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What are coastal wetlands?

Great Lakes coastal wetlands are a unique wetland type that have formed either at the mouths of streams and rivers where they empty into the lakes, or in open or protected bays along the shoreline. These wetlands provide habitat for many endangered and threatened birds, reptiles and amphibians as well as spawning grounds for more than two-thirds of all Great Lakes fish species.

Located between the permanent, deep water of the lake and dry upland areas, coastal wetlands can contain a mix of plant communities.

Coastal Wetlands
Bowmanville Marsh
Photo: Canadian Wildlife Service

Examples of these communities include treed and thicket swamps, wet grass and sedge meadows, and emergent vegetation stands called marshes which contain plants such as cattails and bulrushes. In addition, coastal wetlands often contain interspersed pockets of open water that support submerged and floating plants such as pondweeds and water lilies.

Durham Region Coastal Wetlands
Coastal Wetlands
Male Ruddy Ducks at Cranberry Marsh
Photo: Gerry Ernest

Despite significant land-use pressures, Durham Region still has many coastal wetlands remaining compared to some other areas along the north shore of Lake Ontario.

The importance of maintaining key wetland functions and values, combined with the stresses of rapidly urbanizing watersheds and the variable water levels of Lake Ontario, make management of coastal wetlands in Durham Region a complex challenge. The first step towards determining management, restoration or enhancement possibilities is to identify the sources and levels of impacts affecting these wetlands. This is best accomplished by monitoring indicators of wetland health. While some Durham Region wetlands have already been monitored for several years, in order to clearly understand the wetland dynamics and distinguish among lake effects, regional trends and local site-specific changes, monitoring methods needed to be standardized.

The Durham Region Coastal Wetland Monitoring Project evolved to address this need. It is a multi-partnered monitoring program based on sound science. Partners benefit from shared resources and information and coordinated monitoring protocols which will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of coastal wetland health monitoring.

For more information about Coastal Wetlands monitoring in Durham Region, please contact:

Heather Pankurst
Wetland Biologist
(905) 579-0411 ext. 138

Additonal Resources

Wetland Science and Monitoring - Environment Canada
Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Fact Sheet ?Environment Canada
WetKit ?Tools for working with wetlands in Canada
Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Consortium


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