Fourth Level Assessment – Aquatic Habitat Rehabilitation Plan

Bank Restoration

Little River Headwaters 2016 (Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance)

The first bank stabilization project on the Little River was done by the Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance in 2016 with the assistance of Matrix Solutions and Fort Folly Habitat Recovery. The site is in the headwaters of the system (Figure 17). The cause of instability at the site was likely cattle accessing the river.  Unfortunately, this issue was never adequately addressed. Fort Folly Habitat Recovery monitored the site for several years afterwards.  The landowners demonstrated limited interest in protecting the site as the fencing put up following construction was knocked down and cattle graze freely across the site. This has been hard on the vegetation and called into question the wisdom of making further investments of time and energy there.  The geotextile held up for the most part. When last observed in 2020 the bank was still reasonably well stabilized by the close-cropped grass (Figure 18), indicating few short term consequences aside from localized damage due to cattle paths accessing the river (Figure 19).  That said, the woody vegetation was stressed and declining suggesting that long term self sustaining vegetative stabilization of the site is unlikely.

Figure 18: Poor state of vegetation at 2016 site: close cropped 1 year and 2 years later (fence is down)
Figure 19: Source of disturbance: cattle allowed to knock down fence and access river

The only significant weeds on the site appear to be similarly grazing resistant species such as the common mullein with its large unpalatable (and somewhat toxic) woolly leaves and the spikey purple flowered bull thistle.  Numerous individuals of each are scattered across the site. Though neither is native, both are fairly ubiquitous in the area, so their presence is unlikely to have much effect. Growing as they currently are, neither threatens to compete with the planted vegetation.  Instead, each offers some benefit to the site as their roots help hold the soil and at least in the case of the thistle, its spines help keep cattle off that part of the bank. That said, cattle certainly move around such thistles, doing some localized damage to the slope in the process.  Though bull thistle can become a colonial species on disturbed sites, it is more commonly seen growing just as scattered individuals, so it is unlikely to achieve a density that will prove helpful in keeping cattle off the site as a whole.

The problems with the bank restoration at this site appear mostly to stem from a lack of interest and engagement on the part of the owners, as only they can ensure on a consistent basis that fencing is maintained and their cattle do not damage the site.  Aside from that, the choices of species (too many palatable herbs), and low stocking density (due in part to use of expensive nursery stock for some species when either non-landscaping sized trees or live stakes would have sufficed). The lack of follow up has been a problem at this site. However, while upgrading the fences and replanting with more appropriate planting stock would be beneficial, such work is not recommended at this point without first addressing concerns about the degree of interest of the landowners. They were certainly willing to undertake the project, but apparently do not necessarily have much interest in it.