Significant Wetlands in Lanark County
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
February 6, 2014
Enjoy Field Naturalists’ Wet and Wild!
By Cathy Keddy
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) 2013-2014 public lecture series, Knowing and Caring Connect Us to Nature, continues February 20 with its 5th presentation, “Wet and Wild!” Anyone who possesses a curiosity or appreciation for wild nature will enjoy these lectures. Cottagers, hunters, fishermen, canoeists, hikers, campers, artists and seasoned field naturalists alike will find something to interest them as we explore what lives in Lanark County and how best to protect it for future generations. Refreshments are offered at each lecture.
Many wetland species, such as the ones in the photos above, are dependent upon annual flood pulses: (a) white ibis (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), (b) Mississippi gopher frog (M. Redmer), (c) dragonfly (C. Rubec), (d) tambaqui (M. Goulding), (e) furbish lousewort (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and (f ) Plymouth gentian (Paul Keddy).
At this upcoming meeting we will take a look on the wet side of Lanark County. Dr. Paul Keddy, a professor of ecology for over 30 years and author of Earth, Water, Fire: An Ecological Profile of Lanark County, will give a presentation on wetland communities—the places you have to wear big boots. He has studied wetlands, forests and other upland communities of the Ottawa Valley, the Maritimes, and the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Keddy has authored several prize-winning books on ecology and received a National Wetlands Award for Science Research. He has advised groups including The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and Earthjustice.
All life contains water. From distant space, Earth appears as a mosaic of blue and green, blue for water, green for plants. This talk will be about the connections between green and blue—wetlands. The surrounding uplands interact with the low wetlands. For example, amphibians, such as tree frogs, over-winter in the forest, while nutrients and runoff from the forest enter the wetland.
Wetlands have always influenced us. Early civilizations first arose along the edges of rivers in the fertile soils of floodplains. Wetlands continue to produce many benefits for humans—along with fertile soils for agriculture, they provide food including fish and waterbirds. Additionally, wetlands have other vital roles that are less obvious. They produce oxygen, store carbon, and process nitrogen. Of course, wetlands have also been a cause of human suffering, such as providing habitat for mosquitoes that carry malaria. And, for thousands of years, human cities in low areas have flooded during periods of high water. Philosophers and theologians may enquire how it is that one system can be both life-giving and death-dealing.
This promises to be an entertaining night—fish that breathe air and eat fruit, mosses that drown trees, plants that eat insects, and frogs that climb trees. We will also be introduced to the world’s largest wetlands, wetlands that perch on hillsides, wetlands that burn, and of course, wetlands that flood. Our neighbourhood wetlands and what we can do to conserve them will also be featured. Wetlands are one of the most productive habitats on Earth, and they support many kinds of life.
Signed copies of Dr. Keddy’s book on Lanark County’s natural heritage will be available for purchase at the meeting.
Hear about wet and go wild, at MVFN’s next lecture, “Wet and Wild,” where Dr. Keddy will describe the wonders of wetlands on Thursday, February 20, 7:30pm at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.
Press Release April 24, 2011
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Natural Faces of Wild Mississippi Places
Take a walk on the wild side with the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) at MVFN’s Spring Gathering 2011 which will take place on Thursday, May 19 at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall. All are invited to enjoy a delicious banquet and keynote presentation “Natural Faces of Wild Mississippi Places” by internationally recognized ecologist and Lanark County resident Dr. Paul Keddy.
Dr. Keddy is well qualified to speak about the “wilder” features of our area that make it a unique and special place to live. He will speak on behalf of a natural world he is very passionate about: “Wild places are essential for the survival of other living beings, as well as for us. I will give you a tour of some of our wild places in Lanark County, and introduce a few of the special, wild species that live there. Driving along the highway, it is easy to forget that a forest or wetland over the next hill may have wild species that are every bit as amazing as those found in Africa or South America. The wilder parts of our county still harbour important wildlife species. Since these species don’t speak English, and don’t come to meetings, and don’t vote, it is easy for them to be overlooked. One of my tasks at this spring celebration is to talk on their behalf. I will have to be their representative.”
