To reverse the decline of freshwater wildlife, we need to first understand the state of their watershed habitat.
Is there a good rate of water flow? Is the water contaminated? Are there enough bugs to support the fish and other species that rely on them?
Unfortunately, we don’t have enough information to determine overall health in 15 of Canada’s 25 watersheds. And the regions that are most commonly data deficient are often the most remote, which makes filling these gaps a difficult and costly endeavour for any one group or government.
Luckily there are groups and individuals across the country who want to act to improve watersheds. And this is the network that WWF is building under our new community-based freshwater monitoring program.
Our Watershed Reports have shown us where we need more data. And now, to close these gaps, our national community-based freshwater monitoring program will assess watershed health based on the presence or absence of benthic invertebrates. We are working with Living Lakes Canada to mobilize and train volunteers across the country to collect benthic invertebrate samples, which will then be identified using new environmental DNA (eDNA) technology pioneered by University of Guelph scientists. This
eEDNA technology unlocks the potential of volunteers by making analysis quicker and more complete. Environment and Climate Change Canada is supplying scientific and technical support.
Together with volunteers and our partners at Living Lakes Canada, University of Guelph and Environment and Climate Change Canada, and supported by Loblaw Companies Ltd, we have already collected benthic invertebrates from the Ottawa River and B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. Our new national freshwater monitoring program will expand to other data-deficient watersheds in spring of 2018.