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Restored wetland in heart of Ottawa's Greenbelt starting to teem with life

Friday, August 16th 2019, 8:52 am - Culverts had previously been draining the land for agriculture and blocked flow of groundwater

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(Killdeer eggs, pictured above, are a sign that the wetland is improving. Submitted by Rideau Valley Conservation Authority)

A wetland restoration project in the heart of Ottawa's Greenbelt has led to an explosion of biodiversity.

Birds such as mallards, killdeer and red-winged blackbirds have returned to the area off Corkstown Road and Moodie Drive after one season of restoration work.

Fish and amphibians are also increasing in number and making the wetland home again.

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(Rideau Valley Conservation Authority aquatic biologist Jennifer Lamoureux designed the wetland's features. 'I've been pretty lucky in my job to be able to do these things, and I definitely do feel like this is a little bit of a legacy for me when I retire,' she said. Ash Abraham/CBC )

"I get really excited to see who has moved in, and who is using certain habitat types," said Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) aquatic biologist Jennifer Lamoureux, who designed the wetland's features.

Before the restoration project, the area was overrun with a monoculture of reed canary grass, with little to no biodiversity, she said.

Culverts had been draining the land for agriculture and blocked the flow of groundwater, leaving the wetland dry for most of the year.

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(A variety of bait fish like bramble head and white sucker are thriving in the restored wetland. Ash Abraham/CBC)

The Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre saw the dry wetland and voiced their concerns to the RVCA and the National Capital Commission (NCC).

"When you see a year-round decline in water levels, that's when the alarm bells come," said Lamoureux.

"It is, as they call it, 'death by a thousand cuts.' You start to see changes in vegetation, declines in diversity and invasive species moving in. That was a concern."

The RVCA worked with the NCC to build three deep wetland ponds and connect the area to a groundwater system, which allowed groundwater to flow again.

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(The RVCA conducts amphibian surveys at dusk to hear and observe frog life. Green frogs, like the one pictured above, have returned to the wetland. RVCA)

In the fall, volunteers planted more than 350 shrubs and trees around the area, and by June, biologists and RVCA staff observed major changes.

An abundance of pollinators, fish and birds, as well as some deer and muskrats, had re-established themselves.

"We've been seeing a lot of their [deer] tracks around the wetland. They use it as a watering hole," Lamoureux said.

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(The NCC, RVCA and volunteers planted more than 300 shrubs that thrive in soggy land and are good for pollinators. Ash Abraham/CBC)

Wetlands act as homes for plants, animals, birds, as well as bacteria that clean and filter water. They reduce flooding by acting like a sponge, and store carbon.

When Lamoureux visits the restored wetland, she looks in the trees to see if herons have made nests.

"It'll be nice if we end up with a few pairs of herons. If we can get them to move back here, that would be a huge win," she said.

"But it takes time. Some organisms take a little longer to move in and others are fairly quick."

The RVCA will be monitoring the wetland monthly for the next five years.

WATCH BELOW: HELPING HANDS FOR TURTLES CROSSING THE ROAD, EVEN IN THE RAIN

This article was originally published on CBC with files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning and Ash Abraham

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