Tag Archives: Biodiversity

The U.N. International Year of Biodiversity

The U.N. International Year of Biodiversity

Monday October 25 2010


Biodiversity and Canada’s Ecosystems

Jeff Hutchings of Dalhousie University warns that Canada protects 9.45 % landmass, but, just 0.64% of its marine environments.  He says, “We have the largest coastline in the world, but are not protecting much of it.”  Hutchings concern is – Biodiversity Loss.  The Director of University of British Columbia says “Canada needs to balance key industries like fisheries and conservation to avoid economic disasters like East Coast  Pacific Cod.

2.010 is the U.N. International Year of Biodiversity  is challenging the world to safeguard the variety of life on earth.  Currently a two-week global conference 0f 190 countries has convened in Japan for a Biodiversity Conference.  Biodiversity is all living things on earth, from generic through to landscapes, including ecological and evolutionary processes.  Biodiversity is dynamic, not stationary.  2,010 Canadian Marine Ecosystem Status and Tends Report, part of a larger project launched in 2,006 to gauge Canada’s progress in protecting its species – examined nine regions across three oceans.

The 38 page Federal Report Card is troubling. “Threats” to biodiversity, species or parameter is the appropriate comparison against  which to access the state of a threat.  Vanishing species, such as 80% decline in Ivory Gull populations without a cause known for the drop in species occurred in Canada.  .  Also, warming ocean temperatures, industrial development, ocean acidification and a flood of contaminants have the biggest impact on Canadian Marine Life.   Human settlements or developments  have impacted biodiversity.    PCB and DDT are decreasing, but Brominated Flame  Retardants are on the rise.   Good news is – marine mammals have rebounded – Bowhead Whale, Beluga  and Sea Otters.

Conservation Gaps do exist.  The coastline of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and its estuary (the Great Lakes) is deteriorating because of human activities – shipping, aquaculture and pollution.  The estuaries  are a particular note, because many fresh water changes that can occur having a “knock-on” effect” on marine aspects  – i.e., the movement of salmon biomass through ecosystems.  Loss of individual salmon runs have generic implication, as well as  cascading impacts in freshwater and terrestrial environments.  A century of Invasive Species impacts Cootes Paradise Marsh (Latornell 2,010 Biodiversity ).  Reduction of waterfowl can lead to direct loss of fish passage.  For example, Sea Lamprey have attacked Salmon in Hamilton Harbour.


The Sea Lamprey is a non-native parasite and it kills Great Lakes Salmon and Trout.  But, the American Eel (often confused as Sea Lamprey) spends part of its life in the Great Lakes and part of its life in Oceans.  The American Eel is an important part of diversity of life in Lake Ontario.  It offers valuable clues about the health of the ecosystem.   Decline of the American Eel is due to human activity; hydroelectric dams blocking  ell migration; turbines kill individual eels, changing  environment and climate conditions connected with global warming threaten the Amerrican Eel habitat.   The American Eel in  danger of extinction  in Lake Ontario (MNR).
As Environmentalist, Conservationists we should be concerned with the outcome of the Biodiversity Conference in Japan and do our part in helping to maintain Canada’s Biodiversity and Ecosystems.
Sources:  The Canadian Press
Doug Worrall

Cootes Paradise and Biodiversity

Cootes Paradise and Biodiversity

By Jacqueline Darby

Saturday September 4th 2010

Cootes Paradise Biodiversity Festival: and all the flora and fauna of Ontario will be at The Nature Centre at RGB Gardens, Hamilton on Saturday, September 25, 2,010 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Admission is Free.

