A regional Monitoring Framework for Supporting Cumulative Effects Assessment and Adaptive Management in the Grand River

Principal Investigator - Dr. Mark Servos, Research Chair, Water Quality Protection, Department of Biology, University of Waterlo, 2012 - 2014
Challenge

The Grand River watershed, located in south western Ontario, is threatened by multiple stressors from sources like municipal and industrial wastewater discharges, agricultural activities, urban development and atmospheric deposition.  The nature and number of stressors makes monitoring, assessment and management of the watershed difficult.  Further complicating this is the complexity of the multiple municipalities, regulators and industries that make up the watershed.   To address these complex issues the research team, led by Dr. Servos, is providing research that will inform the development of an integrated watershed-level monitoring framework for the Grand River. 

This project addresses three key needs of the Grand River Watershed Consortium: 1) to synthesize historic and current biomonitoring research and studies in the Grand River watershed and develop a monitoring approach to identify biological indicators to detect change from stressors throughout the watershed; 2) to improve scientific understanding of the relationship among biological, physical and chemical processes in the river; and 3) to develop a regional biomonitoring framework to predict changes in the watershed.

Project

The physical, chemical and biological characteristics of rivers are very complex and highly variable across the length of the watershed and change dramatically over time. Numerous studies have examined the factors that alter ecosystems and communities across the river continuum and the influence of factors such as flow, connectivity and habitat diversity. Not surprisingly, detecting change in ecosystems and communities is a very difficult task that requires considerable understanding of natural and human stressor induced variability in the system. This study will test the predictive relationships among the biological, physical, and chemical processes in the river to strengthen interpretation of biotic indicators that respond to changes or stressors within the watershed.

The objectives of the Grand River Watershed Consortium involve the development and implementation of an integrated watershed monitoring framework.  The project led by Dr. Servos is providing the consortium with fundamental information across three main areas.  This project will conduct a synthesis of historic and current biomonitoring research and studies in the Grand River watershed, including available data on water quality, productivity and organism distribution and abundance within the Grand River.   This project will develop a research/monitoring approach to determine biotic indicators that can detect change from stressors across the watershed from its headwaters to the lower river regions.  Researchers seek to improve the understanding of the relationships among biological, chemical and physical processes to develop tools to describe how biotic indicators respond to changes and stressors in the watershed. 

Outputs

Outputs include:

This research project has held several key end-user oriented meetings:

  • Joint Researcher/Consortium Meeting - Grand River Conservation Authority, Cambridge, ON
  • Creation of a dialogue between researchers and end users, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON.
  • Grand River CEA Researchers Review and Planning Meeting (Consortium representatives invited to participate) - University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON
  • CWN Inter-node meeting, Saint John, NB
  • Meeting with Region of Waterloo to present research progress, Waterloo, ON
  • Cumulative Impacts of Headwater Streams Working Group. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources/Toronto Conservation Authority, Ottawa, ON

Additionally, this research has been disseminated through several presentations.

  • Servos et al. Assessing the environmental risk of emerging contaminants in municipal wastewater. Canadian Water Network, Ottawa, ON
  • Servos, M. Wastewater watersheds and the War of 1812: win, lose or tie? The 5th Canadian Wastewater Management Conference Hamilton, ON
  • Tetreault et al. One fish, two fish, boy fish or girl fish? Does feminization of male fish lead to community level impacts? SETAC Laurentian Chapter Seminar Series, Burlington, ON
  •  Servos, M. The effects of wastewater on fish populations. Water Institute Annual Meeting, Waterloo, ON
  • Servos, M. Fish responses to wastewater in the Grand River. Institute for the Environment, University of Brunel, Uxbridge, England.
  • Servos et al. Effects of wastewater effluents in the Grand River, Ontario, on the reproductive function of fish. American Water Resources Association. Denver, Colorado

This research project has produced scholarly journal articles:

  • Tetreault et al. 2013. Fish community responses to multiple municipal wastewater inputs in a watershed. Integrated Environmental Assessment Management On line, http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1002/ieam.1364
  • Tanna et al. 2013. Occurrence and degree of intersex (testis-ova) across an urban gradient in the Grand River, Ontario, Canada. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. On line, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/etc.2262
Outcomes

Anticipated outcomes include:

  • Improving understanding of the relationships between biological, chemical and physical processes within the Grand River to design more effective tools to measure and predict biological change in the watershed.
  • Creating changes in practice upon identification of early indicators of change associated with key stressors and their cumulative effects so the Grand River Watershed Consortium can adaptively manage the river and enhance and protect its valued ecosystem components and services.
  • Contributing to the future creation of a framework to integrate and interpret environmental monitoring data that will allow long term assessment of the success of policy and management actions taken across the watershed.
  • Developing a strong scientific rationale for supporting water managers to implement bioassessments to help monitor progress toward goals stated in the Grand River Water Plan.
Servos-Watersheds_288.jpg

research team and partners:

Research Team

Mark Servos, Canada Research Chair, Water Quality Protection, Department of Biology, University of Waterloo
Sherry Schiff, University Research Chair, Watershed Biogeochemistry, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo
William Taylor, Canada Research Chair , Limnology, Department of Biology, University of Waterloo
Adam Yates, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario
Joseph Culp, Research Professor, University of New Brunswick; Project Chief and Senior Researcher, Environment Canada
Patricia Chambers, Project Chief, Environment Canada; Adjunct Professor, Department of Biology, University of New Brunswick
Glen Van Der Kraak, Associate Dean Research, College of Biological Science, Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph
Deborah MacLatchy, Vice-President Academic, Professor, Department of Biology, Wilfrid Laurier University
Ken Oakes, Faculty Lecturer and Researcher, Department of Biology, University of Waterloo
Mark McMaster, Research Scientist, Environment Canada

Partners

Grand River Conservation Authority
County of Brant
City of Brantford
Regional Municipality of Waterloo
City of Guelph
Ontario Ministry of the Environment (Environmental Monitoring and Reporting Branch, Strategic Policy Branch, West Central Region, Operations Division)
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Environment Canada (Great Lakes Management Reporting Section, Ecosystem Protection Research Directorate)
Fisheries and Ocean Canada
Agriculture and Agri-food Canada
Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
Ducks Unlimited
Trout Unlimited
Six Nations

RESEARCH SUMMARY
(5-page report)

CWN EN GrandRiver 2016