Ottawa Valley Ecology

The Scientific Foundations for Conservation in the Ottawa Valley

Every biologist should be something of an authority on their local landscape. This is a professional responsibility, for how can we expect the public to appreciate and protect our environment, if the biologists they meet do not understand something about it? Equally, such knowledge provides a distinctive sense of belonging in a particular landscape, an experience advocated in Gary Snyder’s book A Place in Space (1995, Counterpoint, Washington). Finally, such technical knowledge is a useful prerequisite for paid work, since most employers of biologists reasonably expect candidates to know something about the local environment. In the early 1990s, I contacted three professionals who possessed an unsurpassed knowledge of the Ottawa Valley, and who also understood the needs of potential employers. Dr. Paul Catling (Agriculture Canada), Mr. Don Cuddy (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, now retired) and Mr. Dan Brunton (a private consultant) helped me select a series of published papers that provide a professional introduction to the environment of the Ottawa Valley.

At the time, it was my intention that every student of ecology at the University of Ottawa would be provided with these readings upon registration. By graduation, each student would be expected to have a firm grasp of the contents. Additionally, it seemed that such a compilation would be a useful resource for consultants, graduate students, planners, and conservation biologists. Regrettably, I left Ottawa before arranging to have these readings published as a compendium, and in spite of handing out copies freely, was unable to convince the members of the Biology Department to adopt them in courses. The reading list is therefore appended. You will have to find the papers personally, but be assured that the effort is worth while, and perhaps educational in its own right. Who knows what other valuable information may lie buried in old journals or obscure proceedings? Be warned, however, that if I someday hear a student in Ottawa complain in a bar or taxi that one cannot find work with a biology degree, I shall feel free to inquire about his/her mastery of the contents of these papers.

Historical Context

  • Benedict, A. 1830. On the vegetation of the Ottawa and some of its tributaries (L. Canada). American Journal of Science and Arts 18: 349-352.
  • Maclagan, P. W. 1847. Notice of plants collected in the line of the Rideau Canal, Canada West. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinborough 3:11-14.
  • Macoun, J. 1903. Annual report in Geological Survey of Canada Annual Report (New Series) 13:189-197.
  • Billings, C. E. 1910. The Great Fires of 1870. Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa 3:27-35.
  • Currie, T. M. 2009. The Ottawa Valley’s Great Fire of 1870: The Nineteenth Century Press and the Reality of a Great Disaster. Creative Bound, Carp.

Regional Context and Paleoecology

  • Chapman, L. J. and D. F. Putnam. 1951. The Physiography of Southern Ontario. University of Toronto Press, Toronto. 284 p. plus map in four sections.
  • Davis, M. B. 1976. Pleistocene biogeography of temperate deciduous forests. Geoscience and Man 13: 13-26.
  • Cwynar, L. C. 1978. Recent history of fire and vegetation from laminated sediment of Greenleaf Lake, Algonquin Park, Ontario. Canadian Journal of Botany 56: 10-21.
  • Harington, C.R. 1983. Significance of the fossil locality of Green Creek, Ontario. Trail and Landscape 17: 164-178.
  • Fulton, R. J., T. W. Anderson, N. R. Gadd, C. R. Harington, I. M. Kettles, S. H. Richard, C. G. Rodrigues, B. R. Rust and W. W. Shilts. 1987. Summary of the Quaternary of the Ottawa region, Pp. 7-20 in International Union for Quaternary Research XII International Congress.
  • Anderson, T. W. 1989. Vegetation changes over 12,000 years. GEOS 18: 39-47.
  • Keddy, P.A. 2008. Earth, Water, Fire. An Ecological Profile of Lanark County. Motion Creative Printing, Carleton Place.

Sites and Habitats


  • Beschel, R. E., P. J. Webber and R. Trippet. 1962. Woodland transects of the Frontenac Axis region, Ontario. Ecology 43: 386-396.
  • Brunton, D. and J. D. Lafontaine. 1974. An unusual escarpment flora in Western Quebec. The Canadian Field-Naturalist 88(3): 337-344.
  • Lindsay, K. M. 1974. A brief biological inventory of Murphy’s Point Provincial Park Reserve. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Park Planning Branch, Environmental Planning Section.
  • Cwynar, L. C. 1977. The recent fire history of Barron Township, Algonquin Park. Canadian Journal of Botany 55:1524-1538.
  • Gagnon, D. and A. Bouchard. 1981. La végétation de l’escarpement d’Eardley, parc de la Gatineau, Québec. Canadian Journal of Botany 59: 2667-2691.
  • Dugal, A. 1980. Shaw Woods nature preserve. Trail and Landscape 14: 46-56.
  • Keddy, C. J. 1993. A Forest History of Eastern Ontario. A report prepared for the Eastern Ontario Forest Group.


Rock Barrens, Alvars, Grasslands and Dunes