Cootes Paradise

H.C. Darby (1956:4) said “In England, in 1531 Henry V111 empowered a Commission on Sewers to survey streams, ditches, banks…floodgates, ponds, lacks, and other water bodies to be made, corrected, repaired…as the case may require and to TAX and assess local inhabitants for the purpose.” Is that any different to today’s world regarding taxation ?
A Marsh first known use was before the 12th Century.  It is a wetland frequently, or continuously filled with water.  And, it is a transition zone between land and water.  Synonyms for a Marsh are: bog, fen, swamp, marshland, mire, morass, muskeg, slough (slew), wetland.  Looking at  biotechnology, a Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Minnesota in 2,004 said “The environment altered by humans, so the great fens   [marsh] are now farmland.”  He goes on to describe how the fen [farmers] made use of the water and its flora and fauna to maintain existence.  They used the reeds for thatch used for roofing;   Flags, the reeds or rushes were used for binding or tightening the seams of a barrel.  Hassocks were clumps of grass.  And, Segg was a fern used for thatching”.  Cootes Paradise was once a “Boathouse Shanty” community where the Fish-way is today. Would these early Hamiltonian’s  used  the flora and fauna in the same way to maintain existence ?  And as part of farmland, H.C. Darby said “Historically, belief that the drainage project disfigured the existing landscape and works against nature.”  Is that any different of the drainage for the Desjardin’s Canal in Cootes Paradise ?  But, an interesting drainage issue  in England was in 1790 – 1820 that women and children worked in this drainage of wetlands and Opiate in the marsh’s was culturally accepted and sanctioned, which is striking in such an English setting.  So, they  were “dosing the children with poppy-head tea, and twins and illegitimate children almost always died.  This was before the 1868 Pharmacy Act.
When a marsh ecosystem is healthy, the water is usually very clear. The amount of algae is minimal because most of the nutrients in the ecosystem are tied up in aquatic macrophytes, such as, cattails and pond-weeds.  The aquatic plants are so diverse and abundant that they usually block out the light that is necessary for the algae to grow.  By contrast, a Degraded Marsh, like Cootes Paradise, algae dominate and block out light that is necessary for the aquatic plants to grow.  The algae may be in the form of “phtalankra” (floating on the water) or “epiphyten” (growing on top of plant leaves, stems, etc.).  According to the literature – 76% of the area covered for emergent vegetation present in 1800s had disappeared by the mid – 1970s.  Ariel photographs in 1934 showed there was still 85%.  Cootes Paradise had been in declining ecological health and the BIODIVERSITY DROP over those years, especially in respect to submergent and emergent plants, fish, aquatic insects and zooplaton communities.  For example, Typha (common reed)  the most abundant plant in 1934, was reduced greatly in 1993. Deforestation in the waterfront accelerated sediment accretion (accumulation) and nutrient enrichment in the marsh.

Cootes Paradise

Wild Rice an Archaeological study showed wild rice (|izaria aquatica) was one of the dominant wetland grasses present in Cootes Paradise 1,000 years ago, when the Marsh was presumably deeper, because wild rice is an annual that grows in relatively deep water, where submersed juvenile stage requires good light.   In the degraded Cootes Paradise Marsh, wild rice was replaced by two species of emerged plants: cattail and burreed (which required shallower water and greater organic content).  Many wetland plants are adapted to a limited range of water depths and some plants can tolerate continuous inundation and/or drying for only a limited time.  And, since the amount of water in the soil directly affect the growth of plants, the determination of water content is an easily measured soil parameter.    Conservation staff at RGB spend a lot of time and energy actively restoring and preserving flora and fauna on the 2,400 acres of natural lands in their care.  With their ongoing restoration program, Project Paradise (1993) a few plants reappeared about a decade ago.  This led to a coordination reintroduction with seeds from Rondeau Park on Lake Erie.  In addition to the Lake Erie specimens, RGB also has two water tanks that produce wild rice to be planted in the marshes.  The main challenge is that southern wild rice is an annual, so we never know if it will regenerate from one year to the next.  But, 2,010 is the sixth year running for spontaneous regeneration, and RGB is hoping the plant has finally gained a serious foothold.

