the Biological Survey
About the Canadian Fauna
Springs are the points of issue of groundwater, an important storage element little studied in Canada. Many springs are very vulnerable because of their potential for recreational development (spas), water-bottling sites and stock watering holes. Some type localities for organisms have already been destroyed. Existing government policy in Canada provides little protection to groundwater despite its increasing use and contamination from a variety of anthropogenic sources. Biomonitoring of spring-dwelling organisms is suggested as a practical method of assessing groundwater quality and the history of individual aquifers.
The Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods) urges that guidelines be drawn up for the protection of springs from industrial, urban and agricultural pressures. It recommends that an inventory be made to identify rare and regionally characteristic Canadian spring types and their biota which should then be protected as part of our biological heritage.
LES SOURCES D'EAU DOUCE: NOTRE PATRIMOINE NATIONAL
Les sources sont les points de sortie des eaux souterraines, important élément de stockage des eaux peu étudié au Canada. De nombreuses sources sont très vulnérables a cause du potentiel qu'elles offrent du point de vue récréatif (spas), commercial (mise en bouteille) et agricole (abreuvement du bétail). Certains milieux types on ainsi déjà été perdus. En effet, les politiques en vigeur au Canada protègent peu les eaux souterraines malgré leur exploitation accrue et bien qu'elles soient de plus en plus contaminées par diverses sources anthropiques. On suggère ici d'exercer une surveillance biologique des organismes présents dans les sources comme moyen pratique pour évaluer la qualité des eaux souterraines et établir l'historique de chaque aquifères.
La Commission biologique du Canada (Arthropodes terrestres) réclame l'établissement de directives pour protéger les sources soumises aux pressions des secteurs industriels, urbains et agricoles. Elle recommande de dresser un inventaire des sources pour déterminer les types de sources rares et caractéristiques des régions du Canada ainsi que leur biote, et pour les protéger par la suite à titre de patrimoine biologique.
Spring faunas provide unique information on endemism and zoogeography and, specifically for Canada, post-Pleistocene colonization patterns. Springs are habitats where relict species of these former times have endured, protected from large oscillations in climate (Hynes 1970). Mucronothrus nasalis, for example, is a small, spring-dwelling, oribatid mite previously unknown in Canada but which has an ancient lineage pre-dating the breakup of the supercontinent Pangea. A relatively unchanging genome, unspecialized feeding habits and long generation time combined with the cold, stable environment of springs may have allowed this species to endure through 200 million years (Norton et al. 1988). An ostracod genus, Mixtacandona (Klie 1938), similarly has been recorded for the first time in North America from a Canadian spring (L.C. Taylor pers. comm). Springs hold a position of importance as study areas that is far out of proportion to their size and number. A spring is, as Odum (1971) stated, "the aquatic ecologist's natural constant temperature laboratory because of the relative constancy of the chemical composition, velocity of water and temperature."
Some random collections of specific taxa from springs exist in the general holdings of national or regional museums. However, these collections seldom have sufficient accompanying habitat descriptions to make them useful except in an introductory capacity. Compared with many other aquatic habitats, the biological characteristics of Canadian springs still are relatively unknown.
In 1982, the Scientific Committee of the Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods) identified cold and warm water springs as containing animal communities worthy of special study. The subsequent "Springs Project" aimed, in the long-term, to further knowledge of the systematics, distribution and general ecology of invertebrates, particularly insects, from these widespread but little known aquatic habitats (Williams 1983). The Springs Project, which is an ongoing activity of the Survey, is particularly interested in intensive study of regionally characteristic spring types which might lead to an understanding of variation in life cycles, community dynamics, trophic bases, dispersal mechanisms, effects of past environmental changes and other primary scientific features unique to the faunas of these habitats. To aid interested researchers, the Survey has recently produced an introductory bibliography on spring habitats and their faunas (Williams and Smith 1990). A preliminary scientific treatment of some features of interest is in preparation, based on a recent symposium held in Canada (Williams and Danks [Eds], in prep.), and an inventory of study sites has been initiated.
Many springs are very vulnerable because of their potential for recreational development (spas), water-bottling sites and stock watering holes. In addition, springs in forests can be seriously damaged by skidders during logging. In some cases, damage is so severe that, in the west, type localities of insects have been destroyed by cattle (D.J. Larson, pers. comm.). However, many of these local impacts can be offset simply by protecting the immediate source area (e.g. by fencing), thus confining disturbances to areas below the source.
Ischnura damula a damselfly mainly of the southwestern U.S., occurs in Canada only in the Liard River hotsprings, B.C. where it is a relict of the warm era 5-6,000 years ago when it was more widespread. This habitat has been significantly modified for bathers and currently the whole area is threatened with flooding from a proposed dam on the Liard River (R.A. Cannings unpub. information). Apart from these forms of destruction, the water itself is altered as groundwaters become contaminated from various anthropogenic sources.