“The most important thing we can do for these species is to protect their homes, or speaking more precisely, their habitats. Cities, subdivisions, farmland and clear cuts are not places where most wild species can live. Among the remarkable species of Lanark County, a few of my personal favorites are the gray ratsnake, Blanding’s turtle, black-throated blue warbler, fishers, and gray tree frog. And let’s not forget the plants—some of these special plants include hackberry, walking fern, ginseng and Ram’s-head Lady-slipper. None of these will survive for future generations without the wild places in which they live. Although I will be emphasizing the importance of wild places for wild species, we should remember that it is not only wild species that need wild places. People do too. We have a deep need for wildness. We too need wild places, even if we sometimes have difficulty explaining why.”
When Dr. Keddy was younger he spent many hours canoeing on the Mississippi River and hiking in the surrounding forests. He is probably best known locally for his book Earth, Water Fire: An Ecological Profile of Lanark County. Now in its second printing as a revised edition, this book is an easy-to-digest, delightful and informative sail through the surprising natural history and recent geological history of this area. “In my lifetime many of the places I once loved have been turned into subdivisions or carelessly logged. Species that I used to see are missing, or there are only a few individuals remaining where they were once abundant. We forget so soon. For example, people have already forgotten that Passenger Pigeons, now extinct, are recorded as having nested in Beckwith Township. Today species including chorus frogs, musk turtles, and Blanding’s turtles and even eels are in decline. Even populations of bull frogs and snapping turtles, which were once abundant along the Mississippi are far less common. Our challenge is to identify the causes of the declines and reverse them. The key in nearly all cases is to maintain the habitat that the species need.”
“It is not all bad news though. The county now has a scientifically justifiable and officially recognized list of significant wetlands and natural areas. The latter are called Areas of Natural Scientific Interest (ANSIs). I will show where these areas are in Lanark County and talk about a few of the biggest, including the Innisville Wetland Complex at the west end of Mississippi Lake and the Lanark Highlands Spillway Forest in the north part of the county. Some species are also recovering from past harm inflicted on them. Ospreys and bald eagles, for example, are now more common, since we took the step of banning DDT. Fishers and wolves, which are important wild predators, are recovering from near extermination. Areas like the Burnt Lands Alvar and the Purdon Orchid Bog are now officially protected.”
Several years ago Dr. Keddy returned to live in Lanark County but continues to do restoration related work for wild places elsewhere. In this talk though, he does not want to talk about alligators in the Everglades, or salmon in San Francisco. These sorts of species get lots of attention from residents of Florida and California. He wants to talk about our own wild species, the ones in our own county in particular, and the Ottawa Valley in general. These wild species are ambassadors for the wild habitats in which they live.
MVFN invites you to take a walk on the wild side and celebrate spring with others who care about wild places. Come to Spring Gathering 2011, Thursday May 19 at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall, 500 Almonte St. (just west of Highway 29), Almonte. A reception beginning at 6:00 pm will be followed by a banquet and Dr. Keddy’s presentation “Natural Faces of Wild Mississippi Places.” Tickets ($30) are available at Read’s Book Shop (130 Lansdowne Ave.) in Carleton Place, Nature Lover’s Bookshop (62 George St.) in Lanark and Mill Street Books (52 Mill St.) in Almonte or by contacting MVFN’s Brenda Boyd (613-256-2706). For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at (613) 257-3089.
NOTE: Tickets must be purchased in advance by Friday May 13.
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
October 6, 2006
by Pauline Donaldson
Wetlands: the vital link between land and water, with Aquatic Ecologist Brian Potter at next MVFN lecture
On Thursday October 19th the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists welcome Brian Potter, as our guest speaker for “Wetlands in our Watershed”, the second in a series of 7 lectures on “The Mississippi Valley Watershed”. Brian Potter is an Aquatic Ecologist and graduate of the University of Guelph . His career with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources includes work in fisheries assessment, conservation and planning, and other areas dating back to 1982. Specializing in the ecology of wetlands, Potter currently works in the Biodiversity Section of the Fish and Wildlife Branch. He was a member of the review team for the Natural Heritage Reference Manual, a key reference used to interpret provincial policies on wetlands, forests etc. which guide municipal planning decisions in Ontario .
