, Low)
|Ausable Headwaters||Black Creek||Upper Ausable||Little Ausable||Nairn Creek||Middle Ausable||Lower Ausable|
|Sediments 1,2||Generation of sediment||Agriculture Erosion||Non-point source pollution
|Total suspended solids||Agriculture
|Non-point source pollution
Storm water/runoff (overland, tile drains, livestock)
|Non-point source pollution
2, 3, 4
|Phosphorus, Nitrogen||Agriculture||Overland runoff||High||High||High||High||High||High||High||High|
|5, 6||Phosphorus, Nitrogen,
|Urban||Wastewater treatment plants||N/A||UKN||Medium||Medium||N/A||Medium||Medium||High|
|Altered flow regime
|Increase in peak flow||Agriculture
|Land use||Loss of natural areas (including wetlands, forest)||High||Medium||High||High||High||High||Medium||Medium|
|Climate change||Increased frequency of winter melt events and summer flooding||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||Low|
|Reduced base flow||Water taking||-||Low||High||High||Low||Low||Low||Low||Low|
|Climate change||Increased possibility of drought conditions||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||Low|
8, 9, 10
|Agriculture||Drainage/non-point source pollution||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||UKN||Medium|
and upstream migration
|Competition for food, habitat, or host fish||Low||Low||High||Low||Low||Medium||High||Low|
|Increase in water
|Reservoirs||Increased pond surface area||Low||Low||Low||Low||Low||Low||Low||Medium|
|Loss of riparian area||Reduction in shading||Medium||Low||Low||Medium||Low||Low||Low||High|
Level of threat severity to SAR
- Low = The threat is unlikely to jeopardize the survival or recovery of SAR
- Medium = The threat would likely jeopardize the survival or recovery of SAR
- High = The threat is expected to jeopardize the survival or recovery of SAR
- Unknown (UKN) = Effect of threat is unknown due to lack of data
- Not Applicable (N/A) = Threat is not applicable
References or Expert Opinions used to inform threat classifications (Low, Medium, High)
- Veliz et al. (2011)
- Upsdell et al. (2010b)
- Brock and Veliz (2013)
- Expert Opinion: Mari Veliz, ABCA
- Expert Opinion: Scott Abernethy, MOECC
- Scott Abernethy, MOECC, pers. comm. 2014
- Expert Opinion: Davin Heinbuck, ABCA
- Todd and Kaltenecker (2012)
- Expert Opinion: Katie Stammler, MOECC
- Expert Opinion: Georgina Kaltenecker, MOECC
- Poesch et al. (2010)
- Expert Opinion – Kari Jean, ABCA
- Killins et al. (2007)
|General threat||Specific threat||General cause||Specific cause||Sub-watershed||Expected mitigation success rate
(High, Medium, Low)
|Dunes - OAC||Mud Creek – L Lake and OML|
|Sediments 1, 2||Siltation and Turbidity||Urban
|Increased rate of natural succession from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystem||Nutrients
|Low Dissolved Oxygen concentrations
|Winter kills||Low dissolved oxygen concentrations||Prolonged ice cover
|Altered flow regime
|Manipulation of water levels||Dams||Beavers
2, 3, 7, 8
|Loss of quality wetland habitat||Urban
|Changes in fish community
|Recreational fishing (live bait)||Baitfish Introductions||-||Low||Low||Medium|
|Changes in Trophic Levels||Predators||-||Low||UKN||Low|
Level of Threat severity to SAR
- Low = The threat is unlikely to jeopardize the survival or recovery of SAR
- Medium = The threat would likely jeopardize the survival or recovery of SAR
- High = The threat is expected to jeopardize the survival or recovery of SAR
- Unknown (UKN) = Effect of threat is unknown due to lack of data
- Not Applicable (N/A) = Threat is not applicable
- Jean et al. (2015)
- Jean et al. (2013)
- Expert Opinion – Kari Jean, ABCA
- ABCA monitoring program
- DFO monitoring program
- ARRT (2005)
- Staton et al. (2010)
- DFO (2012a)
- Edwards et al. (2005)
4. Recovery actions
4.1 Critical habitat
4.1.1 Identification of the species' critical habitat
Critical habitat for the five freshwater mussels and three fishes has been identified to the extent possible within the respective recovery strategies for these species using the best available information (i.e., DFO 2013b – Section 7; DFO 2016a – Section 7; DFO 2016b – Section 7; DFO 2012c – Section 2.7; DFO 2018a – Section 2.6; DFO 2012 b – Section 2.7; and, Staton et al. 2010 – Section 2.7). These recovery strategies also contain species-specific details about the identified critical habitat, including geospatial extent and biophysical functions, features and attributes.
The geographic extent of critical habitat within the Ausable River watershed for the fish and mussel SAR is summarized below to provide context for recovery actions only; for greater detail please refer to the relevant sections of the applicable recovery strategies.
