Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
July 20, 2001
U of G Researchers explore use of aggregate ponds as fish habitat
A University of Guelph graduate student and professor have teamed up with local businesses to study the use of aggregate ponds as new fish habitat.
“There are hundreds of these aggregate ponds in southern Ontario,” said Lisa Guenther, a zoology master’s student who is working on the project with Prof. Gerald Mackie. “A lot of people look at these sites and just see big holes in the ground, but they can actually be very useful and productive lands.” The two researchers approached Dufferin Aggregates, Nelson Aggregates and Blue Circle Canada, which agreed to co-fund the research and are providing access to their properties. The zoologists also received funding from a collaborative research and development grant from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Guenther and Mackie are studying the aquatic habitat in the aggregate pits and quarries. After extraction of sand and gravel is complete, many pits and quarries fill with water from ground and surface sources. “What we are finding is that once the plants, bugs and other aquatic life have a chance to develop, fish populations start moving in,” Guenther said. “But little is known about the kinds and abundance of fish the ponds will support or how many.” The researchers plan to examine the natural conditions and the rate of ecological “succession” in aggregate ponds and evaluate the areas as new fish habitat.
They have completed the first phase of the two-year project, studying eight aggregate ponds in 2000 and adding seven more in 2001. “We want to collect two years’ worth of data before we begin any analysis,” Guenther said, adding they are studying the age, size and depth of ponds, as well as the fish habitats that congregate in these ponds naturally. The 15 ponds Guenther is studying range in age from one year to 25 years, and different types of ponds and quarries can support species such as largemouth bass, rainbow trout, yellow perch and possibly walleye, she said.
Under the Aggregate Resources Act, companies must rehabilitate their properties after extraction is complete. “This study will increase our understanding of the beneficial after-uses of these areas and help demonstrate that resource extraction can be consistent with sustainable development,” Guenther said. The aggregate ponds may be used for recreation, as landscape features, for aquaculture and even for fish farming.
“As the fish populate these ponds, they could provide new opportunities for the sport fishing industry,” she said. “New aquatic habitat also has great potential for increasing the biological diversity and aesthetic value of land.”
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