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Environmental Monitoring

Protecting soil, water, and living things is the goal of the guiding Conservation Strategy document which was created by a diverse group of people, from all walks of life, from the watershed community.

Monitoring was one of the actions the community asked Ausable Bayfield Conservation to continue.
Visit our Conservation Strategy page.

For more on Environmental Monitoring visit these links:

For information on the Ausable River Action Plan (ARAP), which builds upon the former Ausable River Recovery Strategy, scroll down:

Ausable River Action Plan (ARAP)
Ausable River is home to many important fish, mussel species; Ausable River Action Plan prepared to help protect these aquatic animals

The Ausable River supports one of the most diverse communities of aquatic animals in Canada.

At least 26 species of freshwater mussels and 85 species of fish have been found in this watershed.

Seven of the eight turtle species in Ontario are in the Ausable River watershed.

Many aquatic species in this watershed are assessed as Endangered, Threatened, or of Special Concern. 

There are several threats to the survival and recovery of aquatic species at risk in the Ausable River. Low oxygen concentrations, nutrient enrichment, sediment loads, and invasive species are some of the factors that can impact their populations.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has approved an Action Plan for the Ausable River in Canada: An Ecosystem Approach.

Find out more at this link:

The Ausable River Action Plan is an update of the Ausable River Recovery Strategy developed by the Ausable River Recovery Team in 2002.

“Project partners have completed hundreds of stewardship and monitoring projects, since 2002, in this nationally important area,” said Kari Jean, Aquatic Biologist with Ausable Bayfield Conservation. “More work is needed and the Action Plan provides strategies for continued work to protect and improve habitat around the Ausable River.” 

The Ausable River Action Plan applies to the Ausable River Watershed, including its tributaries and wetland habitats. The Action Plan identifies critical habitat – crucial areas that are vital to the survival and recovery of these important species at risk and where work is needed.

The updated Action Plan includes timelines to complete recommended actions categorized as high, medium, and low. Recommended actions for species recovery include monitoring of species and habitat; increasing awareness of species at risk through education and outreach; and completing best management practices (BMPs). These best practices include riparian buffers; non-riparian erosion control; and protection and enhancement of natural areas including wetlands.

The Ausable River watershed supports critical habitat needed for aquatic species at risk. Three freshwater mussels (Kidneyshell; Northern Riffleshell; and Snuffbox) and three fish species (Eastern Sand Darter; Lake Chubsucker; and Pugnose Shiner) are the focus of the plan. The new action plan provides actions to protect these species.

The Ausable River Recovery Team (ARRT) is made up of watershed landowners and staff from Ausable Bayfield Conservation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and local municipalities. Project partners began to take new conservation actions, starting in 2002, as part of the original Ausable River Recovery Strategy. The participants in this work completed voluntary stewardship activities to reduce sediment and nutrient inputs in the Ausable River watershed. Agencies also led management, monitoring, and education actions to reduce threats to species at risk. A new Action Plan guides these partners in their future work to protect species at risk in the Ausable River.

To find out more, you are invited to download a free, new local fact sheet, produced by Ausable Bayfield Conservation, on the Ausable River Recovery web page at at this link: 

For the Ausable River Recovery Strategy visit this link:

Issued: March 30, 2020:

Canada approves action plan for Ausable River
Ausable Bayfield Conservation staff to help local communities take plan actions that protect nationally important fish, mussel species

Canada has approved a new action plan to protect important species in the Ausable River watershed. The Ausable River Action Plan was posted to Canada’s species at risk public registry on March 3, 2020 following public consultation. 

The new plan identifies areas of critical habitat, which are areas with features that are needed for endangered or threatened species to survive and thrive. The plan recommends best land management practices for urban, rural and agricultural areas; monitoring of species and habitat; and education and outreach. The plan also highlights erosion control and protection and enhancement of natural areas. Staff members of Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) will be working with communities and landowners to put the plan into action, with federal funding support.

