Rooting for the Future! Cooling Streams Update
By David Fields
Preparation is underway for the Spring 2024 launch of our new Cooling Streams program. Gathering in the early autumn heat wave, TUC staff and volunteers from the Speed Valley, Happy Trout, Greg Clark, and Middle Grand Chapters got an early start on Cooling Streams – working together to help the endangered Redside Dace (Clinostomus elongatus) by planting trees along Irvine Creek, near Fergus, ON.
Staff and volunteers discussed how the Cooling Streams tree planting program will be delivered in riparian areas in and near urban and suburban areas, the types of projects, including those involving invasive species removal, supporting endangered species, and to protect or enhance streams in our changing climate. Our Chapter volunteers also participated in demonstration of the planting and monitoring guidelines for the program and provided valuable advice and feedback that will be included in the final drafts of these volunteer tools.
Cooling Streams focusses on planting trees and shrubs in riparian areas because our local streams and rivers will require more shade as protection from increasing temperatures and more frequent heat waves, and provide refuge habitat for fish and aquatic species that require cold and cool water temperatures, as well as for terrestrial species that live and use the riparian zone. While providing shade is a first step, planting trees in riparian areas also helps protect against flooding, protects water quality, increases and protects biodiversity on land and water, and creates corridors that connect different ecosystems that species displaced by the impacts of climate change can use to migrate to a new habitat. Shaded riparian areas are also a refuge for our communities – the shade combined with the high levels of moisture cools the air, providing relief from high temperatures for people, and acting like a neighbourhhood air conditioner!
Redside Dace is an endangered minnow species found in the Greater Toronto Area that provides an excellent example of the essential relationship between healthy land and aquatic ecosystems. Major threats to the Redside Dace include excessive stream sedimentation, altered stream flows, increasing stream temperatures, increased pollution, and loss of streamside vegetation – all problems that can be addressed in whole or in part by a healthy riparian area. Our Cooling Streams project on Irvine Creek was designed to provide more shade for keeping the stream cool, prevent streambank erosion to protect water quality against sedimentation, and to provide more streambank shrubs that provide habitat and could host insects that the Redside Dace eats. Adapted to feed mostly on surface insects, the Redside Dace can leap several centimetres out of the water to eat flies! While it does eat some benthic invertebrates, up to 85% of its diet is comprised of terrestrial insects, which rely on a healthy riparian area.
Cooling Streams projects that protect stream ecosystems, protect and increase biodiversity, and provide refuge from heat waves and floods are in development now – please reach out to our program manager David Fields to find out how you can get involved – the future is hot and we gotta make shade!