Development of Aquatic Indicators to Diagnose Cumulative Effects Within the Tobacco Creek Model Watershed

Principal Investigator - Joseph Culp, Professor, University of New Brunswick; Science Director, Canadian Rivers Institute; Resea, 2012 - 2014
Challenge

Agricultural activities can alter the conditions of freshwater systems through physical alterations to landscape structure and the release of waterborne pollutants.  Mitigating the effects of agriculture on aquatic ecosystems can be achieved through a variety of management strategies and structures often called Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs).  The Tobacco Creek Model Watershed (TCMW) in Manitoba has been monitored via a number of long term chemical and flow monitoring stations over the past 20 years, including stations which monitor the effectiveness of several BMPs at a watershed scale.  Substantial research has also been conducted in the Lake Winnipeg basin regarding cumulative effects (often individually minor but collectively significant actions that accumulate over space and time) of natural processes and management practices. However, the region lacks an integrated monitoring network that can provide baseline data to assess the environmental health of watersheds, track changes over time, and determine which BMPs are most appropriate for particular agricultural practices and watersheds in the Prairie region.

This project, led by Dr. Joseph Culp, aims to provide the TCMW Research Consortium with a monitoring framework that will gather the information needed to evaluate agricultural practices and water management schemes in the watershed; and establish baseline data against which to measure the cumulative effects of natural process and management practices.

Project

The research team has developed an integrated research and monitoring program examining aquatic biology, cumulative effects assessment, and the impacts of agricultural practices).  The team will also investigate sampling techniques appropriate for ecological indicator development for assessing water quality/quantity impacts associated with agricultural activities.   The team will begin development of ecological indicator thresholds for watershed assessment and management of agricultural watersheds in the Red River Valley (RRV).

The overarching goal is to develop biotic indicators within the context of annual trends and seasonal changes in water flow. These indicators will allow for better monitoring and assessment of cumulative effects in the Tobacco Creek and RRV regions of Southern Manitoba. 

Gaps in the existing network of monitoring stations will be assessed in collaboration with the Tobacco Creek Model Watershed Research Consortium and the Canadian Water Network funded research group led by Dr. Howard Wheater, University of Saskatchewan.  Based on the assessment, a series of new stations will be established to produce an aquatic biota monitoring network representative of the diverse natural and anthropogenic conditions in the Tobacco Creek. 

Outputs

Anticipated outputs include:

  • The generation and assessment of a multi-scaled biotic cumulative effects monitoring network encompassing the TCMW and the RRV;
  • A suite of  biotic indicators capable of assessing and diagnosing cumulative effects of human activities in the TCMW and RRV; and
  • Development of biotic thresholds to human activities for the purpose of watershed assessment and management. 
Outcomes

Anticipated outcomes include:

  • This project will influence the use of monitoring data within the Tobacco Creek Model Watershed and beyond into the Red River Valley. 
  • The use of the biotic indicators will enable better identification of impacts of human activities, and the effectiveness of specific agricultural Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs). 
  • Development of biotic thresholds to human activities for the purpose of watershed assessment and management.
  • It is expected that the monitoring network may ultimately influence the choices of landowners of which BMPs to install on their property, resulting in improved water quality.
  • The above outcomes will assist in determining the best policy and management options aimed at improving biological health.
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research team and partners:

Research Team

Joseph Culp, Professor, University of New Brunswick; Science Director, Canadian Rivers Insitute; Research Scientist, Environment Canada
Patricia Chambers, Adjunct Professor, University of New Brunswick and Research Scientist, Environment Canada
Glenn Benoy, Adjunct Professor, University of New Brunswick and Research Scientist, Environment Canada
Adam Yates, Assistant Professor, University of Western Ontario

Partners

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Environment Canada
Tobacco Creek Model Watershed Partners:
Manitoba Beef Producers
Keystone Agricultural Producers
Manitoba Egg Farmers
Manitoba Pork Council
Environment Canada
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Migal Galilee Technology Center Ltd
Central Eurasia Academy
Western Michigan University
Manitoba Hydro
Red River Basin Commission
International Institute for Sustainable Development
Ducks Unlimited Canada
Manitoba Water Stewardship
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives
Thomas Sill Foundation Inc.
Rural Municipality of Dufferin
Rural Municipality of Lorne
Rural Municipality of Roland
Rural Municipality of Thompson

RESEARCH SUMMARY

CWN EN TobaccoCreek 2016

REPORT

TCMW Biomonitoring Tools User Guide COVER