For all five of the freshwater mussels, the extent of critical habitat is found on the main stem of the Ausable River from the upstream boundary at Crediton Road to the downstream boundary, which is approximately 1 km upstream of Parkhill Drive (County Road 18). Also included are short sections of the mouths of two tributaries; the extent of critical habitat for Kidneyshell and Rainbow includes the lower reaches of Nairn Creek, while critical habitat for the Rainbow is also found in the lower reaches of the Little Ausable River.
Critical habitat overlaps in the OAC for Lake Chubsucker and Pugnose Shiner. It has been identified as the entire OAC from the mouth of the channel at the Ausable River Cut, upstream to its isolated origin near Grand Bend for both fishes. Critical habitat was also identified for Lake Chubsucker in L Lake as all contiguous waters and wetlands of L Lake, including the northern and western tips of L Lake bisected by Outer Dr., and the wetlands to the north of the lake (seasonally wetted). Additionally, critical habitat was identified for Pugnose Shiner in OML as the entire lake and includes the contiguous waters and wetlands, extending up to the high-water mark. For the Eastern Sand Darter, critical habitat has not been identified within the Ausable River watershed because only one 1928 historical record exists for this species within the Upper Ausable sub-watershed (DFO 2012b).
Areas within which critical habitat may be found in the Ausable River watershed for the five freshwater mussels and two fishes are illustrated in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Areas within which critical habitat for fishes and freshwater mussels may be found in the Ausable River watershed (all species covered by the Action Plan are included). To be used for illustrative purposes only – for more detail refer to relevant recovery strategies.
Figure 2 is captioned “Areas within which critical habitat for fishes and freshwater mussels may be found in the Ausable River watershed (all species covered by the3 Action Plan are included). To be used for illustrative purposes only – for more detail refer to relevant recovery strategies.” The figure is a map of the Ausable River watershed in southwestern Ontario, with an inset at the top left of the map providing greater detail for Old Mouth Lake and L Lake. Sub-watersheds indicated on the map are: Dunes, Mud Creek, Lower Ausable, Middle Ausable, Upper Ausable, Nairn Creek, Little Ausable, Black Creek, Ausable Headwaters. The extent of these sub-watersheds is coloured in yellow. Areas within which critical habitat for fishes is found is outlined in red, areas within which critical habitat for mussels is found is outlined in pink. Cities and towns, and First Nations are also marked on the map. A scale and legend is provided. For all five of the freshwater mussels, the extent of critical habitat (outlined in pink) is found on the main stem of the Ausable River from the upstream boundary at Crediton Road to the downstream boundary which is approximately 1 km upstream of Parkhill Drive (County Road 18). Also included are short sections of the mouths of two tributaries (Little Ausable River and Nairn Creek). Sub-watersheds having critical habitat for mussels, as shown on the map are: Upper Ausable, Little Ausable, Nairn Creek, Middle Ausable, and Lower Ausable. Critical habitat for fishes (outlined in red) is found in the Dunes and Mud creek sub-watersheds, encompassing the entire Old Ausable Channel from the mouth of the channel at the Ausable River Cut, upstream to its isolated origin near Grand Bend, as well as in L Lake and Old Mouth Lake. The map was prepared by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, September, 2015.
4.1.2 Examples of activities likely to result in destruction of critical habitat
The following is a summary of examples of human activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat for SAR fishes and/or mussels in the Ausable River watershed:
- work in or around water with improper sediment and erosion control
- unfettered livestock access to waterbodies
- intensive land use such as urbanization and continuous cultivation
- removal of riparian vegetation
- removal or alteration of aquatic vegetation
- over-application of fertilizer and improper nutrient management
- introduction of high levels of chloride through excessive salting of roads in winter
- water-level management or water extraction activities that causes dewatering of habitat or excessive flow rates
- direct or indirect removal large numbers of host fishes (e.g., through harvest)
- introduction of invasive species
- over application or misuse of herbicides and pesticides
- grading, dredging or excavation
- placement of material or structures in water
- construction of dams and/or barriers
- use of motor vehicles in the river (e.g., ATVs) and crossing watercourses without proper culverts or bridges
More detailed information regarding activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat for the five freshwater mussels and two fishes known to be extant in the Ausable River watershed may be found in their respective recovery strategies (i.e., DFO 2016a – Section 7.6; DFO 2016b – Section 7.6; DFO 2013a – Section 7.6; DFO 2012c – Section 2.7.6; DFO 2018a – Section 2.6.6; and, Staton et al. 2010 – Section 2.7.2).
4.2 Proposed measures to protect critical habitat
Under SARA, critical habitat must be legally protected from destruction within 180 days of being identified in a recovery strategy or action plan. For the five freshwater mussels and two fishes, it is anticipated that this will be accomplished through SARA Critical Habitat Orders made under subsections 58(4) and (5), which will invoke the prohibition in subsection 58(1) against the destructionFootnote 2 of the identified critical habitat. It should also be noted that the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) provides provincial protection to all eight fishes and mussels and their habitat found within the Ausable River watershed.
