The deterioration of Lake Winnipeg and other surface waters in Manitoba has brought the need for agricultural environmental programming to the forefront. There is a need for riparian resource information that is useful to landowners and watershed managers.
Through this project a remote sensing methodology to classify riparian zones based on vegetation cover was developed. Object-oriented remote sensing software was used to analyze aerial imagery and classify vegetation based on similarities in spectral, textural and shape characteristics. The classification developed eight vegetation classes. Vegetation cover classifications were completed for Rat River, Joubert Creek and part of the La Salle River. These classification products were provided to the partner Conservation Districts for use in watershed management activities.
In-field riparian health evaluations were conducted to develop and verify the remote sensing-based methodologies. Inventories and assessments were conducted on 136 sites on Snake and Joubert Creek over two field seasons and encompassed about 35 km of stream length. Statistical analysis of the vegetation cover and riparian field data sites revealed good correlations between overall assessed riparian health and select vegetation cover types. From these observations, a predictive model was developed based on the presence and composition of specific vegetation cover within the riparian area.
Based on the riparian health inventory data, detailed, customized inventory reports were created for 45 landowners along the Snake and Joubert Creeks. These reports were well received by the landowners and serve as a valuable communication tool to facilitate the delivery of riparian programming. They also generated interest in the project from other landowners in the watershed. A riparian zone GIS toolbox has been developed to enable Conservation Districts and other resource agencies to conduct their own analysis on classified vegetation cover data. The toolbox allows a Conservation District to classify areas with a higher or lower percentage of desirable cover from a riparian health perspective. This information can highlight areas that may require on-site field investigation to assess the level of impairment and identify management practices that can improve the riparian health.
This project involved a strong communications component. Presentations were delivered at various meetings and conferences. The project hosted landowner information sessions and appreciation barbecues. A news release was submitted to local media and a fact sheet was developed.
The MHHC has initiated a new project called Green Banks Clear Waters that will see the implementation of elements of this project, specifically the vegetation classification method. This new project is a comprehensive approach to identifying priority areas and the delivery riparian BMP projects based on quantifiable measurements of riparian vegetation. It will also see watershed awareness activities tailored to local concerns regarding land and water health as guided by the classifications. The MHHC has partnered with four conservation districts and is hoping to expand the project throughout agro-Manitoba in the future.
The project partners will continue to build and refine the riparian health methodology developed in this project. Additional work is planned for Joubert Creek and the project will be expanding to other waterways including La Salle River. As the project grows and expands, project partners will continue to deliver workshops with stakeholder audiences to demonstrate the use and benefits of these new riparian assessment methodologies.