Best Practices Around Online (Formerly Offline) Ponds in Urban Stream Restoration: A Waterloo, Ontario Case Study
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Monitoring successful urban stream restorations can provide guidance for best practices for restoration design. My case study was located at Critter Creek, a tributary to the Grand River, in northeast Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, where due to high flow and tight meanders, six constructed offline ponds have become connected to the main stream and are now online ponds. This project aimed to evaluate how these online (formerly offline) ponds are affecting the restoration of the stream. The majority of research on this topic has concentrated on ponds specifically constructed for stormwater management or on urban restored streams without ponds. In many restoration plans, offline ponds are proposed to compensate for cut-fill balances and/or for habitat diversity. The relationship of these offline ponds to the function and ecology of the channel has not often been assessed. Benthic macroinvertebrates were used as indicators of restoration as a proxy for water quality. Using a Surber sampler, samples were collected in the reaches of the stream upstream of the inlet and downstream of the outlet of each pond. Comparative samples were taken from waterbodies that provided a restored stream without offline ponds and a reference stream. In the laboratory, all benthic macroinvertebrates were identified to the Family level. Ecology-based metrics (EPT, functional feeding groups, etc.) and an index (Hilsenhoff FBI) were used to characterize the assemblages. The Percent Model Affinity (PMA) Method was used to determine the impairment of the streams and Mann-Whitney tests were conducted to determine if differences existed between the samples taken close to the ponds and those not close to the ponds. Those tests were also conducted to determine differences between Critter Creek and the reference and other restored stream. PMA results from monitoring from previous years indicated that Critter Creek was an impaired stream, and this research shows that the stream is still impaired with PMA values less than 33.23% for 83 of 89 samples. Mann-Whitney tests showed that the location in Critter Creek, whether it be adjacent to an online pond or not, does not have an effect on the benthic assemblages. They also indicate that the composition of the benthic assemblages in Critter Creek has not reached the same stage as those in Laurel Creek, the reference stream, or Clair Creek, the other restored stream. While the habitat and functional requirements of organisms between all three streams is similar, the water quality present in Critter Creek is much lower than in the other two streams. Further monitoring could be completed to determine the trajectory of the benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in this restoration. However, given that monitoring for the past 10 years has shown that the ecosystem integrity of Critter Creek is not improving, it is advised that action be taken now to improve the stream restoration. The concepts of urban ecology were addressed in this study and a wider-scope monitoring program could be completed to determine the impact of urbanization on the restoration of Critter Creek.