4.3 Focusing stewardship prioritization
To increase the probability of successful mitigation of threats within the 1142 km² watershed, stewardship activities should be concentrated where they most benefit populations of the Endangered and Threatened fish and mussel SAR listed under SARA; this may include tributaries and headwaters that may not be inhabited by SAR, but influence critical habitat downstream. Extant populations of the five freshwater mussels are known within the main stem of the Ausable River (Upper Ausable to Lower Ausable sub-watersheds) as well as two tributaries (Little Ausable River and Nairn Creek). Extant populations of the two fishes are known in the OAC, L Lake and OML. These sections of the watershed include the critical habitat identified for these species and are considered priority zones by the recovery team (Figure 3).
The sub-watersheds that contain and/or support critical habitat are important areas for targeted mitigation activities. Sub-watersheds were assigned a ranking of high, medium and low conservation priority for on-the-ground SAR recovery actions in Figure 3 based on ABCA analysis (Upsdell et al. 2010b ; Jean and Veliz 2011; Jean et al. 2015). Priority sub-watersheds for SAR recovery actions were categorized based on areas of known aquatic SAR occurrence as well as areas of potential sediment loss and loading to the Ausable River and habitat conditions in the OAC, L Lake and OML. The high conservation priority sub-watersheds included: lower part of Upper Ausable (split into high and medium based on SAR occurrence), Nairn Creek, Middle Ausable, Lower Ausable and Dunes. The Ausable Headwaters was found to have a high potential amongst the sub-watersheds for both potential soil loss and sediment loading to the Ausable system. However, it is likely that this sediment settles out as the river flows downstream to the Morrison Dam reservoir, Exeter Dam reservoir and subsequently the Hay Swamp wetland area near the town of Exeter before flowing south through the Upper Ausable sub-watershed to Ailsa Craig.
Stewardship efforts should be prioritized with a two-pronged approach, which includes: targeting priority sub-watersheds and addressing the greatest threats [high and medium level of concern, Tables 4a and 4b: sediments (including siltation and suspended solids), nutrient enrichment, altered flow regime, contaminants, invasive species and habitat modifications]. Supporting recovery actions throughout the watershed including headwater areas and tributaries is also very important. Stewardship actions, including Best Management Practices, should be encouraged through outreach and education, and stewardship grants. Further details are included within the Implementation Schedule (Tables 5, 6 and 7).
Figure 3. Priority sub-watersheds for stewardship activities to benefit critical habitat
Figure 3 is captioned “Priority sub-watersheds for stewardship activities to benefit critical habitat.” The figure is a map of the Ausable River watershed in southwestern Ontario, with an inset at the top left of the map providing greater detail for Mouth Lake and L Lake. Sub-watersheds indicated on the map are: Dunes, Mud Creek, Lower Ausable, Middle Ausable, Upper Ausable, Nairn Creek, Little Ausable, Black Creek, Ausable Headwaters. Priority target areas for each of the sub-watersheds are outlined in brown (High), gold (Medium) and yellow (Low). Areas within which critical habitat for fishes and mussels is found is outlined in red. Major watercourses, cities and towns, and First Nations are marked on the map. A scale and legend is provided. Black Creek, Ausable Headwaters and Mud Creek sub-watersheds are all outlined in yellow, indicating Low priority target areas for stewardship. Upper Ausable and Little Ausable sub-watersheds are shown in gold (Medium priority). Nairn Creek, Middle Ausable, Lower Ausable, and Dunes sub-watersheds are outlined in brown, indicating these are target areas of high priority for stewardship. Areas of critical habitat (outlined in red) is as described in Figure 2, except critical habitat for both mussels and fishes is combined in Figure 3. The map was prepared by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, September, 2015.
4.4 Measures underway
Measures underway to address threats include stewardship actions by landowners involving Best Management Practices for agricultural properties (Agriculture Canada and OMAFRA 1992 – 2011) and residential properties (School of Environmental Design and Rural Development 2007) within the catchment area where the seven species of fishes and freshwater mussels are found.
Voluntary stewardship activities have already been undertaken toward reducing sediment and nutrient inputs throughout the Ausable River watershed; this has occurred since 2005 with the implementation of the Ausable River Recovery Strategy (ARRT 2005). Riparian vegetation has been planted at many sites to reduce streamside erosion and sediment inputs. In some cases, stream banks have been stabilized to reduce erosion, riparian zones have been preserved or improved, shorelines have been fenced to restrict livestock from watercourses, and manure storage facilities and septic system have been upgraded to reduce nutrient runoff, thus protecting nearby watercourses. The protection of key areas in watersheds that generate and deliver water, sediment and nutrients during rain events in addition to the riparian zone is also very important. Practices to “avoid, control, trap and treat” sediment and nutrients with conservation tillage, residue management, cover crops and berms should continue to be employed and in some instances targeted to appropriate locations to reduce threats. Ongoing understanding of the role of improved soil conditions in improving water quality conditions is critical. Recent work completed by ABCA has highlighted the importance of healthy soils for water quality improvements.
