At first glance, freshwater wetlands often do not appear to be significant or important; however, they provide vital habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals such as ducks, frogs, and cattails. Wetlands have many faces; they can range anywhere from a small roadside marsh to a large multi-hectare bog. A wetland in PEI is defined as “any area of land that is regularly covered or soaked with water for part or all of the year” (DEEF, 1998).
Wetlands develop in low-lying areas, and are often found by rivers and streams. Although ponds and their marshy areas tend to be small in size in Stratford, they are very productive ecosystems in need of protection and preservation, and are sites rich in nutrients that are covered in water throughout the year. They are inhabited by cattails, rushes and pondweeds. Swamps, fens and bogs have historically been found in abundance on Prince Edward Island, but some have been lost to development.
Most ponds on Prince Edward Island are man-made impoundments made for commercial or recreational purposes. Many ponds were created on PEI waterways to power various types of mills such as grist and saw mills. As man-made ponds can negatively impact fish passage and increase water temperatures, the future of these impoundments will be influenced by the fisheries act, regulating unobstructed fish passage. Natural ponds; however, do contain a myriad of
species, often contain rare plants, and should be repaired, maintained and protected whenever possible.
It is evident wetlands provide both food and protection for many species of wildlife. Even with a shift to an urban
environment, Stratford area watershed residents can still witness the daily activities of wood ducks, black ducks, muskrats, garter snakes, blackbirds, and blue herons. Wetlands feed and house fauna, and act as nurseries for the young of many species; “wetlands are safe places to start out life” (DEEF, 1998).
As with salt marshes, the single most serious threat to wetlands is that of infilling and commercial or residential land use. Effects of development and climate change are visually evident in ponds and streams. Siltation, increases in temperature, and declining biodiversity have all been witnessed by Stratford residents and experts alike. Anoxic events, identified by greenish discolouration of water, little or no dissolved oxygen in the water, and a strong ‘rotten egg’ smell, are becoming more common on Prince Edward Island (Province of PEI, 2008). An example of an anoxic event was recorded during the summer of 2010 in Kelly Pond at Pondside; this negatively impacted recreational use by the Red Cross Water Safety Program, as well as rendering the pond uninhabitable for wildlife.
Town of Stratford. (2011). Stratford Natural Heritage Study.