Habitat Virtual Workshop

The Ottawa Biosphere Eco-City (OBEC) Initiative organizes public workshops to share information and ideas on its 10 Themes of Sustainability.

This workshop on the Theme of Habitat took place on 28 October 2017 at a notable sustainable residence, Beaver Barracks, at 464 Metcalfe Street in Ottawa. After the introduction, there were five main speakers on different aspects of Ottawa’s Habitat.



Jim Birtch is founder and Chair of the Ottawa Biosphere Eco-City (OBEC). He quickly explained how OBEC is working to create a culture of sustainability in Ottawa through engagement and cooperation.

OBEC uses 10 Themes – Transportation, Energy, Design, Habitat, Food, Natural Capital, Waste, Health, Recreation and Sense of Place – that reflect all action areas of sustainability. Themes bring people together on common interests.

Presentation part of the workshop

It also uses and promotes the use of 4 Tools of Engagement:

  1. Database of Sustainability Projects – to show what others are doing;
  2. Demonstration Projects – to show methods used for sustainability;
  3. Sustainability Plan – agenda for action created by an organization;
  4. Council of Stakeholders – to share experience and coordinate action.


This workshop will help us learn about Habitat in Ottawa and discuss ways in which we can help conserve it.



Least Cost Corridor Networks

Dr. Nick Stow is Senior Planner in the Natural Systems and Environmental Protection Unit of the City of Ottawa. He showed the city’s core natural areas, noting that about one-third of Ottawa has natural cover, with most original habitat types and wildlife. There are a few exceptions, such as the Woodland Caribou.

Nick coordinates the Ottawa Stewardship Committee, which comprises the 10 key organizations that do on-the-ground conservation in Ottawa and the two local universities. He had mapped the conservation priorities of committee members to produce a map of conservation and stewardship priority lands, including source water protection. Nick had then produced a second map to show which lands had protective ownership and zoning. Next through a Natural Landscape linkage Analysis, the stewardship committee had identified natural landscape linkages and corridors to produce a 100-year Conservation and Stewardship Vision for Ottawa.


An example of the application of this vision is work done by Duck’s Unlimited (DU) in 2015 on a 600-metre stretch of the Carp River. DU constructed four wetland ponds, connected to the river, to mitigate water-level changes and protect fish and other aquatic species.


Priority Networks with Protection

City priorities for its Conservation and Stewardship Vision are:

  • Continue working with its partner organizations;
  • Improve related maps and make them more available;
  • Help partners promote the vision;
  • Create strategies to strengthen linkages, especially for watercourses.











Info on City’s environmental conservation (https://ottawa.ca/en/residents/water-and-environment/plants-and-animals)


Bryarly McEachern is a field naturalist and educator, serving as Executive Director of Earth Path in Ottawa, which educates youth, adults and teachers. She explained:

  • Biodiversity
  • How plant diversity affects animal diversity
  • Strategies for plan diversity in three common habitat types in Ottawa

Out of 85 definitions of biodiversity, Bryarly said she used the following:

“The abundance and distribution of genes, species, community assemblages, ecological processes, ecosystems, ecological components and their interactions.”

Key points on biodiversity in relation to habitat:

Horizontal Diversity in Old Growth Forest (AFER)

  • It occurs at many scales, such as regional (e.g. Ottawa) and site scales
  • Structural diversity can be vertical (e.g. from bottom to top of tree cover)
  • Or horizontal (e.g. features such as logs, shrubs along the ground)
  • Natural area (e.g. old-growth forest) is more diverse than manicured park
  • Species & genetic diversity are important even in quite small areas
  • Everything from bedrock to soil to climate affects biodiversity

Plant diversity affects animal diversity

  • Plants provide food which support animal health & development
  • Plants provide shelter and safety for animals

How to maintain biodiversity in Ottawa’s mixed hardwood forests

  1. Forest cover is down to 30% – support organizations that protect it
  2. Forest interior is core habitat – contact province or model forest about yours
  3. Maintain old-growth character – leave logs & litter, trees variety, canopy gaps
  4. Increase variety in pine plantations – make openings and plant hardwoods
  5. Eliminate invasive species – learn about them, remove them and monitor

Old Growth (AFER), Snag (Pollinators Paradise), Supercanopy Tree (AFER)

