Cooling Streams


Trout Unlimited Canada’s Restoring Riparian Refuges program is focused on restoring riparian areas – the buffer of vegetation that connects land and water along streams, rivers, and lakes.


The future is hot, we gotta make shade!

Program Summary

Climate change is a present and growing threat to our communities, ecosystems, and coldwater streams across the country. Here at Trout Unlimited Canada, we believe we can make a difference by helping to build resilience and hope in the face of climate change. Our work to protect, conserve, and rehabilitate freshwater ecosystems not only helps to protect sensitive aquatic species like trout from rising temperatures, but also helps to protect our communities from more frequent high heat days, and more intense flooding and wildfires.

Trout Unlimited Canada’s Cooling Streams program is focused on restoring riparian areas – the buffer of vegetation that connects land and water along streams, rivers, and lakes. By planting trees and shrubs along lakes, rivers, and streams we can help take carbon from the atmosphere. The trees and plants found within riparian zones are adapted to natural disturbances, such as spring floods and summer low-flow periods, which helps make these ecosystems more resilient to the expected disruptions from climate change. The built-in resilience of riparian ecosystems is ideal for protection and provides refuge for vulnerable wildlife and plant species, while also helping communities adapt to climate change.

Program Purpose

The impacts of climate change on freshwater ecosystems can include reduced snowpack, which will result in reduced volume and altered timing of peak stream flows; more frequent and more severe flood and drought events; higher water temperatures that will threaten coldwater species like trout; and changes to soil moisture and groundwater recharge that influence stream flow rates. These and other expected impacts of climate change can place additional stress on streams and riparian habitats that have already been degraded by development, logging, and agricultural practices.

Intact riparian zones are highly productive ecosystems, which provide essential services and resources for both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. These services include food and habitat, sediment and nutrient capture, water temperature regulation, and so much more. The trees and plants found within riparian zones are adapted to natural disturbances, such as spring floods and summer low-flow periods, which makes these ecosystems potentially more resilient to the expected disruptions from climate change. The built-in resilience of riparian ecosystems makes them ideal candidates for protection and restoration to serve as a refuge for vulnerable wildlife and plant species, while also helping human communities adapt to climate change.

Cooling Streams is funded by the Government of Canada’s 2 Billion Trees program. It is a commitment of $3.2 billion over 10 years to support organizations in their tree-planting efforts. Planting two billion trees is taking a significant step forward in Canada’s approach to tackling the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. These trees will capture and store carbon from the atmosphere, improve air and water quality, help restore nature and biodiversity, cool our communities, and create and support thousands of green jobs.

Why are riparian areas important?

How Riparian Areas Can Be Climate Change Refuges:


Riparian areas connect land and water ecosystems, and they also connect upland ecosystems with those downstream. Wildlife and plants have evolved within habitats that have particular resources, such as food, microclimates, and relationships with other organisms. As habitats are disrupted, species may be pressured to migrate to other areas that can meet their needs, but there may be natural or human-made barriers to their movement. The connectivity that riparian zones offer may provide migration pathways for animal and plant species as they move to more suitable habitats.

Thermal Refugia (Heat Buffers)

On a hot day, you may find yourself drawn to shady spaces and waterbodies. Likewise, riparian areas act as heat buffers for plant and animal species, providing refuge from higher temperatures. The higher water content found in riparian areas absorbs heat while trees and other vegetation shade streams and rivers from sunlight, which, along with ground water inputs keeps the water cool for temperature-sensitive species like trout.

Builds Biodiversity

In connecting land and water ecosystems, riparian areas make each more productive and support many different plant, animal, and insect species. For example, terrestrial plants trap sediment during floods by slowing water flow and allowing the sediment to settle in place, this in turn adds nutrients to the soil and improves conditions for tree and plant growth. The streamside trees and shrubs in turn provide woody debris for aquatic invertebrates and these emerging aquatic insects provide food for birds and bats. Intact and restored riparian areas have many of these mutually supportive land/water relationships that can increase the likelihood of species survival in the face of climate change disruptions

Protects Biodiversity

Riparian zones are also structurally complex, that is the various plant communities form several different layers that can include ground cover (moss, ferns), low and high shrubs (Red-osier Dogwood, Bebb’s Willow), tree understory (Sassafras, Ironwood), and tree over story (Cottonwoods, Black Willow). The many layers present in a healthy riparian area provide habitat niches for a diversity of wildlife and insect species. For example, bird species like American Woodcock can be found on the ground hunting for worms among tree roots, while Wood Thrushes and Northern Cardinals seek out food in the shrubby understory, Northern Flickers and Red-headed woodpeckers seek out or create nesting cavities in the low tree canopy layer, and Blue Jays and Eastern Wood Peewee establish nests in the highest canopy layer. The more complex the structure, including age difference as well as vertical layers, the more diverse the wildlife a riparian area (or forest) can accommodate. A structurally complex riparian zone can also act as a barrier to invasive species by denying them a niche to infiltrate and shading out non-native pioneering species.

