Sustainability is a key process in order to achieve a set of desired and necessary goals of

the socio-economic and natural environment (Robinson et al., 1992). In order to move

towards a more sustainable campus several important aspects must be considered. The

protection of our life support systems (air,water,soil) is a necessary characteristic for a

sustainable campus, as well as biotic diversity, and on-going rehabilitation of valuable

ecological systems.

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of the Riparian zone of Laurel Creek within the boundaries of the University of Waterloo. In doing so we hope to provide a basis for the movement towards a more ecologically and socio-economically sustainable campus which would include the following:

* improved water quality

* increased public awareness

* increased habitat diversity

* improved aesthetic value of Laurel Creek sub-watershed

* improved infiltration capacity of the Creek

It is these characteristics that provide the foundation for the project rational.


The system which we are evaluating can be described as a hierarchy in a watershed basin: the Great Lakes-St. Lawerence Basin. On a regional scale are the component parts or "watersheds" that form the basin, which in this study is the Grand River watershed. On a local scale, these watersheds can further be sub-categorized based on catchment areas, called sub-watersheds. This particular study focuses on the Laurel Creek sub-watershed. It is at this level of the system that our evaluation focuses on the effectiveness of Riparian zone management .( SEE MAP A)

The system performs several important functions including hydrological and ecological processes. These include groundwater recharge and discharge, species habitat, water filtration and hydrologic cycle maintenance. Such functions contribute positively to economic and environmental health ie. recreation, potable water supplies, irrigation, and fisheries.

The sub-watershed which we are evaluating has both spatial and functional components. Spatially, the sub-watershed is the Laurel Creek catchment area that is owned and managed by the University of Waterloo. Functionally, the sub-watershed is a synergy of the interactions of many components. These include the biota (eg.vegetation, waterfowl, buffer zone), campus infrastructure (eg.buildings, construction), management of resources (eg.physical operations), administration (eg. food services, registrars office.), education (e.g.. faculty, students). (See Figure A)

Due to the complexity of the interaction of all components of the sub-watershed, it is necessary to delineate a systems boundary. Again, the sub-watershed boundary has both a spatial, physical component (the Laurel Creek ecosystem) and functional component. With respect to the spatial component, the sub-watershed, the Laurel Creek catchment area owned by the University of Waterloo, the system boundary of the ecosystem is drawn as the Riparian zone. The Riparian zone is defined as " a permanent setback established from the shoreline or streambank which remains or is to be returned to a self sustaining vegetative state ". This includes the vegetation, soils, wildlife, habitat and watercourse. While these factors are all considered with respect to their interactions on the effectiveness of the Riparian zone, the primary focus of our evaluation is on the vegetative composition and functions.

In respect to the functional component of the sub-watershed, including the infrastructure, administration, education, and physical operations, the boundaries of this study include the physical operations and education components. These components are integral to the Riparian zone management. Students and faculty determine the values of the ecosystem which guide the physical operations of the University to meet these values, goals and expectations.

With the systems boundary drawn as the Riparian zone owned by the University of Waterloo, managed by the physical operations and influenced by the values and used by the campus community both faculty and students, it is necessary to derive a set of criteria to evaluate .i.e. measure the effectiveness of the riparian zone management.


A buffer strip, or a Riparian zone, is a band of planted or indigenous vegetation situated downslope from cropland or some other such land to provide localized erosion protection and filter nutrients, sediments and other pollutants from surface runoff before they reach receiving waters. These areas are known as vegetative filter strips, grass filter, grass strips, Riparian plantings and combinations thereof (Lammers-Helps, 1991). Another definition of theses areas is a permanent setback established from the shoreline or streambank which remains or is to be returned to a self-sustaining vegetated state (Johnson, 1984). A Riparian zone or buffer as it has been previously defined aids in the maintenance and balance of Laurel Creek's hydrological function and processes.

A buffer strip or zone is affected by many inputs and outputs to the system. Inputs for this system include: precipitation, surface water flow, through water flow, storage of water and groundwater as well as vegetation inputs through new seedlings. This system is also affected by the inputs of fecal matter, sunlight, material waste, wind and nutrients cycling, spiraling, absorption and deposition. Outputs include evaporation, evapotranspiration, respiration and vegetation removal. All of these factors combine to support or cause failure to the Riparian zones.



