May 2022: Big storms and forest ecology
On 21 May a powerful storm hit the Ottawa Valley. Some homes were without power for more than a week. Roads and power lines were blocked with fallen trees. And, in forests, trees were uprooted. The event was a vivid reminder of the importance of natural disturbances in ecosystems.
Natural disturbances are, well, natural. Common examples are fires, hurricanes, landslides, volcanoes, and larger than normal spring flood pulses. These events are usually short-lived. Too often news stories report such events as ‘catastrophes.’ If, however, we are trying to protect natural areas, it is important for us to understand that extreme events are part of nature. The task of scientists is not to provide emotional judgements for newspapers, but rather to understand the effects of these extreme events on natural systems. If you want to learn more about the ecology natural disturbances, there is an entire chapter in my book Plant Ecology and I have now posted this book chapter on line here.
I also wrote a three page article on the beneficial effects of storms on forests in the June issue of the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust Newsletter. You can upload a pdf file of that article here.
January 2022: Enormous competition experiment finally published
Competition is thought to be important causal factor in many biological situations. Darwin, for example, considered it to be an important (but not sole) cause of evolution.
It is one thing to suspect that competition is important; it is quite different to design experiments that actually allow us to measure it. Such experiments are difficult – as I described in my book on competition. The current challenge for ecologists is to design large experiments that allow us to measure the effects of competition among many species and many environmental conditions.
Here is one of the largest competition experiments so far published – ten species in flooding levels. The experiment was designed about 25 years ago, but it took several years to raise the money to construct the experiment, and then several more years to run it. The experiment was completed in 2009. I carefully saved this data when I left Louisiana. It then took more than a decade to find the time, and the statistical tools, to properly analyze these data. Now, with the help of my co-author, Dr. Dan Campbell, it is done. The paper shows that competition has an intense effect on wetland plant communities, and that the effects of competition decline with increased flooding.
November 2021: New book on principles of community ecology
This book addresses an important general problem in ecology: how are communities assembled from species pools? This pressing question underlies a broad array of practical problems, including restoration of damaged landscapes, management of protected areas, and protection of threatened species. The book also offers a unifying framework for community ecology.
read first chapter here:
June 2021: Interview on water levels in the Great Lakes
The summer 2021 issue of ON Nature features an interview with Paul about the importance of natural high and low water years in the Great Lakes. High water years create new areas of wetland by drowning terrestrial plants at higher elevations on shorelines. Low water years allow wetland plants to re-establish from seed. (Yes—most wetland plant can only reproduce by seed during years when the wetland becomes a mud flat.) This cycling between high and low water years over a decade or longer creates vast areas of shoreline wetland, vital habitat for rare plants and rare animals. The message: cities and cottagers on lakeshores need to work with these natural cycles rather than trying to change them.
- Read the article “The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes” in ON Nature (p. 18-22) by Conor Mihell.
- Read Paul’s original scientific paper (co-authored with Dr. Tony Reznicek) describing the link between wetlands and water levels in the Great Lakes. This is an older paper from 1986, but it changed the way people think about shoreline wetlands.
- Read Paul’s recent paper (co-authored with Dr. Dan Campbell in 2020) that prevents a simple spreadsheet model which can predict the extent of wetlands from water level data. The model can be applied to any lake or watershed. In this sense, the Great Lakes are simply a vivid example of a natural process that occurs on all shorelines around the world.
June 2021: Video lecture on competition and facilitation in coastal wetlands
Paul and his co-author Dr. Daniel Campbell contributed a video presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Wetland Scientists. This was part of a symposium that explored the impacts of rising sea levels upon coastal wetlands. The video describes a large experiment that tested for competition and facilitation among plants in coastal wetlands. This experiment, which was constructed in Louisiana, took nearly two decades (!) to design, fund, complete and analyse. The general results may surprise some: there is strong evidence for one-sided competition in freshwater wetlands, but no evidence for facilitation.
Read the first paper describing this experiment.
May 2021: New video available: Natural Heritage Planning in Tay Valley Township/Lanark County
Here is a short (17 minutes) video on how we can protect the wild places of Lanark County. The objective is a natural heritage system based upon ‘cores and corridors’. The video focusses mostly on Tay Valley Township, with particular attention to the Maberly Bog and the Christie Lake Fire Barrens, and how their protection fits into a county perspective.
May 2021: Natural Heritage Planning for Tay Valley Township/Lanark County.
Spring is here, birds are returning to from the tropics to nest, and it is a great time to visit wild places. It is also time to ask how we can protect those same wild places for future generations of birds and people. Around the world, from the Alps to the Andes, people are coming together to build natural area networks that protect and connect wild nature. On 11 May, Paul will speak to the Tay Valley Township Council about protecting and connecting the wild places of Lanark County, with particular emphasis upon Tay Valley Township. A video version of this presentation will be posted on this web site soon.