Potential for Monitoring Underground Quality
Groundwater contamination can render water unfit for use and
many people in New Brunswick and elsewhere have already suffered from contamination
of wells (Pupp 1985, Edgett and Coon 1986). Contaminants may migrate along
subsurface paths, many of which emerge at the surface as springs before flowing into
streams, lakes or wetlands. Some causes of contamination are localized while others, such
as acid rain, may be widespread (K. Henderson and K.W.F. Howard, The sensitivity of North
American groundwaters to the effects of acid deposition. in prep.). Generally, however,
the extent of contamination of Canada's groundwater is unknown.
The Survey recommends:
Several groups and individuals should take responsibility to implement these recommendations. Federal and Provincial Governments should carry out inventories of springs, survey their physical and biological characteristics and implement appropriate legislation. Natural history and other societies should raise public awareness about the value of springs, and should identify individual springs at risk and take initiatives to protect them. Individuals should express their concerns, provide information about habitats known to them and support governments and societies seeking to preserve sites of interest. Landowners should ensure that any endangered sources under their control are protected.
La Commission recommande:
Plusieurs groupes et particuliers devraient prendre sur eux d'appliquer ces recommandations. Les gouvernements fédéral et provinciaux devraient dresser des inventaires des sources, faire le relevé de leurs caractéristiques physiques et biologiques et adopter les lois qui simposent. Les sociétés d'histoire naturelle et autres devraient sensibiliser la population à la valeur des sources; elles devraient également déterminer les sources menacées et prendre des mesures pour les protéger. Les particuliers devraient manifester leur inquiétude, donner les informations sur les habitats qu'ils connaissent et appuyer les gouvernements et les sociétés qui cherchent à sauvegarder les sites interessants. Les propriétaires fonciers devraient voir à protéger tout source menacée qui se trouve sur leurs terrains.
Beak Consultants Limited. 1986. Groundwater contamination in Canada: selected cases, potential sources and protection strategy. Final report, DDS File No. 5255. #Ke145- 50138. (Available from Environment Canada, Hull, Quebec).
Cherry, J.A. 1987. Groundwater occurrence and contamination in Canada. pp. 387-426 In: Canadian Aquatic Resources (M.C. Healey and R.R. Wallace, eds) Can. Bull. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 215.
Edgett, J. and D. Coon. 1986. Petroleum on tap: the legacy of leaking underground storage tanks. Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B. 45 pp.
Elworthy, R.T. 1918. Mineral springs of Canada, Part II, The chemical character of some Canadian springs. Can. Dept. Mines Bull. 20. 173 pp.
Geikie, A. 1912. The love of nature among the Romans. John Murray, London. 349 pp.
Hess, P.J. 1986. Groundwater use in Canada, 1981. Inland Waters Directorate Bull. No. 140. Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 43 pp.
Hynes, H.B.N. 1970. The ecology of running waters. Liverpool Univ. Press, Liverpool 555 pp.
Klie, W. 1939. Ostracoden aus dem Grundwasser der oberrheinischen Tiefebere. Arch. Naturgesch. 7: 1-28.
Norton, R.A., D.D. Williams, I.D. Hogg and S.C. Palmer. 1988. Biology of the oribatid mite Mucronothrus nasalis (Acari: Oribatida: Trhypochthoniidae) from a small coldwater springbrook in eastern Canada. Can. J. Zool. 66: 622-629.
Pupp, C. 1985. An assessment of ground water contamination in Canada, Part I. (Available from Environmental Interpretation Division, Environment Canada, Hull, P.Q.)
Odum, E.P. 1971. Fundamentals of ecology. 3rd Edition. W.B. Saunders, Toronto. 574 pp.
Pearse, P.H., F. Bertrand, and J.W. MacLaren. 1985. Currents of change. Final Report. Inquiry on Federal Water Policy, Ottawa, Canada. 222 pp.
van Everdingen, R.O. 1970. Seasonal variations, Sulphur Mountain Hot Springs, Banff, Alberta. Inland Waters Branch, Dept. Energy, Mines, Resources, Can., Tech. Bull. 33. 11 pp.
Williams, D.D. 1983. National survey of freshwater springs. Bull. ent. Soc. Can. 15 (1): 30-34.
Williams, D.D. and I.M. Smith. 1990. Spring habitats and their faunas: an introductory bibliography. Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods), Ottawa. Biol. Surv. Can. Doc. Ser. no. 4.
This brief was prepared by a subcommittee (D.D. Williams, H.V. Danks, I.M. Smith, R.A. Ring and R.A. Cannings) on behalf of the Biological Survey of Canada.
Published by The Entomological Society of Canada. Supplement to the Bulletin, Vol. 22(1) March, 1990