Nature is essential to human life. We rely on the natural environment for the clean air we breathe, the clean water we drink, the food we eat, and the materials that sustain us.
A thriving natural environment requires bio-diversity – a wide range of interdependent animal, marine and plant species. The loss of one species through extinction has a ripple effect on many other species in ways that are difficult to fully understand. Maintaining biodiversity is critical to the protection, restoration and enhancement of the natural environment and to preserve the quality of life for residents. The City of Brantford’s Waterfront Master Plan has identified 15 species of plants, insects, fish, birds and animals whose survival is either threatened, endangered or of special concern.
The Grand River
The Grand River, as it meanders through Brant County, Brantford and the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory on its way to Lake Erie near Dunnville, is a dominant feature of the local landscape. It is sustained by the tributaries and creeks that flow into it and by wetlands that recharge groundwater which contribute base flow in the River.
While now used for pleasure boating and sport fishing, the Grand was once a major transportation corridor from Lake Erie into the interior of southern Ontario. Indigenous peoples have made extensive use of the Grand River for hunting, fishing, farming in its floodplains and gathering medicinal plants long its shores and nearby wetlands. This is evidenced by the numerous archaeological artefacts found along the Grand River and its tributaries, some dating back to the retreat of the Wisconsin Ice Sheet over 12,00 years ago. In the mid 19th Century, with the digging of the Mohawk Canal and before the construction of reilways, the Grand River was a major shipping route.
The reach of the Grand River, from Penman’s Dam in Paris to the Cockshutt Bridge in south Brantford, is designated as an “Exceptional Waters” by the Grand River Conservation Authority. This designation recognizes the excellent water quality, the intact valley floodplain and slope vegetation, groundwater influx, as well as scenic and recreational attributes of the Grand. Provincially significant and environmentally significant areas, such as the Whiteman’s Creek ESA, the Grand River South ESA which includes the perched fen and Davisville wetlands, and the D’Aubigny Forest ESA, all contribute to the water quality and fishery of the Grand River.
The fish resources in the Grand River include 80 confirmed species and an additional 18 probable/possible fish species. These include six species that are considered “Vulnerable” or “Threatened”. Fish were an important foodstuff for the Indigenous peoples that lived along the Grand River. Some fish species, such as the lake sturgeon, were formerly plentiful along the Lower Grand River and their remains have been documented in numerous archaeological finds. Lake sturgeon are no longer fished along the Grand River although there are occasional anecdotal reports of their sighting. The Exceptional Waters designation is a community-based approach to protect, manage and restore waters of exceptional quality and productivity. The emphasis is on protection, management and restoration.
Hanging Perched Fen
Among the unique natural features is the Perched Fen Provincially Significant Wetland in northwest Brantford. The perched fen is one of only two such rare plant communities in Ontario. The perched fen includes plant communities that are typically restricted to the shorelines of the Great Lakes. The perched fen may contain remnant vegetation that existed in association with the shoreline of glacial Lake Warren, 12,000 years ago. The fen is owned by the City of Brantford.
Brantford Tufa Mounds Earth Science ANSI
Another distinctive landscape feature is the Tufa Mounds Provincially Significant Earth Science Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) also located in northwest Brantford. The tufa deposits are formed from the precipitation of calcium carbonate from ground water springs under artesian pressure. Tufa from cold water springs are considered rare in Canada. Northwest Brantford is also associated with karst topography which is formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as gypsum, limestone and dolomite and may be characterized by underground drainage, sinkholes, disappearing streams and reappearing springs. The Tufa Mounds ANSI is located on private land.