Wetlands are some of the most productive habitats on Earth; not just land or water but a unique combination of both. Many of us are aware that we live amidst some important wetlands such as the ‘Class 1′ wetlands of Mississippi Lake, Kerr Lake, Clayton/Taylor, the Wolf Grove area, or Pakenham Mountain. However, few of us understand the significance of wetlands and why some are assigned a ‘class’. Wetlands, be they swamp, bog or other, are extremely important in providing habitat but they also play a vital role in flood control, groundwater recharge and several other key functions. As a biologist and major contributor to the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System, Brian Potter can give the audience an overview of the different kinds of wetlands, their role in the ‘bigger picture’ of wetland and watershed health overall, and tell us how they are threatened. This will likely shed some light on the reasoning behind the various regulations which apply to wetlands such as the Drainage Act, wetland buffers etc, and on what we and our municipalities can do to better preserve wetlands for the future.
The presentation by Brian Potter takes place Thursday, October 19th at 7:30 pm at the Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome; MVFN members and children under 16 receive free admission and for others a fee of $5 applies. MVFN memberships can also be purchased at the door. Host for the evening will be MVFN’s past president Mike Macpherson. Following the presentation refreshments are available. For more information on this lecture and others in the series, please contact MVFN Program Chair Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879, or email or check the MVFN website at www.mvfn.ca.
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Cliff Bennett
January 31, 2005
Making a splash – locals promote World Wetlands Day
Worldwide, February 2 is celebrated as World Wetlands Day. The theme for 2005 is the cultural and biological diversity of wetlands and the slogan “There’s wealth in wetland diversity – don’t lose it”, provides an especially fitting occasion to promote local awareness of the importance of wetlands and activities geared toward this.
“Increasingly, the eyes of the world are focused on local stewardship roles with heavy reliance on citizen involvement to protect the natural environment,” says Cliff Bennett, an amateur naturalist, former politician and past president of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN). “We need to engage the public and do everything we can to oversee the ongoing protection of our wetlands and wildlife habitat, even those in our local urban areas.
The Nature Lover’s Bookshop in Lanark Village will host an informal discussion on wetlands as an awareness raising activity February 6; in Carleton Place, the Good Food Company Restaurant will feature a range of fish and rice dishes on the menu throughout February; several students in local schools will work to raise awareness in their classrooms and schools following exams and local teachers have expressed an interest in participating in activities. Other efforts to raise awareness include the distribution of posters and information packages to schools, educators and youth groups, as well as organizing slide shows and other public events.
“Often, we forget what a valuable resource our wetlands are and the benefits they offer to us,” says MFVN member Celina Tuttle. “I am hopeful these activities will lead to broader discussion and other activities throughout the year.” Tuttle is preparing to launch a frog watch of the vernal pond at the end of her block. She remembers a chorus of frogs there each spring when she first moved to the area. However, in recent years the frogs haven’t been as vocal. “I’d like to understand why that is,” she says, “and get to know my neighbours and others in the community in the process.” Tuttle says she became involved in organizing activities around World Wetlands Day to promote collaboration among local organizations and people that carry out activities benefiting wetlands, wildlife, and people.
The MFVN works to increase public interest in and appreciation and respect for the natural world within the Mississippi River watershed. This area includes Mississippi Mills, Carleton Place, Lanark Highlands, Beckwith and surrounding areas. The group offers monthly events, from presentations to field trips, on a range of topics.
For more information:
Celina Tuttle, Carleton Place, tel: 613-253-3135, email:
Cliff Bennett, Almonte, tel: 613-256-5013, email:
World Wetlands Day marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971. The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 138 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1328 wetland sites, totaling 111.9 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
The Convention on Wetlands came into force for Canada on 15 May 1981. Canada presently has 36 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 13,051,501 hectares.
Wetlands provide many valuable functions such as:
- Recharge and discharge of groundwater
- Flood and storm surge protection
- Critical habitat for wildlife
- Act as a natural filter and removes contaminants (i.e. improves water quality)
- Wetland vegetation (e.g. grasses, sedges, and cattails) traps sediment and prevents the loss of land (i.e. erosion)
- Nutrient retention, removal and transport
- Recreation, cultural and educational purposes.