The Thames River is one of Canada’s most southern watercourses. The river and its many tributaries are rich in aquatic life, with approximately 90 species of fish, 30 species of freshwater mussels and 30 species of reptiles and amphibians.
Many of the indigenous (native) species that live in the Thames are found almost nowhere else in Canada and a number of these species are designated as species at risk (SAR), both federally and provincially. Since the Thames River is located on the northern edge of the Carolinian Zone, is connected to the great lakes, has a moderate climate, and is situated in a highly developed part of southern Ontario, the river and the species within it face many pressures from urban and rural land uses and human activities.
Species at Risk (SAR) are designated by committees federally and provincially. These committees provide annual updates to their designated SAR lists based on current assessment reports. Because of these annual reviews, the status or designation of some species may change by being upgraded to a more serious designation or, in some cases, downgraded to a lesser designation. One recent example of a positive change in designation is the change in status of the greenside darter, Etheostoma blennioides, which was delisted in 2008. Unfortunately, the spotted turtle, Clemmys guttata, was uplisted from Special Concern (1991) to Endangered in 2004, and a number of additional species have recently been listed as at risk.
Why Are These Species Important?
Most species at risk are sensitive to environmental changes. The aquatic species at risk require clean water and a healthy river to survive. If their populations are declining, it is a warning sign for the state of the river’s health.
Draft Recovery Strategy
A draft recovery strategy has been developed for the Thames River watershed in order to sustain a healthy aquatic ecosystem and encourage the long-term survival of aquatic species at risk.
The Thames River Recovery Team includes representatives from a number of government, non-government, academic and First Nations organizations. Through this diverse group of dedicated individuals we have established appropriate recovery goals and each year we continue to implement, build upon, and increase recovery activities along the Thames River.
The recovery strategy will guide activities within the Thames watershed, such as involving communities in projects that will help species recover, monitoring for changes in species populations, and raising awareness about the river’s rich aquatic life.