“We’re already doing some great things with our communities and this will sustain the momentum of positive actions that are taking place in the watershed,” said Kari Jean, ABCA Aquatic Biologist. To prevent the potential spread of COVID-19, ABCA staff are postponing site visits but they are available by phone and email to work with participating landowners on planning and implementing potential projects. 

The Ausable River supports one of Canada’s most diverse communities of aquatic animals, including 26 species of freshwater mussels and 85 species of fish. Many species are endangered or threatened.

To find out more about the approved Action plan for the Ausable River in Canada: an ecosystem approach, visit this web page: 

If you live in the Ausable River watershed, and you would like to find out about actions you can take to improve habitat for local aquatic species and funding grants that may be available as incentives to help you do stewardship projects, you may call Ausable Bayfield Conservation at 1-888-286-2610 or email

– This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada. Ce projet a été realisé avec l'appui financier du gouvernement du Canada

Ausable River Recovery Strategy - Monitoring and Surveys - 2002 - 2008:

The Ausable River Recovery Team (ARRT) and Ausable Bayfield Conservation

species at risk logo

Since 2002, the Ausable River Recovery Team (ARRT) and  Ausable Bayfield Conservation have been researching and monitoring the species at risk in the Ausable River.  Find out more about this important work please see below.

2008 – Identification of Critical Habitat for Species at Risk in the Ausable River

Mari and Angela

Sampling for fishes (2004, 2007) and mussels (2006) in the Ausable River watershed, as well as an aquatic habitat inventory in 2005, has provided a better understanding of Species at Risk (SAR) presence and abundance in relation to available habitat throughout the watershed. However, critical habitat has yet to be identified.  The overall objective of this study is to identify critical habitat for all Endangered and Threatened fishes and mussels in the Ausable River - using an ecosystem approach.

Part of this study will help to fill gaps in sampling data - particularly for Snuffbox in the lower river and Black Redhorse in the upper watershed (Black Redhorse were detected at two sites within the Ausable River main channel for the first time in 2007). The Ausable River Recovery Team (ARRT) believes that the identification of critical habitat is an important next step in advancing the Ausable River recovery program and will make a concrete contribution to species recovery.

2007 – Targeted Surveys for Fish Species at Risk in the Ausable River

Recent sampling efforts for fishes throughout the watershed have provided a better understanding of the distributions of some SAR, while others remain largely unknown.  The main objectives of this project were to: define the current distribution and abundance of Black Redhorse in the Ausable River, determine if the Eastern Sand Darter is extant in the Ausable River, define the current distribution and abundance of Pugnose Shiner and Lake Chubsucker within L Lake (historic oxbow of the Ausable River, similar to Old Ausable Channel), and summarize the differences in habitat characteristics of occupied and unoccupied sites for each of the SAR fishes.  Project members surveyed the threatened or endangered fish using targeted, species-specific sampling methods.    


2007 – Old Ausable Channel Long-Term Management Plan and Implementation

The Old Ausable Channel, near Grand Bend Ontario, is a unique feature in the southern Ontario landscape.  It is a disconnected portion of the Ausable River, and is recognized as an ecosystem gem.  It provides essential habitat for many species at risk, including three fishes: pugnose shiner; lake chubsucker; and grass pickerel.  The watershed is also home to many other rare and interesting flora and fauna: including a globally significant oak savanna ecosystem on its shores. The watershed contains a human residential area, with approximately 700 homes, just south of Grand Bend. In 2006, the Grand Bend community and the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority embarked on a planning process to develop a long-term management strategy for the Old Ausable Channel.

This management plan completed for the Old Ausable Channel watershed documents the current status of the physical, biological and economic characteristics of this area. The management plan outlines approaches designed to protect and enhance the Old Ausable Channel for the following components: hydrology; attributes of succession; water quality; aquatic and terrestrial flora and fauna; tourism; recreation; and land use and development.  Visit the Friends of the Old Ausable Channel website to learn more and view the management plan.