In order to determine the existence of a buffer the following criteria should be considered.

Is the area a sediment filter?

Is the area a nutrient filter?

Is the area a temperature control system?

Is the area an obvious food source?

Is the area a region of cover?

Is the area a barrier from physical intrusion?

Is the area visually attractive?

Is the area suitable for providing a series of recreational amenities, for example wildlife viewing opportunities or hiking corridors?

Is the area a low maintenance landscape element?

Is the area planted with attractive tree and shrub species that may actually add to the market value of the area relative to the same type of property without a buffer?

These criteria will not be measured in quantitative means yet they will provide a means to establish the existence of a buffer through direct observation. Some criteria will be hard to physically see or observe yet through general knowledge of a buffer zone each area will be evaluated on the basis of perceived effectiveness and general appearance. Literature states that the effectiveness of buffer strips varies with many factors such as slope, slope length, volume and velocity of runoff water, the nature of the eroding sediment, vegetation type, height and density, filter width and the nature of the stream in question. These aspects will need to taken into consideration when describing an area as a buffer or Riparian zone.


Based on a relative scale of effectiveness, the immediate Riparian zones will be classified and mapped according to the following standards. Diversity refers to the relative abundance i.e.. species eveness and number of species in a given community.


To measure buffer zone effectiveness, it is necessary to design a set of criteria from which the evaluation will proceed. We have selected three major criteria which have been identified by University staff as important issues in determining the effectiveness of the buffer in both a socio-economic and ecological context. Our first criteria involves looking at the issue of safety. This is central to establishing buffers on the campus where people are constantly required to walk on paths. Varying degrees of comfort are felt by different persons as they near an area which has bushes, trees or other higher natural vegetation. No survey has been conducted to determine how the campus population truly feels regarding buffers and safety. Through the use of a survey we will determine public perceptions towards safety with regards to the proximity of buffer strips to walkways. This issue must be dealt with prior to any further buffer zone establishment in order that the plant operations staff activities are consistent with the concerns of the University community.

The second criteria that we have chosen as a measurement to determine the effectiveness of riparian zone management is the public influence on waterfowl behavior. We intend to measure through the use of a survey, what public practices entice the waterfowl to loiter Laurel Creek. Additionally, the questionnaire will survey what value the waterfowl have to the staff and students of the campus community. This information is necessary to formulate a management plan i.e. what areas are to have buffers?, what enforcement polices are necessary ? This is in appendix A.

The third criteria we have established for measuring the effectiveness of the Riparian zone management practices are the effects of these practices on the Riparian species diversity. Species diversity can be analyzed in many different ways, however we will apply the number of species (species richness) and relative abundance of each species (species eveness) as our measurement of species diversity. This information will be collected from a review of :

* The University of Waterloo Master Plan

* Paragon Engineering consultants report "Laurel Creek Watershed Study"

* Ecological Services for Planning, "Environmental Inventory for the University of Waterloo"

* Ecoplans Ltd. "Subwatershed 311".

* consultation with Mr. R. Suffling, a botanist from the School of Urban and Regional Planning

* site surveys (weather permitting) to measure by quadrat plots the relative abundance and given number of species. (See appendix B on quadrant sample technique)

Given the time frame for this evaluation, it is unlikely that significant data will be derived from quadrant sampling (the collection of plant of species, taxonomic key identification and diversity measurements). However, from a review of this literature and supplemental review of landscape ecology text, will have developed a subjective, observation method for determining Riparian diversity.

All of the criteria which we are examining would be best addressed through the use of a questionnaire. The questionnaire would provide a mechanism to evaluate the public perception of buffer zones. The questions will be designed to examine the criteria set out above. The information gathered from the surveys will prove to be important to plant operations staff when it comes to determining managing the Riparian environment. Currently, it is not known how the University community feels about buffer zones and if they are therefore an effective form of Riparian zone management.



1 A diversity of vegetation types and species contributing to a dense, well-rooted and stable community. Ex. Stable and highly functional channel/terrestrial interface.

2 A reduced diversity of vegetation types and species while still retaining basic structural elements.

Ex. Smaller or relatively recent buffer established. 3 Transition between manicured or modified environments and low diversity naturalized areas.