To encourage further stewardship efforts, an active outreach program exists providing:
- direct landowner contact
- a dedicated website (Ausable Bayfield Conservation – Species at Risk)
- displays at community events
- riverbank signage posted in areas identified as critical habitat (at access points)
- presentations at public meetings and to non-governmental interest groups of farmers, naturalists or community groups
- demonstration projects that profile several pasturing options designed to keep cattle out of streams (e.g., solar-powered water pumps for pasture cattle, rotational grazing, low level stream crossings)
- an education program for school-aged children
- presentations and displays on the Ausable River Recovery Strategy at watershed community events
- an annual notice of funding distributed through all watershed newspapers
4.5 Measures to be taken and implementation schedule
Success in the recovery of the freshwater mussels and fishes of the Ausable River is dependent on the actions of many different jurisdictions; it requires the commitment and cooperation of the constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions and measures set out in this Action Plan.
This Action Plan provides a description of the measures that provide the best chance of achieving the population and distribution objectives for the eight aquatic SAR within the Ausable River watershed. Such measures include those to be taken to address threats to these species and monitor their recovery and guide not only activities to be undertaken by DFO, but those for which other jurisdictions, organizations and individuals have a role to play. As new information becomes available, these measures and the priority of these measures may change.
DFO strongly encourages all Canadians to participate in the conservation of aquatic SAR within the Ausable River watershed through undertaking recovery measures outlined in this Action Plan. DFO recognizes the important role of the ARRT and its member organizations and agencies in the ongoing implementation of recovery measures.
Table 5 identifies the recovery measures to be undertaken by DFO to support the recovery of the eight species of freshwater mussels and fishes in the Ausable River watershed.
Table 6 identifies the measures to be undertaken collaboratively between DFO and its partners, other agencies, organizations and individuals (e.g., members of the ARRT). Implementation of these measures will be dependent on a collaborative approach, in which DFO is a partner in recovery efforts, but cannot implement the measures alone.
As all interested citizens are invited to join in supporting and implementing this Action Plan, Table 7 identifies the remaining measures that represent opportunities for other interested jurisdictions, groups or individuals to lead the recovery of these species. If your organization is not already involved with the ARRT and is interested in participating in one of these measures, please contact the Species at Risk-Central and Arctic office.
Implementation of this Action Plan is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations. Note that further details relating to individual recovery measures in the following implementation tables may be found within the relevant fish and mussel recovery strategies (refer to Table 2).
|#||Recovery measures||PriorityFootnote 3||Threats or objective addressed||Timeline|
|Broad Strategy 1: Inventory and monitoring|
|Approach: Targeted sampling for fish SAR|
|1||Background Surveys – Eastern Sand Darter.Footnote a
Conduct targeted sampling in areas of appropriate habitat that have been lightly surveyed. Use sampling techniques proven to detect Eastern Sand Darter. Predictions from a habitat modeling study will be used to assist in choosing locations to sample (Dextrase et al. 2014).
|Medium||Will confirm if this species is extirpated and determine presence/ absence of the Eastern Sand Darter within the Ausable River. If an extant population is confirmed, will determine health, range, abundance and population demographics and contribute to the identification of critical habitat.||2018-2019|
|Approach: Long-term monitoring program for fish SAR and their habitat|
|2||Monitoring – Lake Chubsucker and Pugnose Shiner populations and habitat:Footnote a
||High||Will provide a measure of species’ security.
Will provide insight into threat factors and inform management actions.
Will enable assessments of changes in range, abundance, key demographic characters and changes in habitat features, extent and health.
|Broad strategy 2: Research|
|Approach: Investigate feasibility of population augmentations and/or reintroductionsFootnote b|
|3||Science-based guidelines on the feasibility of translocations and repatriations to determine if small populations can be augmented or if the species can be reintroduced in their historical range were recommended as part of the Sydenham River Action Plan (SRAP). These guidelines would be used to guide the following work for the Northern Riffleshell and Eastern Sand Darter in the Ausable Watershed:
investigate population augmentation or other possible mitigation strategies for the Northern Riffleshell (globally rare) as populations are exceedingly sparse and may be susceptible to local extirpation
|High||Will prevent species extirpation from the Ausable River watershed.||2019-2020
(timing dependent on the completion of background work through the SRAP)
|4||Investigate the feasibility of Eastern Sand Darter re-introduction if required (once other needed presence/absence surveys are completed).||Low||As above.||2019-2020|
|Approach: Advances in monitoring techniques|
|5||Investigate the possibility of using eDNA techniques as a detection method for Eastern Sand Darter and Northern Riffleshell.||Medium||Will assist in the possible detection of very low density populations.||2018-2019|
|Broad strategy 3: Management and coordination|
|Approach: Encourage/coordinate actions to reduce harmful impacts upon mussels, fish and habitat among government and non-government entities|
|6||Integration of recovery actions across relevant recovery teams.