Photo: S. Staton, DFO

2006 – Ausable River Mussel Monitoring Project

In 2005, the ARRT developed an Aquatic Ecosystem Recovery Strategy.  This report highlights a freshwater mussel monitoring program, a program that has been a main priority for the ARRT since its inception in 2002.  In 2006, abundance, distribution, population demographic, and habitat requirements for freshwater mussels were collected at seven locations in the Ausable River.  The 2006 monitoring survey found 3043 live mussels, from 23 species.  Overall, the freshwater mussel community in the Ausable River was dominated by four common species which represented approximately 75 per cent of the relative abundance. 

Representatives of the six Species at Risk (SAR) mussels: Northern Riffleshell, Snuffbox, Wavy-rayed Lampmussel, Kidneyshell, Mapleleaf, and Rainbow were found throughout the Ausable River, with a site near Ailsa Craig having the greatest abundance of SAR and also having the greatest abundance of mussels and the highest species diversity score.  Data collected during this monitoring program will help the ARRT identify critical habitat for mussel SAR, direct recovery actions where they are needed, and track the mussel species' response to these actions. 

2005 – Ausable River Aquatic Habitat Assessment

In the summer and fall of 2005, ABCA staff conducted habitat assessments within the high priority zone where endangered and threatened fishes and mussels have been found in the Ausable River watershed.  Habitat assessments were carried out in the Ausable River for a consecutive stretch starting near Exeter and finishing at the Ausable River Cut.  Habitat assessments were also conducted on the Little Ausable River, a tributary of the Ausable River, starting near the village of Clandeboye and continuing downstream to the mouth of the Little Ausable. Habitat characteristics, such as river morphology, substrate type and turbidity were documented.  Habitat characterization and assessment helped to identify the areas in the river that meet the general requirements of the six target species at risk. Data collected from this assessment highlighted previously un-sampled areas with the appropriate conditions for the six target SAR. This project will help to identify critical habitat for Ausable River SAR.

Click here to download this report in PDF format.

2004 – Ausable River Fisheries Survey Report

This survey was conducted during the summer and fall of 2004 and examined the fish communities and in-stream habitat characteristics of the Ausable River.  Fisheries information was collected using seining, backpack and boat electrofishing.  Habitat characteristics, including total suspended solids and substrate particle size, and were surveyed to complement the fisheries information.  These surveys were intended to identify habitat variables that affect fish community structure and to locate four Ausable River species at risk, including the Black Redhorse, River Redhorse, Eastern Sand Darter, and Greenside Darter. 

Click here to download this report in PDF format and learn more about the fisheries survey!

2003 – Ausable River Synthesis of Background Information


The Ausable River is one of the most biologically diverse basins of its size in Canada.  The aquatic community of the Ausable River includes 16 species listed as at risk by COSEWIC: six fishes, six mussels, and three aquatic reptiles.  Several of these species at risk are declining within the basin and recovery actions are required.  This synthesis of background information formed the basis for a recovery strategy for aquatic species at risk in the Ausable River basin.  The primary objective of this synthesis was to relate the known physical and chemical characteristics of the Ausable River to trends in abundance and distribution of
mussels COSEWIC-listed species.  Recommendations focused on four main areas: research and monitoring, stewardship/ habitat improvement, management, and public awareness.

Click here to download this report in PDF format.

2002 – Ausable River Recovery Strategy

The Ausable River Recovery Strategy (ARRS) employs an ecosystem approach that addresses the threats facedriver

by several SAR within the watershed and will benefit the aquatic community in general.  The Recovery Strategy is organized in three parts: 1) goals and approaches for overall ecosystem recovery, 2) goals and approaches for the three taxa groups (mussels, fishes and reptiles) and 3) species-specific information summaries for each of the 14 COSEWIC-listed species.

The long-term goal of the Recovery Strategy is to sustain a healthy native aquatic community in the Ausable River through an ecosystem approach that focuses on SAR.  The short-term recovery objectives to be addressed over the next five years


include: improve water and aquatic habitat quality through actions that mitigate identified threats to species at risk, establish a monitoring program to assess trends in the aquatic community and in the environment in order to determine change over time, and clarify and assess the relative significance of identified threats and recommend appropriate mitigation measures.  Click here to download this report in PDF format.

For information on clean water grants, visit our forestry and land stewardship page