McMaster Landing, which is located at McMaster University along the trail behind Brandon Hall Residence is a”residual Marsh” vegetation.   In 1987 – 1990 you could see patches of submergent vegetation at Mac Landing, then a drop in stem densities in 1997 – 2,000.  This area had a remnant plant community and was protected from wind and wave exposure.  Mac Landing had different water depths and very little emergent vegetation, other than manna grass.  As a student, I used to study by the Mac Landing prior to Brandon Hall, and witnessed the enclosures in the water.  There were 44 enclosures with eight different species of plants, but, unfortunately only  three species became established in the enclosures (1) arrowheads, (2) cattails, and (3) bulrushes.  When enclosure panels were removed in late summer, plant loss was due to muskrats grazing. But, they did better in the spring, when panels were removed.  In 2,010 Cootes Paradise with their ongoing planting program, planted some cattails this summer.
Thank you
Jacqueline Darby
photography Doug Worrall

Conservation vs Control in Coote’s Paradise Hamilton

Conservation vs Control in Coote’s Paradise Hamilton


In 1974, a request came form RGB for control  of Coote’s Paradise.  But, the Hamilton Harbor Commission held tightly to the control  it claims it had under the 1912 Act Of Parliament by which it was created.  In fact, the 1912 Act of Parliament …supercedes the 28 year-old RGB legislation.
Now, the conservation issue in 1974, was the preservation of Coote’s Paradise being in doubt because of a recommendation that would double the release of sewage into Coote’s Paradise.  It was suggested to construct a sewage line along the base of Coote’s Paradise and Burlington Bay to the east-end Woodward plant.  Then RGB director, Leslie Laking, had great concerns about the decision.  he said “The RGB would have no effluent in Coote’s Paradise from here on in.”  And, chairman of the Harbor Board, Ed Tharen, ” pointed an accusing finger at the Dundas sewage treatment plant as the major polluter responsible for that gunk being poured into Coote’s Paradise.”
Stewart Morison, Ducks Unlimited Canada which is an offshoot of the U.S. group, in 1987, expects to spend $43 million in 1988 to build and restore wetland habitat for waterfowl.  Morison looked at prospects for involvement in a Coote’s Paradise project proposed by RGB biologist Len Simer.  From the high level bridge, Simer described the marshland’s problems and potential underlining three issues that hamper growth of plants needed for good wildlife habitat.  Perceptual opportunities for current difficulties hampering wildlife habitat in Coote’s are a justaposition of elements  and how they relate to each other, such as :: (1) wind-stirred mud; (2) bottom-feeding carp, and, (3) changing water levels. Carp and other invasive species continue to be an issue, even in 2,010 ,  Reduction of Carp is due to the Fishway operation.  This allows other fish and plants to return to the marshland.

In 1988, Ducks unlimited Canada said “Half of Coote’s Paradise can be restored to the wetland wildlife preserve it was earlier this century.  DUC, provincial  manager John Blain told RGB board of directors.  The now flooded swamp and surrounding wetlands at the far west end of Hamilton Harbor are part of RGB property.  Blain said “Coote’s Paradise restoration – We believe it’s feasible in terms of both biology and engineering and asked the conservation group to investigate.

In 1988, DUC would build more than 3 km (2 miles of earthen dikes to wall off 3 km (250 acres) of open water below the McMaster University CampusThis exciting initiative included: (1) Water depth would be lowered to foster the growth of natural marsh plants needed for good wildlife habitate; (2) There would be NO CARP to uproot young plants; and, (3) There would be less wind-stirred MUD to block sunlight.
Coote’s Paradise had another concern in 1988 because the region set sites on a Perimeter Road (now hwy. 403).  The north-side alternative was cheapest to build at $48 million.  Planners backed the north-south site because it would offer drivers an attractive view of the waterfront.  The Hamilton Harbor Commission would have to approve the scheme.  Now the negative side is beastly ugly because it includes three issues:
(1) Noise would affect the western harbour and
proposed waterfront park.  ( Now in 2,010 we
have a beautiful waterfont part with little
(2) The harbor’s surface area, volume and fish
habitat would be reduced.
(3) Fill would be needed in Coote’s Paradise.  And, thank goodness for former Alderman Mary Kiss, who recommened “to build 403 hwy WITHOUT PUTTING FILL IN COOTE’S PARADISE – one of the most ecologically important areas
Memory is like Jazz.  Life jazz, memory has more to do with now than then.  Then is just fiction now.
in Two Sides of a Centre
Robert Clark Yates

Would like to thank Robert Yates for his inspirational books and watchful eye on Cootes paradise.

Enjoy the pictures and information today and  have a great weekend.
Doug Worrall Photographer