How to maintain biodiversity in Ottawa’s mixed old fields

  1. With rare plants or animals – consult province, remove most woody vegetation, flag rare plants and mow every 3-4 years in late summer
  2. With no rare plants or animals – can let it revert to forest, consult province, plant trees and remove invasive non-native plants
  3. Read Rideau Valley Conservation Authority or Nature Conservancy guides

How to maintain biodiversity in Ottawa’s backyards

  1. Grow flowers of different colours and blooming times for pollinators
  2. Do not grow invasive non-native species
  3. Diversify structure with a bare patch, a log etc. and native trees

Final point – sit on your land daily to appreciate nature in all its forms

Info on Earth Path (https://www.earthpath.ca/)



Donna DuBreuil founded the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre (OCWC) 30 years ago to rescue animals, but now educates students, municipalities and the public on habitat loss and how to protect animals.

Graham Creek, Ottawa

For the first 15 years, OCWC received 1000 animals each year, and responded to thousands of calls on wildlife issues. Then it decided to deal with the problems rather than the symptoms. OCWC now conducts workshops and establishes guidelines on dealing with wildlife and preventing problems.

Graham Creek – working with the community

  • Beavers were taking down trees and being trapped
  • Community asked for advice to develop a more sustainable and humane solution
  • OCWC educated residents about ways to coexist as well as the role beavers play in healthy ecosystems.
  • OCWC worked with the community in wrapping mature trees and planting other species that would provide food for beavers

Cornwall – working with the community

  • Citizens wanted to end beaver trapping and find a sustainable solution
  • OCWC and partners installed pond levellers to prevent flooding
  • Demonstrated a “best practice” to all municipalities

Cornwall, Ontario Volunteers

London – working with the community

London, Ontario

  • Similar beaver problem (flooding) as Cornwall
  • OCWC worked with other partners in presenting a solution to City of London
  • Led to creation of City’s Beaver Protocol, a progressive wildlife conflict policy.

What to do as an individual

  • Join a community association and discuss wildlife and habitat needs
  • Join an environmental organization to focus on wildlife
  • Form or join a small group to protect habitat in your community
  • Encourage local government to factor wildlife into development process

Final Point – Everything is connected to everything else

Must go beyond the singular focus on species at risk by embracing that all species have a critical role to play in healthy ecosystems.

Info on Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre (http://www.wildlifeinfo.ca/)



Jennifer Lamoureux is the Aquatic Ecologist of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. She described three habitat conservation projects in Ottawa and the benefits they produced.

Brewer Park Pond Restoration – Process

Structure Installation

Dewatering of Pond

  • Re-naturalize a pond converted to a swimming area in the 1960s
  • Pump out all water from pond
  • Remove 800 truckloads of fill and re-contour edges for better habitat
  • Put hydric soils on perimeter to add wetland characteristic
  • Install many logs and tree roots as habitat for turtles, fish, amphibians
  • Plant 1600 native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and aquatic plants
  • Create water inlet/outlet to the Rideau River

Brewer Park Pond Restoration – Benefits

  • Year round access for fish, with functional spawning, nursery and feeding
  • Increased muskellunge and northern pike numbers
  • Better water quality with less algae growth
  • More diverse pond vegetation
  • Improved habitat for other species – amphibians, turtles, small mammals etc.

Jock River Fish Embayment – Process

Jock River in Richmond

  • Create a bay on the Jock River in the Village of Richmond (Ottawa)
  • Design a 1000 sq. m bay with many natural habitat features
  • Remove 108 truckloads of fill from the river’s floodplain
  • Create a quiet backwater area beside the main current of the river
  • Re-grade the existing slope and plant a buffer around the perimeter
  • Use 294 volunteer hours for construction of the embayment

Jock River Fish Embayment – Benefits

  • Add wetland habitat for aquatic species
  • Enhance fish habitat for spawning, nursery, rearing and feeding
  • Improve shoreline stability
  • Improve food supply for aquatic and terrestrial species
  • Create winter and summer refuge areas for aquatic organisms