Work with existing recovery teams to implement recovery actions as needed.
|Medium (all SAR)||Ensure efficient and effective implementation of all recovery actions across jurisdictions.||Ongoing|
|7||Habitat management awareness:
ensure planning and management agencies recognize the importance of wetland habitats (for Lake Chubsucker and Pugnose Shiner) as well as riverine habitats for SAR mussels
|High||Will result in the awareness of the need to protect important habitat from development activities, and help ensure the flow requirements of SAR are met.||Ongoing|
|Approach: Evaluation of watershed scale stressors|
|8||Evaluate the cumulative impacts and relative importance of watershed-scale stressors to SAR populations and their habitats (e.g., invasive species, cumulative impacts of municipal wastewater and urban runoff such as road salt).||High||Will help evaluate the cumulative impact of multiple stressors affecting SAR populations.||2020-2021|
|Broad Strategy 4: Stewardship and outreach|
|Approach: Increase awareness about the distribution, threats and recovery of all SAR|
|9||Awareness of critical habitat:
hold one-day workshops with municipal staff and planning and review agencies, and work with municipal planning authorities so that they consider the protection of critical habitat for SAR within official plans
|High||Will provide further protection for SAR and promote future development that does not degrade important habitat.||Ongoing|
|10||Increase awareness of the presence of and need to protect critical habitat among landowners and those accessing the river corridor for recreation. This will help voluntarily reduce disruptive activities such as driving motor vehicles or ATV’s in the river.||High||Will promote protection and/or mitigation of habitat from various threats (including impacts from vehicles and ATVs driving in the river).||Ongoing|
|#||Recovery measures||PriorityFootnote 4||Threats or objective addressed||Timeline (short, medium or long term)||Partner(s)|
|Broad Strategy 1: Inventory and monitoring|
|Approach: Long-term monitoring program for SAR mussels and their habitat|
|1||Monitoring mussel and host fish populations and their habitat:
Resample permanent monitoring stations (Baitz et al.2008 and Upsdell et al. 2012) throughout historical and present ranges of SAR mussels to permit tracking of populations, analysis of trend patterns, and permit the evaluation of recovery actions. Maintain a standardized index population and habitat monitoring program to be revisited every 5 years.
|Will provide a measure of species’ security.
Will help ensure that the most effective recovery actions are given priority over less effective actions.
|2||Establish permanent monitoring program for tracking changes in habitat. Incorporate current water quality and quantity monitoring as well as invertebrate sampling.||Medium||Provides trend data for key habitat parameters and will help evaluate the relative threat of habitat loss.||Ongoing||ABCA|
|3||Conduct long-term monitoring to survey host fish distribution in the Ausable watershed (every five years) at established index stations in collaboration with long term mussel monitoring.||Medium||Will help determine if host abundance is limiting factor for these five mussel species. If required, background data will be available to develop additional actions for the management of host species.||Long||ABCA|
|Broad strategy 2: Research|
|Approach: Confirm/identify threats, evaluate their relative importance and implement remedial actions to minimize their impacts|
|4||Evaluate changes in habitat conditions for SAR mussels in riverine habitats. This research will be informed through the habitat monitoring program (measure #2) as well all other sources of data (including geomorphologic studies).||Medium||Will help evaluate the severity of specific threats to individual SAR mussel populations and inform actions to alleviate their impacts.||Long||ABCA|
|5||Evaluate changes in habitat conditions for SAR fishes in OAC, L Lake and OML, with a focus on water levels and factors exacerbating natural succession and fish kills (i.e., nutrient inputs, low dissolved oxygen concentrations, aquatic vegetation species diversity and density).||High||Will help evaluate the severity of specific threats to individual SAR fish populations and inform actions to alleviate their impacts.||Short||ABCA, OMNRF|
|6||Organize a technical team and work with various researchers to identify opportunities to address fish habitat issues (e.g., winter refugia locations) and answer further questions about the OAC’s habitat, such as a better understanding of the relationship between nutrient concentrations and aquatic plant growth.||High||Will provide a better understanding of threat factors within the OAC and how best to address them.||Medium||ABCA, OMNRF|
|Approach: Determine/confirm functional host fishes and their distributions and abundances (for all mussels)|
|7||Research host fish:
Build on recommendation from the SRAP to continue host fish testing for all at-risk freshwater mussels in the laboratory and confirm functional host species used in the Ausable and its tributaries.
