Stream Tender     Magazine

February  2016 Issue

Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program—Winter Inspection

    A few trips were made to some of the planting sites on Bighill Creek and West Nose Creek this winter. My intention was to see how this past two seasons of planting on the stream banks was coming along.

    During the winter months, when there is a blanket of snow and the shoreline grasses are covered, the tops of the willow and tree plants can be easily distinguished growing up from the cover of snow.

    This is the best time of year to spot the new plants and get an idea of the survival rate. Other plants are encased in the elevated cover of ice on the streams, but you can still spot the odd tip of a new year’s growth on the surface of the ice.

    Some of the sites that I have a particular interest in are those bank stabilization sites, where the eroding stream banks are collapsing into the stream channel. Willows and trees have been planted along the

base or toe of these eroding banks to take root and create stability over time.

    These sites are especially important when it comes to water quality. By stopping the erosion, many tonnes of silt will be prevented from entering the stream channel every year, with an immediate improvement in the water clarity downstream.

    Last year, I completed a survey of the number of stream bank stability sites on Bighill Creek. The total came to 58 planting sites. This winter, I tallied the number of sites on West Nose Creek in the City of Calgary. The total of these city sites came to 64.

    On the Bighill Creek this past spring and summer, I noticed an improvement in the clarity of the water on the lower reach of the stream, which means that less silt movement is occurring on the creek.

    There also appears to be less accumulated silt on the streambed.

Canon Canada/Evergreen Planting Site on West Nose

Above: In February of this year, I visited the Canon Canada—Evergreen planting site on West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary. The site was planted with native willows and trees in October of 2015. The plants are doing well, despite some being chewed on by rodents. The new branches are limber and show signs of life.

    Some of the new limbs have been chewed off by rodents, but I expect that some of these will start to produce new growth in the spring of 2016.

What Do The Planting Sites Look Like ?

    At all of the planting sites on Nose, West Nose and Bighill Creek, photos and some video has been taken to show what the sites look like, prior to the planting of new native riparian willows and trees.

    These images and videos will be used to demonstrate how these sites will transform into healthy bio-diverse eco-systems, over time.

    Eventually, when the willows and trees are tall

enough to stand out in a landscape panorama, photos and video will be taken from the same location as the before program shots and footage.

    It will take a number of years to complete this part of the program plan, but when this is completed, we will have some great evidence of how successful we have been in our objectives.

    I can hardly wait.

Right Photos:

These two photos show lengths of West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary.

 

As you can see, the stream channel is pretty much void of any willows and trees over long distances.

“Heavy Beaver Browsing on Willows”

    On West Nose Creek’s upper reaches, there are very few willow plants along the stream channel. The few that are growing close to the water’s edge are browsed upon heavily by resident and migrating beaver populations.

    What plants there are, appear to be immature willows, until you take a closer look at their bases. You then will notice that there are heavy trunks close to the ground and

only the new shoots and branches are achieving any growth and height.

    With such a limited amount of food for beavers, any standing willows are kept well cropped and low to the ground.

    It is hoped that once the newly planted willows start to provide more forage for beavers, some of these older plants will start to have a chance at reaching an average height and become more visible in the landscape.

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Right Photo:

Volunteers from Canon Canada, Evergreen and BVHD planted 600 native willows and tree plants in October of 2015, along West Nose Creek.

Riparian Zone Bio-Filtration

    West Nose Creek is a perfect example of a stream that suffers from over nutrient enrichment. Both upstream of the City of Calgary and in the city itself, large amounts of fertilizers are washed into the stream over charging the system with organic chemicals.

    These fertilizers come from both agriculture and urban sources. Add to that the amount of fecal mater from cattle operations upstream of Calgary and you have a major problem to deal with.

    One of the huge benefits of a healthy riparian zone, with plenty of willows, trees and aquatic sedges, rushes and grasses, is that they help to filter the surface ground water, before it enters the stream.

    Both the root systems of the plants and the microbial life that is found in the plant detritus absorb much  of the organics, before this

nutrient enters the water.

    Dead leaves, branches and grasses create a rich microbial habitat both on and just below the surface of the ground, bordering the water’s edge. As water filters thru this microbial life and the root systems of the plants, organics are filtered out.

    Without a healthy riparian zone, most of the organics over charge the

stream system and heavy aquatic weed growth is enhanced by the nutrients in the water.

    Aquatic weeds will filter organics as well, but a healthy balance needs to be in place for fish to thrive. Especially trout.

    This bio-filtration is one of the primary goals in the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program.

Surface ground water run-off contains fertilizers

A healthy riparian zone filters enriched surface run-off before it enters the stream

Microbial life and root systems clean organics from surface run-off

A Healthy riparian zone means that the stream’s water will be cleaner and cooler for resident trout

Above: Too much nutrient can result in algae blooms and weed choked streams.