My point here is that the Oldman River page, the Dams, Thermal Research page, the Nutrients research page, the Rare Species Page, and others, is not that everyone should be concerned about tiny river bugs, but rather that if we are destroying this biodiversity and ecological habitat, it indicates what we are doing to ourselves and to our envirnonment. The Laws page is an indication about the attitude of Canadian society in general about biodiversity, natural systems, and the environment.
We are told (http://www.usask.ca/water/) that in Saskatchewan we are spending millions of dollars of your tax money to hire dozens of world class experts and support hundreds of students in our "center of excellence" to understand and protect our water environments. Sadly it is impossible to get detailed and relevant information about the polluted and plundered river in our own backyard.
Given information on Environmental Laws in Canada, examples such as the Mystery of St. Louis, and the associated lack of information even when freedom of information processes are used, (see Home). given the strange processes that are now being used in the new dam decisions at the confluence of the North and South Saskatchean Rivers (see Home), given the metal refining plant near Langham and the lack of information about it (see Home), and the lack of proper processes for the Oldman Dam in Alberta, , etc, and also given the boasting and huge budgets mentioned on http://www.usask.ca/water/ , should we not expect and even demand transparency, results, facts, relevance, and productivity from these institutions, labs, and exceedingly talented scientists?
Concepts related specifically to flowing water habitats:
Stream Continuum Concepts and the Saskatchewan River.
Ecologically, it is possible to think of a river system, from source in highlands or mountains to the mouth at a lake or the ocean, as a long food processing assembly line, and the original organic material is almost entirely from outside sources (allochthonous) such as fallen leaves or branches of trees in contrast to the growth of leafy plant or algae -primary production -produced inside the system, -as is the usual case in lakes (autochthonous). Organic materials start as large and solid objects such as leaves or stems, and these undergo progressive degradation, fragmentation, and processing (Vannote et. al. 1980).
To discuss further, course and intact leaves and other material are especially abundant in the mountain headwaters, and such streams are classified as Order 1, 2, or 3 streams (Vannote et. al. 1980, above). These upstream areas are typically characterized by an insect community of about 40% shredders, representing various Families and Orders, with large and heavy mandibles or other means of reducing the solid organic materials to fragments. Along with the 40% shredders in the upstream community, the community may consist of nearly 50% collectors that feed by filtering with nets or other devices. Finally, there may be about 15 % predators and grazers.
Going downstream half way from the source to the mouth of the river (classified as Order 5 and 6 streams), the shredders may be reduced from 40 % to about 5 % . Shredders are replaced by grazers, that may increase from 10 % to 40 %. The number of collectors usually remains at more than 40%. This is explained by the fact that there are more fine fragments, there is more light and the water is warmer, the shredders and gougers which are abundant upstream in Orders 1-3 streams find less material to process, and thus this group declines. Fine particles, diatoms and algal growth become more abundant, and thus the change in dominance. There will probably be a major change in species composition and community dominance, but the number of species will probably be very large in both the headwater and mid-Order streams..
In the far downstream portions of the river or stream (Order 11 or 12 of Vannote et. al. 1980) , depositional areas of mud will be abundant and there will possibly be even planktonic growth in addition to the particles and bacteria that have been processed and are arriving from upstream. The downstream area would typically be characterized by burrowers in mud and filter feeders, and these collectors might make up as much as 90% of the community. There would be a great reduction in the number of gatherers, scrapers, and gougers. The diversity in these areas near the mouth may be low compared to upstream. Especially species of Plecoptera, Ephemeroptera, and Trichoptera cannot survive here. They may be replaced by Chironomidae and non insect species such as clams and annelids (in addition to Vannote et. al. 1980, see for example Smith and Smith 2001 for more explanation),.
In this river continuum method of analysis, the Saskatchewan River is mid-stream, with a large diversity of collectors and grazers, such this probably explains the many species of Baetids, Heptagennids, and Hydropsychids, plus many river Chironomidae, and others. A variety of predators is also present, as are burrowers such as Ephemerids in the depositional areas. As a results, the insect communities in Canadian prairie rivers are as a whole, very diverse, with many unusual species that are rarely found elsewhere.
To be added:
Physical and Chemical Features
Detrital and Grazing Systems, Allochthonous vs. Autochtonous
River Continuum Concept (RCC)
What are the significant Physical and Chemical Features of Riversin general?
Whereas small streams and ponds may be unstable, dynamic, perhaps dry seasonally, and subject to solid freezing in the winter, all features that can be lethal to many species, rivers in contrast typically provide a large, reliable, constant water flow in at least some portion of the channel for the entire year, and this habitat is available even at times of low water or extreme cold.
This water is normally always well oxygenated, and natural rivers are typically free of noxious gases, toxins, or stressing levels of heavy metals or other pollutants. Rivers are often well buffered by calcium and other minerals from the surrounding soils, and are usually basic to neutral in pH (in west and central North America). River organisms are not adapted to low oxygen conditions, they are sensitive to toxins and organic pollution, and they do not experience drastic changes in water chemistry. The river community contains many sensitive species, which can serve as very good indicators of water quality and pollution.
Some local details are that in the case of the Saskatchewan River, some unusual species (Rare and Endangered Species) thrive in the relatively large Battle River, but they are not in. The Torch and other medium sized rivers. These should be studied more. In the case of the numerous ponds in the region, overlap between ponds and the river is almost nil (possibly some Chironomidae,incidental Trichoptera, etc. can inhabit both).
Ecologcal and Distributional Significance
The above is significant in answering the question of whether rare and unusual species can escape from pollution in the Main River by inhabiting and surviving in tributary streams or even nearby ponds. The data show that the answer is no, and there are reasons. Samples from small branch steams the Little Red River, at Prince Albert entering the river show that river species do not inhabit tributary streams, and stream species do not live in the river. This is because the river is a special habitat, different in significant physical and chemical ways from the surrounding habitats, to be discussed in detail below.