|High||Together with measure #3, will help determine if host abundance is limiting factor for these five mussel species. If required, background data will be available to develop additional actions for the management of host species.||Medium||University of Guelph|
|8||Build on recommendation from the SRAP to continue juvenile propagation for all at-risk freshwater mussels in the laboratory.||Medium||Will provide for the possibility of population augmentations in the future.||Long||OMNRFFootnote 5|
|Broad strategy 4: Stewardship and outreach|
|Approach: Increase awareness of Critical Habitat (all SAR)|
|9||Encourage public support and participation in SAR recovery by developing awareness materials and programs. Will encourage participation in local stewardship programs to improve and protect habitat.||Medium||Will promote protection of critical habitat and/or mitigate multiple threats through stewardship actions.||Ongoing||ABCA|
|#||Recovery measures||PriorityFootnote 6||Threats or concerns addressed||Suggested other jurisdictions or organizationsFootnote c|
|Broad strategy 3: Management and coordination|
|Approach: E ncourage/coordinate actions to reduce harmful impacts upon SAR and SAR habitat among government and non-government entities|
|1||Wastewater treatment plants and stormwater management facilities:
|Will improve water quality by reducing nutrient and suspended solid inputs from urban centres.||MOECC|
|2||Ensure that flow requirements of all SAR (fishes, mussels and their hosts) are considered in the management of water supply and flow regimes.||High||Will ensure the flow requirements/water levels of SAR are met. Would support the removal of obsolete dams or insertion of water control structures to maintain habitat (e.g., OAC).||Ontario Parks,
|Broad strategy 4: Stewardship & outreach|
|Approach: Encouraging Best Management Practices (BMPs) to help reduce the impacts of terrestrial activities on aquatic ecosystems through increasing awareness of these activities as well as through the provision of financial assistance to local landowners (all SAR). The following BMPs and stewardship activities will be directed to stewardship priority sub-watersheds (refer to Figure 3).|
establish riparian buffer zones (ideally 30 m in width or greater) in areas of high erosion potential by encouraging naturalization or planting of native species care must be taken not to impact important nesting beaches for the Eastern Spiny Softshell (SARA status – Threatened) when working in the riparian zone
|High||Will improve water and habitat quality by reducing siltation and turbidity (bank erosion, sedimentation and overland run-off), nutrient loads, toxic compounds, and thermal effects (shade).||ABCA|
|4||Non-riparian erosion control:
encourage erosion control practices (conservation tillage, residue management, cover crops, berms) to reduce sedimentation and nutrient inputs
|High||Will improve water and habitat quality by reducing sedimentation and nutrient inputs.||ABCA,
|5||Tile drainage and open drains:
Work with landowners to mitigate the effects of tile drainage and agricultural drains to reduce nutrient and sediment inputs. Pilot and demonstration projects may be a necessary first step.
|High||Will improve water quality by reducing nutrient and sediment inputs.||ABCA|
encourage the active exclusion of livestock from the watercourse (e.g., by fencing) to reduce bank erosion and nutrient and sediment inputs
|High||Will improve water quality by reducing nutrient and sediment inputs.||ABCA|
|7||Protection and enhancement of natural areas (wetlands and forests):
||High||Will improve water quantity and quality by contributing to low flow augmentation, groundwater recharge and sediment/nutrient control.||ABCA|
|8||Livestock waste management:
assist with establishing adequate manure collection and storage systems to avoid accidental spills and winter-spreading of manure to reduce nutrient inputs (for consistency with the policies of the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program)
|Medium||Will improve water quality by reducing nutrient loads.||ABCA|
|9||Invasive Species (e.g., Phragmites):
assist stakeholders in controlling invasive species to prevent establishment in wetland habitats and upstream areas (OAC, L Lake, OML)
|Medium||Will reduce the threat of an invasive species to wetland habitats.||Ontario Invasive Plant Council,
encourage the development and implementation of Environmental Farm Plans and Nutrient Management Plans to minimize nutrient and sediment inputs. In some cases, such plans are required for landowner eligibility for stewardship funds
|High||Will improve water quality by reducing nutrient and sediment inputs.||ABCA,
||High||Will improve water quality by reducing nutrient inputs.||Municipality of Lambton Shores|
cooperating and coordinating efforts with stewardship councils and ABCA to improve the implementation of stewardship activities and leverage additional funding
|Medium||Will improve the implementation of stewardship activities.||ABCA
|13||Work with OAC residents (and other stakeholders):
||High||Will improve habitat conditions in the OAC by reducing nutrient loading and improving dissolved oxygen concentrations over winter.||ABCA|
|Approach: Increase awareness about the distribution, threats and recovery of these species (all SAR)|
|14||Increase public knowledge of critical habitat, stewardship options and financial assistance available to participate in activities (e.g., watershed news release distributed annually by ABCA).||High||Will increase public participation in recovery actions and a reduction in all threats.||ABCA|
increase public awareness of the potential impacts of transporting/releasing invasive species as well as the importance of identifying and reporting them encourage use of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) invading species hotline and DFO’s Baitfish Primer
|Low||Will reduce the risk of invasive species becoming established in new locations (e.g., dreissenid mussels, Round Goby, Phragmites).||OMNRF,
Pinery Provincial Park,
Ontario Invasive Plant Council
|Will increase public awareness of the importance of SAR and a reduction in all threats.
