What future waits for Rouge River Valley watershed?

Don’t worry, we aren’t talking about a river parts amock here.

The word ‘Rouge’ means ‘red’; the Rouge River gets its name from the reddish surrounding rocks. The presence of iron oxides makes these rocks look red. The river’s sandbanks have a reddish tint.The Rouge River is a tributary of the Ottawa River and a part of the Carolinian life zone.

From an altitude of 550 meters, it flows down 161 kilometers through the Laurentian Mountains to the Ottawa River. It is the main water body in a hilly region characterized by waterfalls and valleys. And if you are living in and around it, you are sure to get some of the freshest water around!

Interestingly, the Rouge River Valley is a very fragile natural phenomenon, even though it extends over eleven thousand acres. Incredibly, all of this exists within the city limits of Toronto.

Watershed

A watershed is that area which holds rainwater, or snow, that drains into a marsh, river or groundwater.

The Rouge River watershed has been used by humans for 10,000 years, from the aboriginals to the final settlers. The watershed of the Rouge River is spread over an area of 336 square kilometers. Of this, 1% consists of water bodies, while around 24% is the forest.

Apart from that, 35% is urban area while the remaining 40% is agricultural land. You would find the watershed starting in around Oak Ridges Moraine and then flowing in as far south as the Lake Ontario.  Rouge River falls into Lake Ontario at Rouge Beach.

Rouge National Urban Park

Apart from the above facts, did you know that a little bit of the watershed also lies right in the Rouge National Urban Park, the largest urban park in North America? The watershed covers some really wide regions, which include everything from York and Durham, Toronto, to even Whitchurch-Stouffville.

Major points

Human interference and arrogance, have started to harm and degrade this natural treasure. The carrying capacities of the natural systems in this watershed have been exceeded far beyond their replenishment rates. Detrimental changes like increased surface runoff water, water pollution, increased erosion, and consequently, sedimentation, and loss of biofdiversity are well on their way to becoming permanent features.

Further, the Rouge Park has no legislated protection. Likewise the Rouge River.  Unlike the Humber River, which has been designated as a ‘heritage river’ and has in-built monitoring controls, the Rouge River has no safeguard or statutory watchdog.

The primary owner of the Rouge Park Lands is the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). But its track record of protecting watersheds or parklands is not very reassuring.

Approval for the development in the floodplains, altering the course of the Rouge River and narrowing of the Oak Ridges Moraine corridor are a few of the worrying developments.

To make matters worse, the TRCA cannot be held accountable under the Environmental Bill of Rights.

On a final note

While human beings depend on nature for survival, our ever-growing refusal to acknowledge this fact is slowly, but surely, pushing us towards our own eventual ruin. And at the moment, North America is in real danger of losing one of its natural endowments.

Everything you should know about Oak Ridges Moraine’s ecosystem

Unique to southern Ontario, the Oak Ridges Moraine is one of Ontario’s largest moraines. With an average width of around 13 kilometers and a depth of 150 meters, it provides drinking water to as many as 2,50,000 people. However, that is not the only thing that makes it important.

Biodiversity

The following figures will give you some idea of the biodiversity here. According to oakridgesmoraine.org, it has as many as 1,171 plant species and 125 species of moss. Apart from that, there are around 166 breeding bird species, a true testimony to the wide variety of flora and fauna there.

Animals are in plenty too, with over 30 species of reptiles and amphibians and as many as 51 different species of mammals.

If you are talking about life in water, you can expect to see around 73 species of fish.

Habitats

Besides the many kettle lakes, the moraine has 130 wetlands and a forest cover of about 30 percent. The moraine provides a rare green sanctuary to its wildlife in one of Canada’s most populated regions. It bonds the wildlife and the ecosystems in a symbiotic relationship.

Habitats on the Oak Ridges Moraine

The above-mentioned species can be found in the huge variety of habitats found in the moraine. Let’s look at them in brief:

  • Woodlands

The forests in the moraine are critical routes for migration of birds and other animals. This is the longest unbroken forest region around the Greater Toronto Area.

  • Flatlands

The old fields, which are no longer being farmed upon, have transformed into open meadows. Some of these are parts of original prairie or savannah habitats.

  • Wetlands

Wetlands conserve and maintain the natural water levels in the ground. They are an important nesting habitat for numerous species. Wetlands reduce the incidences of flooding as well as droughts because of their ability to store water. Marshes are the most productive type of wetlands. The other types are swamps, bogs and fens.

Swamps form the major part of the wetlands of this region. Varieties of trees and other plants can be found growing in the water. You also have plenty of deciduous and coniferous trees here, along with Red Maple, Silver Maple, Hemlock, and Tamarack; among others.

  • Kettle Lakes

A kettle lake is formed from the chunks of ice in the summer, left behind by a glacier. Though buried in sand and gravel, you notice them as soon as the ice melts. This depression, or empty space, gets filled with groundwater in due course resulting in formation of a kettle lake.

Such kettle lakes sometimes become bogs, which have large quantities of sphagnum moss. This moss forms a cover of vegetation over the lake. A well developed bog ecosystem provides protection to some ecologically rare and unique species that can grow in even slightly acidic conditions.

  • Streams

Often called the ‘circulatory system’ of nature, streams are one of the most fragile parts of an ecosystem. Removal of natural vegetation around the stream banks destroys many habitats by, among other things, raising the temperature of water. Erosion of the stream banks is another adverse consequence, as tree roots are no longer available to hold the soil in place.

Conservation of natural streams is essential for plants and wildlife, as also human life.