Black Rapids Creek Headwater Wetland Restoration – Process

Black Rapids Headwater Wetland

  • Double wetland size to 7000 sq. metres
  • Remove 1225 sq. metres of invasive buckthorn (shrub)
  • Plant 589 native shrubs and trees
  • Seeded shoreline and wetland with native plants
  • Install basking logs for turtles and tree roots in pond

Black Rapids Creek Headwater Wetland Restoration – Benefits

  • Increase number and type of water and upland plants
  • Improve water quality with more dissolved oxygen
  • New and improved homes for turtles, amphibians, birds, insects
  • Increased flood storage in headwaters of the creek

Final Point – These are big projects but much can be achieved through cooperation

Info on Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (https://www.rvca.ca/)



Dr. Henri Goulet is an entomologist at Agriculture and AgriFood Canada, who has worked for 33 years on the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes. He explained how herbicides are killing beetles, other insects and the birds that feed on them.

Ground Beetles

  • These are often black but may have beautiful colours
  • Of 250 species in the region, many are now rare or no longer seen

Ground Beetles that have disappeared or almost disappeared



  • Related to bees and wasps but don’t have stingers
  • Most are plant eaters, a few are parasites
  • 40 local species were reduced to 1

Sawflies that once were common



  • Includes crickets, ground beetles and spider egg parasitoids
  • Massive decline locally between 1982 and 1989
  • No population declines in Sudbury or Manitoulin Island

What is causing these declines?

Refraction Diversity – Unsprayed sites (Wakefield) much more diverse than sprayed

  • Before 1969 major crops around Ottawa were alfalfa and hay
  • After 1980 many fields were switched to corn and soybeans
  • Herbicides are sprayed to control weeds around corn
  • Ground beetle diversity is much higher in unsprayed fields
  • Organic fields near sprayed fields also lose diversity

Pesticides and Herbicides

  • Pesticides immobilize insects on the spot
  • Herbicides do not, and contaminated insects can live for days or weeks
  • They can change location and poison the food chain for long periods of time

Impact of Herbicides outside sprayed fields

  • Predators of sprayed insects or their eggs or larvae are affected
  • For one Neuroptera species (net winged insect) female reproductive rates after eating contaminated moth eggs declined to 8% of normal
  • Predators of spiders decline because they run out of spiders and eggs to eat
  • Insect eating birds have experienced a great decline in numbers too
  • Plant eating birds eat insects for protein during breeding, so they decline too
  • After the 2006-2007 temporary ban on pesticides in Ottawa and Gatineau, insect species that seemed to have disappeared were beginning to return

Final point – Contaminated insects reduce the abundance of other insects & birds

Info on Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes (http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/science-and-innovation/research-centres/ontario/ottawa-research-and-development-centre/canadian-national-collection-of-insects-arachnids-and-nematodes-cnc/?id=1270047992811)



Recommendations on Ottawa Conservation and Stewardship Vision

  • Obtain good baseline information on challenges and successes
  • Have communities engage with government on habitat conservation

Recommendations on Supporting Plant and Animal Diversity

  • Get out in nature and see what is going on
  • Connect with others – neighbours, groups – to promote diversity

Recommendations on Protecting Big and Small Spaces for Wildlife

  • Factor wildlife into road and other development projects
  • Look at best practices from other cities (e.g. Edmonton) and countries

Recommendations on Supporting Habitat Restorations

  • Create habitat partnerships and get funding
  • Engage communities in restoration projects

Recommendations on Conserving Important Insects

  • Collaborate with farming community
  • Investigate and promote alternatives to herbicides

Recommendations on Cooperative Approaches to Conserve Ottawa’s Habitat

  • Ask public to take photos of habitat and share them with social media
  • Reduce chemical use and communicate the benefits
  • Build green spaces and practices as a community
  • Support City to build conservation in policies and standards
  • Broadly share information of organizations working on habitat conservation

Alastair – MC & scribe        Table discussions

Henri’s discussion table                                Richard, Donna, Amanda (donated gifts)

Richard (team leader). Henri, Nick, Bryarly, Jennifer, Donna, Jim (OBEC Chair)



Ottawa Conservation and Stewardship Vision

Supporting Plant & Animal Diversity V2

Protecting Big and Small Spaces for Wildlife_Final

Rideau Watershed Habitat Enhancements

Herbicides Beetles and the Decline of Insects & Birds



Conservation of Habitat Workshop Report