In The News!

Trout Unlimited Canada proposes ‘Cooling Streams Program” at former Witter’s Pond site

MILDMAY—On April 23, a Trout Unlimited Canada delegation proposed to South Bruce Council to plant native trees and shrubs at the former Witter’s Pond site on Otter Creek (Adam Street).

David Fields, partnership development manager from Trout Unlimited Canada, spoke to council about the Cooling Streams Program and the proposal to rehabilitate the area in Mildmay by repairing and enhancing the riparian area on Otter Creek, emphasizing the importance of healthy riparian areas for water quality, erosion prevention, and biodiversity. 

“Cooling Streams by Trout Unlimited Canada is a national riparian rehabilitation and tree planting program designed to help communities mitigate and adapt to climate change and increase native biodiversity. It is delivered in partnership with local Chapters, landowners, private and community organizations, students, and individuals,” a summary brief provided to council by Trout Unlimited Canada said.

“The area formerly known as Witters Pond,” Fields said, “what we seek to do there is to plant native trees and shrubs for the reasons of not only enhancing local biodiversity, but also to help the health of the creek, Otter Creek, which is a significant cold water stream within your watershed.”

Fields added that a healthy riparian area keeps the soil intact and helps prevent future erosion and sediment from entering the stream, which will create healthier freshwater conditions for species like trout.

Fields added, “But also it helps with creating more of a buffer for water, which is capture/release of spring flows and heavy rains. So that helps to mitigate water quality. So it captures that heavy spring runoff and releases it more slowly over the spring, which also supports the freshwater ecosystem.”

The summary brief said that after removing the Co-Op Dam, Otter Creek, a cold-water stream supporting native and non-native trout, now flows freely, allowing for fish passage. Planting trees and shrubs on a small section of the stream bank was conducted after the box culvert installation that replaced the dam.  

“Trout Unlimited Canada proposes to increase and enhance riparian cover by planting native trees and shrubs in the newly reclaimed floodplain to help support the health of Otter Creek through bank stabilization, water flow capture/release, sediment capture, and shading while also providing wildlife habitat and creating a natural community amenity. This proposed tree planting will also contribute to the health of the Lower Main Saugeen River sub-watershed by increasing riparian and forest cover, which are currently graded as fair – less than recommended.”

Tree and shrub species being considered for this project include native species observed on site. They will consist of additional species appropriate for the region: Basswood, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Balsam Poplar, Trembling Aspen, White Cedar, White Pine, Common Hackberry, Northern Red Oak (upland), Paper Birch, White Spruce, Bur Oak, White Elm, Eastern Hemlock, Eastern Cottonwood, Hawthorns, Large tooth Aspen, Pin Cherry, Serviceberry, Shagbark Hickory (upland), Silver Maple, Bitternut Hickory (upland), Black Willow,  Red-osier Dogwood, Gray Dogwood, Ninebark, Nannyberry, Highbush Cranberry, Chokeberry, Buttonbush. 

“Planting areas have been identified based upon soil drainage conditions, and species adapted for these conditions will be planted in these areas. Up to 9000 trees and shrubs can be planted in the planting areas identified, using a spacing of 2m, and more can be planted if permission is granted to plant to within 2m of the rail trail. Tree health and survivorship will be supported by tree wraps, weed mats, and mulched with wood chips – the latter supplied by the municipality.”

Fields said the project could start as early as May “with a four-person crew supplemented by one or two community workdays, including a possible corporate workday by employees of Hammond Power Systems in Walkerton.”

Additionally, the project may be completed in phases, depending on tree and shrub stock availability, to allow for appropriate diversity and numbers.

Fields said, “We are interested in collaborating with the municipality to organize a community event and volunteer opportunities for this project. Maintenance and monitoring of the trees will occur over a period of two years, including summer watering if required.”

The only request to council is for wood chips from the municipality’s public works department, which Fields indicated would likely be unused otherwise.

Funding for this project is provided by NRCAN’s 2 Billion Trees Program and TD Friends of the Environment Fund.  

Later in the meeting, Manager of Operations Stu Moffat was granted permission to work with Trout Unlimited Canada for the revegetation project on Otter Creek in Mildmay.

A report will be brought back to council at a later date.

For more information, please contact David Fields, Program and Partnerships Development Manager, at or 519-817-8596, or visit their website at

Learn more from our blog below!

Cooling Streams Press Release

Cooling Streams Press Release

Trout Unlimited Canada Launches Cooling Streams Pilot Project Tree Planting Program to restore riparian areas across Canada. Markdale, ON – Trout Unlimited Canada, a national leader in freshwater ecosystem conservation and restoration for 50 years, announces the...

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