Ex. Areas which are mowed infrequently or have been just recently naturalized.

4 Slightly modified environments or manicured

short grasses. Ex. Small infrastructure element and/or manicured grass environment.

5 Elements of urban infrastructure, exposed soil or other highly modified environments. Ex. Cement, pavement and construction sites.

NOTE: This criteria requires input to determine if it is suitable for such classification. i.e. Is it too subjective???

To evaluate the effectiveness of a buffer we will determine the degree of diversity through quadrant sampling of various areas on campus along Laurel Creek . Following this evaluation the determined diversity will be ranked on the above chart.


Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR):

The MNR is a key actor for our project because they create and implement policies regarding the management of the Laurel Creek Watershed.

Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA):

The GRCA is a key actor for our project because they serve as a major resource for information on management for the Laurel Creek, have a large stake in future ecosystem health of the Laurel Creek Watershed, and they are responsible for the implementation of the watershed recommendations and guidelines provided in the official master plan.

Regional-Municipality of Waterloo:

The Region is a key actor because they are responsible for designing the Watershed Plan and implementation of it's contents.

City of Waterloo:

The City of Waterloo is a key actor because they create the Official Plan's for the city of Waterloo outlining the major goals and objectives of the Council.

University of Waterloo:

The University is a key actor because they own lands that the Laurel Creek runs through, as well as having a large stake in the administrative and management decisions made regarding the Laurel Creek.

University of Waterloo Plant Operations:

Plant Operations is a key actor because they are responsible for implementing the guidelines set out by the Watershed Plan, as well as constant maintenance of campus land resources.

Rudy Mullinary: is a key contact due to his knowledge on the Laurel Creek and his role in Plant Operations with regards to turf management and other landscaping issues.

University of Waterloo School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP):

Larry Martin: is a key actor because he is a representative on the Laurel Creek

Students and Staff of the University of Waterloo:

University of Waterloo Staff and Students:

Both the students and staff are key actors in this project because implementation of any management techniques directly affects them both socially and ecologically. These groups can also have a large impact on the ecological health and integrity of the Laurel Creek as an ecosystem.

University of Waterloo Office of Human Research and Animal Care:

Dr. Susan E. Sykes: is a necessary resource person because she regulates the human aspect of any campus human research initiative.

***Please note that these people are also our key contact people, due to their crucial role in the project initiative


Johnson,F.M. and T.E. Ryan. 1984. The Use of Vegetated Buffer Zones To Protect Fish and Fish Habitat. University of Guelph, Ontario. 30 Pages.

Lamers-Helps, H. 1991. Literature Review Pertaining To Buffer Strips. Soil and Water Conservation Information Bureau. University of Guelph, Ontario. 46 Pages.

Paragon Engineering Limited. 1992. Laurel Creek Master Watershed Study. Grand River Conservation Authority. Waterloo, Ontario.

Peterson, R.C. 1991. A Building Block Model for Stream Restoration. Pages 1-14 in Boon, P., G.Petts, and P.Calow (Eds.) "The Conservation and Management of Rivers" John Wiley and Sons.

Thurow,C., W.Toner, and D.Erley. 1975. Performance Controls for Sensitive Lands. Planning Advisory Service. Chicago, Ill.

It should be noted that we have gained considerable insight into watershed restoration projects around the world through our recent use of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Non-Point Source BBS. They have an on-line registry for past and ongoing restoration projects around the world. We are planning on posting our information on this source. It also provides significant opportunity to solicit ideas or comments from academics or others who frequent the BBS.


Sample Method for Community Composition.

1. Determine the areal delineation of the study area. For our project, it is a 30 meter setback from is the Laurel Creek that is owned by the University of Waterloo.

2. Randomly select plots or "quadrants" along the Laurel Creek to in areas that diversity is to be compared.

3. Take a one meter by one meter square plot at the random location. In this square plot, excluding any plant that touch the meter stick, count the number of different species. Record.

4. In the square plot, qualitatively analyze the percent composition that each species represents. If field identification is not possible, note the relative abundance of each species, and remove a sample or each for identification using a botanical key.

The utility of diversity in plant community composition can be referred to in the literature on landscape ecology.