Will increase public participation in recovery actions, uptake of stewardship and reduce threats.
Pinery Provincial Park
5. Evaluation of socio-economic costs and benefits
The SARA requires that an Action Plan include an evaluation of the socio-economic costs of the Action Plan and the benefits to be derived from its implementation (SARA 49(1)(e) 2003). This evaluation addresses only the incremental socio-economic costs of implementing this Action Plan from a national perspective as well as the social and environmental benefits that would occur if the Action Plan were implemented in its entirety, recognizing that not all aspects of its implementation are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. It does not address cumulative costs of species recovery in general nor does it attempt a cost-benefit analysis. Its intent is to inform the public and to guide decision making on implementation of the Action Plan by partners.
The protection and recovery of SAR can result in both benefits and costs. The Act recognizes that “wildlife, in all its forms, has value in and of itself and is valued by Canadians for aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, recreational, educational, historical, economic, medical, ecological and scientific reasons” (SARA, 2003). Self-sustaining and healthy ecosystems with their various elements in place, including SAR, contribute positively to the livelihoods and the quality of life of all Canadians. A review of the literature confirms that Canadians value the preservation and conservation of species in and of themselves. Actions taken to preserve a species, such as habitat protection and restoration, are also valued. In addition, the more an action contributes to the recovery of a species, the higher the value the public places on such actions (Loomis and White 1996; DFO 2008). Furthermore, the conservation of SAR is an important component of the Government of Canada’s commitment to conserving biological diversity under the International Convention on Biological Diversity. The Government of Canada has also made a commitment to protect and recover SAR through the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. The specific costs and benefits associated with this Action Plan are described below. The evaluation describes, to the extent possible, the benefits that may accrue, as well as the costs that governments, industry and/or Canadians may incur due to activities identified in this Action Plan.
This evaluation does not address the socio-economic impacts of protecting critical habitat for all of the species (five mussels, three fishes) represented in this Action Plan. Under SARA, DFO must ensure that critical habitat identified in a recovery strategy or action plan is legally protected within 180 days of the final posting of the recovery strategy or action plan. Where a Critical Habitat Order will be used for critical habitat protection, the development of the Order will follow a regulatory process in compliance with the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management, including an analysis of any potential incremental impacts of the SARA Critical Habitat Order that will be included in the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement. As a consequence, no additional analysis of the critical habitat protection has been undertaken for the assessment of costs and benefits of the Action Plan.
The policy baseline consists of the protection under the SARA for these species, along with continued protection under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007. Other legislation that may provide direct or indirect habitat protection for these species include the federal Fisheries Act and existing provincial legislationFootnote 7 . The policy baseline also includes the recovery actions that were implemented priorFootnote 8 to and after the species were listed under SARA.
These recovery actions included various projectsFootnote 9 funded by the Government of Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, partnering with the province of Ontario, universities, stewardship groups, the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority and with landowners within the watershed. In addition, several research and monitoring projects to support the recovery of SARA-listed fishes and freshwater mussels in the Ausable River have been funded directly by DFO in support of the Ausable River Recovery Strategy (ARRT 2005).
The Ausable River watershed is highly agricultural and dominated by row cropping with about 15% forest and wetland habitat remaining.
Socio-economic benefits of implementing this action plan
Some of the benefits of recovery actions required to return/maintain self-sustaining populations of the eight species outlined in this Action Plan are difficult to quantify but would generally be positive. Beyond some of the unquantifiable non-market benefits mentioned in the second paragraph of this evaluation, the recovery actions are also likely to provide broader benefits for Canadians (e.g., enhanced water quality).
Additionally, four other at risk mussels and fishes (not specifically addressed by this Action Plan – Wavyrayed Lampmussel, Grass Pickerel, Black Redhorse and River Redhorse) will benefit from the recovery actions proposed for the eight priority species through the overall improvement to shared aquatic habitats. Where SARA management plans exist for Special Concern species such as Grass Pickerel, Wavyrayed Lampmussel and River Redhorse, this Action Plan will help to support many of the management actions required for these species. Semi-aquatic SAR (i.e., reptiles such as turtles and snakes) are also expected to benefit from this plan but are not specifically addressed. Many of the stewardship actions proposed (such as the establishment of riparian buffers and improved livestock management) will also result in improved terrestrial habitat for upland wildlife; in some cases, improved hunting opportunities may result.
