Rock Elm: A Native Species in Decline?

Carleton University third year Environmental Science students made their group project presentations last week.  One of the projects we sponsored, in partnership with the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club, was about Rock Elms (Ulmus thomasii).  The project team examined whether Rock Elm is a species in decline due to Dutch Elm Disease (DED) using data in iNaturalist.  They also reviewed the strengths and limitations of citizen science, the natural history of Rock Elm, tree species recovery programs, and the history of DED in North America.
From the data available, the team concluded that the Rock Elm mortality rate seemed better in 2017-2020 than between 2012-2016; however, they recognized the likelihood of sampling bias.  They also confirmed that the proximity to a dying or dead Rock Elm increases the likelihood that surrounding Rock Elms will also be dead or declining.
We thank the students for their excellent work demonstrating the scientific method and for highlighting the need for a Rock Elm recovery program.
Image of Rock Elm observations in Ontario.
Image of Rock Elm observations from the students’ presentation.

Learn more about Rock Elm.

Hydro Corridors – A Partnership for Community Greenspace

The Ottawa Stewardship Council continues to work on a model for sustainable maintenance, conservation, environmental stewardship, and safe public use of hydro corridors across the city.  Interest is building at Hydro One, the City of Ottawa, and communities across the city in developing a stewardship model for corridors owned by the City or Hydro One.

Information sign at Morgan's Grant hydro corridor
Information sign at the Morgan’s Grant hydro corridor.

Based on our work with the Briarbrook Morgan’s Grant Community Association in Kanata, we are learning about what is important for the community, how to better engage the City, and how to meet Hydro One’s requirements for access and clearance around towers. This collaborative approach led to Hydro One asking the OSC for advice and assistance in building links with communities where they needed to do corridor maintenance.

As a result OSC has advised several other community groups about how to work collaboratively with Hydro One staff in exploring what they can do on hydro corridors while in turn providing a positive impact on Hydro One’s maintenance practices.  The goal is to create ongoing cooperative links that will grow into active community led stewardship programs in the future.

ottawa stewardship council helping Morgan's Grant hydro corridor project.
Morgan’s Grant corridor planted with wild flowers.

Most recently OSC has been actively engaged in advising city councillors on the importance of including almost 250 kilometers of hydro corridor lands into the City of Ottawa’s greenspace management plan as well as having them identified in the City’s new Official Plan. These efforts are showing promise as the councillors with whom OSC has met are supportive of the value of recognizing corridor lands and of the need for a cooperative long-term agreement with Hydro One such that communities affected by activities on hydro corridors may take active roles in their environmental stewardship, conservation, and recreational use.

These discussions, and the involvement of an increasing number of community groups and associations who have contacted the Council and its partners, are growing.  We are encouraged by the number of individuals and groups who want to learn how stewardship can improve their impact on the ecological quality of hydro corridors and by steps being taken by City Councillors to support the initiative.

Councillors Jenna Sudds and Jean Clouthier are looking at forming a working group of community organizations and City staff that will help advise on best approaches and practices for creating a model.  The goal is for interested communities living near or adjacent to corridor lands to become engaged with Hydro One and the City in the proper care and stewardship of these significant tracts of greenspace. The Council has provided considerable input into these plans and continues to offer its assistance.

Morgan’s Grant Corridor Project Update

Morgan’s Grant has had a busy summer.  Using a second year of financial assistance from Hydro One, the Briarbrook and Morgan’s Grant Community Association hired a full time student to carry out a maintenance program in the hydro corridor this summer.

The student cleared wild parsnip from designated areas, removed a variety of noxious plants from around towers and areas where people were likely to access, and talked with visitors about the work and goals of making the corridor a community conservation area.

Wild Parsnip. (Photo G. Roy, 2020)

The student also ran a research project on the efficacy of mowing and of using chelated iron to control wild parsnip. Chelated iron is used primarily as a fertilizer but under certain conditions if it is applied in the wrong concentration can damage wide leaf plants such as wild parsnip. The tests were carried out over the summer on test plots offered by a land owner near Carp who was interested in the outcome. Although some success was observed, the general consensus was that more research needed to be done before the application of chelated iron could be considered as a means to control wild parsnip and other wide-leaf noxious plants.

Volunteers and the summer student also cleared the bases of several hydro towers of garbage, roots, and weeds to improve safety of access, increase opportunity for native species to expand and improve the general appearance of the area.  The results were clearly appreciated by Hydro One staff on their late summer tour of the corridor. Volunteer efforts like this do two important things:  they help maintain safety and security in the immediate areas around towers so that workers are less likely to be injured and they show to Hydro One and the City the potential of community stewardship as a vehicle by which these important urban environments can become healthy and safe greenspaces for the benefit of everyone.

You can find the student’s reports on controlling wild parsnip by mowing and using chelated iron here:  Morgan’s Grant Greenspace Revitalization.

The maintained area of the corridor is dominated by long grasses, native plants and flowers that support a healthy urban greenspace and pollinator meadow. The pollinator hotel donated by Hydro One is on the left. (Photo G. Roy, 2020)

2019 Events and News

5 December 2019 – Carleton University Environmental Science Projects

Carleton University third year students presented their Environmental Science group projects this week.  We sponsored two projects:

  • Pinhey Sand Dunes – record insect diversity on this unique site and make recommendations for public engagement, and
  • Carp River Restoration Site – monitor seeded and invasive plants and make recommendations for citizen science and public engagement.

The Pinhey Dunes students recorded 6 insect species, looked at lessons learned from other dune restoration projects worldwide, and developed a questionnaire and pamphlet to improve public knowledge about what makes the site ecology special.


