Low Impact Development

Low Impact Development (LID) includes planning and engineering measures to manage rainwater in urban areas. These measures are an important means to mitigate changes to the natural hydrologic regime upon which streams and wetlands depend and to provide recharge necessary to sustain groundwater dependent ecosystems. The LID research is advancing design and maintenance practices for infiltration-type measures, including permeable pavement and bioretention, as well as advancing modeling to better link the effects of urban water resources management and ecosystem needs.

Kortright Centre for Conservation Permeable Pavement Research.

IMAX Headquarters Innovative Stormwater Management.

Ecological Flow Assessment

The research in environmental flows is developing processes and techniques to quantify the water (timing, duration and frequency of various water conditions) needed by streams and wetlands to sustain (or restore) ecological functions.  A framework for determining ecological flows and water levels has been developed and recent research has involved testing, refining and extending the framework (e.g. Lover’s Creek Subwatershed within the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority jurisdiction). Research has examined tools to quantify flows to sustain critical geomorphic processes, connectivity and thermal regimes and refugia. 

Wetland Water Needs

Efforts are also being made to better understand the ecohydrological requirements of wetlands in Southern Ontario. Long-term studies in collaboration with Toronto and Region Conservation Authority have recently been initiated. In addition to research to further the understanding of ecological responses to hydrologic changes, work is also focused on advancing practices to predict hydrologic changes. A forensic analysis of wetlands, recently degraded by development activities, is ongoing, but preliminary results indicate an urgent need to translate knowledge to practitioners. A wetland water balance course has been developed to convey requirements and tools for analysis of hydrologic impacts to wetlands.

Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems

In relation to the ecohydrological requirements of streams and wetlands, current work is emphasizing the groundwater dependencies of these ecosystems. Even where groundwater makes a relatively small contribution to the quantity of water, it may be critical to the thermal regime, water quality and/or timing of availability. In addition, to gaining understanding of the dependencies, a conjunctive (groundwater – surface water) modeling project is advancing modeling approaches to better predict the effects of development and/or management activities on the surface and subsurface hydrologic regimes at spatial and temporal scales of ecological relevance.