Recovery actions that help to enhance water quality, through best management practicesFootnote 10 , will contribute to improved downstream drinking water quality. Improved water quality will lead to healthier ecosystems, which in turn, support healthier fisheries. This is expected to result in improved recreational fishing opportunities in the Ausable River as well as healthier fisheries downstream in the waters of the Great Lakes (the Ausable River is a major contributor of sediment and nutrients to lower Lake Huron).
Recovery actions to improve aquatic habitats, in the form of voluntary best management practicesFootnote 11 , are developed and promoted by agricultural groups as cost-effective ways to conserve a farm’s soil and water resources (OMAFRA 2012)Footnote 12 . There is a positive impact to agricultural producers’ sustainability as soil and water quality can be improved through the use of best management practices.
The benefits of implementing the recovery actions contained in the Action Plan cannot be quantified but would occur over the long-term.
Socio-economic costs of implementing this action plan
The majority of the recovery activities identified in this Action Plan are short-term (2018–2022), medium-term or ongoing. It should be noted that an ecosystem-based action plan that addresses multiple species is a more cost-effective approach than multiple, single-species implementation approaches. An ecosystem or watershed approach also addresses issues of scale, recognizing that threats often originate across the landscape in upstream areas of the watershed and prescribes appropriate and more strategic solutions than could be accomplished with a single-species focus.
Most of these activities focus on research, inventory and monitoring, stewardship and outreach as well as management and coordination to reduce threats and to inform and promote species recovery. Some of the actions are one-time projects (e.g., research and inventory), likely funded from existing federal government resources.
Implementation of local stewardship actions would be supported by programs such as the Habitat Stewardship Program. In addition, most funding programs require a level of direct or in-kind support costs from applicants as matching fundsFootnote 13 . The costs (direct and in-kind) associated with these short-term actions are estimated to be lowFootnote 14 and spread over the next five yearsFootnote 15 .
Costs would be incurred by the federal government and its partners to implement the activities listed in the Action Plan. In-kind costs such as volunteer time, providing expertise and equipment would be incurred as a result of implementing activities listed in the Action Plan. Costs (including in-kind support) for voluntary actions could be incurred by the province of Ontario and conservation authorities. Some agricultural and non-farm land owners within the Ausable River watershed may incur some costs for best management practices. However, as many of the activities and actions are implemented on a collaborative and voluntary nature, agricultural and non-farm land owners are likely to only incur costs on a voluntaryFootnote 16 basis.
Long-term recovery activities will be implemented through a cooperative approach following discussions between other agencies, levels of government, stewardship groups and stakeholders allowing for consideration of costs and benefits during the process.
Governments and the Ausable Bayfield Conservation authority will incur the majority of costs of implementing the Action Plan.
The Canadian public will benefit from the implementation of the Action Plan through expected non-market benefits associated with recovery and protection of the species and their habitats. The benefits of implementing the Action Plan to the Canadian public would additionally include improved water quality as well as improved habitats supporting fisheries and wildlife. The implementation of best management practices by agricultural land owners should help to improve the sustainability of their operations.
6. Measuring progress
The performance indicators presented in the associated recovery strategies provide a way to define and measure progress toward achieving the population and distribution objectives relevant to the Ausable River watershed.
Monitoring measures are also included in the Action Plan to monitor the recovery of the species, their long term viability as well as habitat and identified threats; this will be done through long-term monitoring programs, which will help evaluate implementation efforts over time (refer to implementation schedule - Table 5, action 2 and Table 6, actions 1, 2 and 7). Reporting on implementation of the Action Plan, under s. 55 of SARA, will be done by assessing progress towards achieving the broad strategies/recovery objectives as they relate to recovery measures taken within the Ausable River watershed.
Reporting on the ecological and socio-economic impacts of the Action Plan (under s. 55 of SARA) will be done by assessing the results of monitoring the recovery of the species and their long term viability, and by assessing the implementation of the Action Plan.
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Appendix A: Effects on the environment and other species
A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making and to evaluate whether the outcomes of a recovery plan could affect any component of the environment or achievement of any of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy’s (FSDS) goals and targets.
Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that implementation of action plans may inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts upon non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the Action Plan itself, but are also summarized below in this statement.
The Ausable River Action Plan takes an ecosystem approach in addressing predominant threats in the watershed in an effort to restore and improve aquatic habitat for species at risk mussels and fishes (targeting SARA-listed species, but providing benefits to non-listed SAR as well). By improving water and habitat quality in the system for some of the most sensitive aquatic organisms, habitat improvements will benefit biodiversity in general and help restore balance to the natural community. Work in the riparian areas will be conducted in such a way that it does not interfere with habitats and management of semi-aquatic and terrestrial species at risk. In most cases, riparian restoration will benefit terrestrial wildlife and plant species. Where possible, efforts through the Ausable River Action Plan will be combined with terrestrial efforts by stewardship practitioners as has been done in the past with the Ausable River Recovery Team.
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