The Carp River students recorded 19 plant species in a 350m stretch and identified three invasive species:  wild parsnip, flowering rush, and phragmites.  They also looked at five citizen science projects  and recommended a public awareness event and use of iNaturalist to promote yearly collection of data to see how the site flora change over time.

30 November 2019 – Hydro Corridor Visioning Workshop

The Briarbrook and Morgan’s Grant Community Association (BMGCA) held a workshop to engage the community in a visioning exercise for future uses of the hydro corridor, which runs 1.5 km from Old Carp Road to Terry Fox Drive.  We have been working with BMGCA, Hydro One, and the City of Ottawa for four years to support the evolution of the corridor into greenspace.  Councillor Jenna Sudds and Hydro One’s Terry Tysick also attended.  There was some discussion about how to extend Morgan’s Grant model to other publicly owned hydro corridors in Ottawa.  Read our post for more details:  Morgan’s Grant Hydro Corridor Visioning Workshop.

27 November 2019 – Join Us at the Aquatic Expo

Join us at the City’s Aquatic Expo and Wildlife Speaker Series talk by the “Fish Guy”, Dr. Steven Cooke, on Wednesday, 27 November at Ben Franklin Place at 7pm. Dr. Cooke’s talk is titled “Fish Tales: An Exploration of Ottawa’s Underwater World.” Need help with a community stewardship project? Visit our table in the foyer.

October 2019 – Petrie Island Tree Inventory Report is Now Available

The Friends of Petrie Island (FOPI) have posted the 2019 Tree Inventory Report on their web site.  Key findings:  Together Silver Maple and Basswood comprise 52% of the 443 trees surveyed.  American Elm, Butternut, and Green Ash are dying from introduced diseases.  Wire-wrapping the trees does seems to protect them from beaver damage. The largest trees on the island are Silver Maples, with four measured at over 100 cm DBH.  OSC and the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club partners with FOPI to conduct the inventory, which will continue next year.

September 2019 – 2019 Carleton University Projects

This year we are sponsoring two projects for Carleton University’s third year Environmental Science students in the 2019 fall semester:

  1. Carp River Restoration Site Monitoring of Seeded and Invasive Plants – in partnership with Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, and
  2. Pinhey Sand Dunes Project – in partnership with Biodiversity Conservancy International.

For the Carp River project, students are conducting a survey of the site along its pathways to record the distribution of species that were seeded as part of the restoration.  Students are also recording the location of invasive species such as Phragmites and Flowering Rush.  The information can be used to measure the success of seeded species and to mobilize volunteers to remove invasive species.  Students are using iNaturalist to record and map their observations.

For the Pinhey Dunes project, students are assisting scientists by recording the insect prey of robber flies within the dune complex.  They are also researching other examples of dune restoration and of public engagement in ecological restoration.

17 and 18 August 2019 – 400 Trees Recorded in Petrie Island Tree Inventory

The Friends of Petrie Island, in partnership with the Ottawa Stewardship Council (OSC) and Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club (OFNC), conducted a tree inventory on 17 and 18 August.  Petrie Island is known for its biodiversity and Hackberry trees, which are at the northern extent of their range and uncommon in the Ottawa area.  The inventory information (e.g. species, diameter, health status) will be used to develop a forest management plan for the island. Invasive species locations were also recorded. Now volunteers will enter the information into a spreadsheet so that the data can be analyzed and uploaded to iNaturalist. Another inventory is planned for next year.  For more information see Friends of Petrie Island.

14 July 2019 – Carp River Living Classroom

OSC is working with the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) and Friends of the Carp River to support development of a wetland education program at the Carp River restoration site in Kanata.  The Carp River Living Classroom will have many education elements, but one will be a mobile app called EcoTrekr, which is aimed at families and children in elementary/middle school.  On 14 July, the EcoTrekr development team ran a focus test on an early version of the app to gather feedback from users that will be used to improve the user experience.  MVCA will be posting more information about the Living Classroom and EcoTrekr as development of the site’s education elements progress.

June 2019 – Bee Hotel at Pinhey Dunes Hydro Corridor

This week Hydro One and the scientists working to restore the Pinhey Dunes installed a bee hotel beside the area’s hydro corridor near Slack Road. Last year OSC connected Hydro One with the research team to ensure that the corridor maintenance clearing was done without impact to the fragile dunes. Thank you to Hydro One for working with the community and funding the bee hotel.

For more information about the Biodiversity Conservancy research project, see Saving a Threatened Ottawa Sand Dune Complex.

11 May 2019 – Butternut Tree Planting

With the help of local residents, we planted 20 Butternuts yesterday at Kanata Lakes in areas cleared of dead Ash trees. The trees come from the Butternut Recovery Program and are grown using seeds from canker-resistant trees. Special thanks to Marilyn Poirier for organizing the volunteers.


6 April 2019 – Morgan’s Grant Hydro Corridor Community Green Space Revitalization

OSC continues to work with the Briarbrook and Morgan’s Grant Community Association to develop ideas for the hydro corridor that runs through their community. On April 6, about 35 local residents attended a facilitated meeting to discuss how this under-utilized 2 kilometer long green space could be used to benefit the community. The OSC and City of Ottawa made presentations.  You can read more about this project here:  Morgan’s Grant Green Space Restoration.

January 2019 – Pollinator Project Blog

Hillary Hale has generously allowed us to publish her blog. You can read it here: Morgan’s Grant hydro corridor: vacant land or abundant potential for nature and community?  Hillary was a student in the 2018 Environmental Science group project course at Carleton University. Her group’s project was Pollinators in an Urban Meadow, which studied the Morgan’s Grant hydro corridor in partnership with Briarbrook Brookside and Morgan’s Grant Community Association.