April 4 2021: Wild places of Lanark County video is now available online.
Paul’s talk on the wild places of Lanark County is now posted for viewing here. Get ready for spring outings! This is your opportunity to meet our important wild places, and find out what you can do to ensure that they are protected for future generations.
April 1 2021: Coming soon: a talk on the thirty Green Gems of Lanark County
On 1 April Paul will be speaking on the wild places of Lanark County. The title is Enjoying Wild Nature in Lanark County: Thirty Green Gems. The talk will include three topics. Why do we need wild places? Where are the important wild places in Lanark County? What do we need to do to protect these wild places for future generations? The talk will be hosted by MERA (McDonalds Corners & Elphin Recreation & Arts). Instructions for participating in this online event are posted here.
March 24 2021: A video tour of wetlands in Lanark County and along the Mississippi River is now online
Paul’s talk on wetlands of Lanark County and the Mississippi River Watershed is now available for viewing online here. And, to accompany it, there are separate web pages for the Innisville Wetlands and the Purdon Fen.
March 18 2021: Join an online tour of the wetlands of the Missississippi River watershed.
It is time to get ready for spring! And wetlands are are one of our most important local ecosystems. I will start this talk with a brief introduction to wetlands: What are they? What kinds are there? Why are they important? Then we explore some of the vast swamps and marshes that occur along the Mississippi River. We will also encounter the special beaver pond wetland complexes that occur on Pakenham Mountain, Wolf Grove, and the Carp Hills. Along the way, we will meet some wild species, including great blue herons, Blanding’s turtles, beavers, otters, spring peepers, and tree frogs. This talk is hosted by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. Owing to the the high levels of interest, pre-registration is necessary. Sign up here.
March 2021: Its here! A Guide to the Natural Environment of Lanark County
Your spring excursions will be much more satisfying with this guide, including 20 original maps. Order your copy now so it arrives before the first frogs start calling in April.
February 2021: Coming soon — A Guide to the Natural Environment of Lanark County
It is always good to spend time outdoors exploring wild places! It is also important to pay attention to the natural landscape where you live. I live in Lanark County. My self-published guide to the ecology of Lanark County has sold thousands of copies since it first appeared in 1999. That little book has contributed to three conservation awards, including my designation as a “Champion for Nature” by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. What an honour! Now it is time for a re-fresh. The pandemic lockdown has greatly increased the number of people looking for natural places to explore. That same lockdown also gave me time to update the guide. So, by the end of February, you will be able to explore the outdoors using an updated book. The guide has a simplified name, a new cover, and some fresh content, including a new map of 30 important wild places in Lanark County. Better still, it will be easier to get your own copy. Since we are still locked down, you will now be able to order the book online, and have it delivered right to your front door. (Of course, support your local bookstore if you can. But call them first to make sure they have the book in stock.)
January 2021: Wetland Ecology web page now updated and expanded
A lockdown is a great time to work on the natural envionment. Check out this new page for Wetland Ecology. And, there is more. The page on wetland conservation has also been revised, with a greater focus on the simple steps you can take to protect a wetland in your own landscape. And, if you already have some professional training in wetland ecology, don’t forget my introduction to the scientific foundations of wetland ecology here.
December 2020: A Video Introduction to the Twin Limits Marsh Model
It took more than two decades of work! But last year the Twin Limits Marsh Model was published in the journal Wetlands. This model allows biologists in any watershed in the world to forecast the extent of shoreline wetlands from water level data. The same approach can be taken for wetlands along the shores of lakes. To make this model more accessible to the public, Dr. Dan Campbell has produced a five minute video introduction to the model, which was first presented at the December 2020 meeting of the Society of Wetland Scientists.
December 2020: Colour map of world floristic regions
The colour map of world floristic regions from Plant Ecology was reproduced in the Canadian Botanical Association Bulletin (Volume 53(3): 13-14) in order to make it more easily available to teachers in a pandemic world of online lectures. As the article says, “World floristic regions are an important basic concept for teaching botany and ecology. This single map provides essential background for teaching topics including plant evolution, continental drift, planning for protected area systems, threats posed by invasive species, and choosing species to be used in habitat restoration.”
August 2020: From the archives — wetlands of the Ottawa River
Paul spent more than a decade studing wetlands along the Ottawa River. While sorting his files this summer, he found this 1988 article from the Ottawa Citizen describing some of this work. And, while we are reviewing the past, here is a link to a scientific paper which describes the most common kinds of wetland found along the river. The good news is that an increasing number of these wetlands are now protected. A recent example is the purchase of Kettle Island by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
March 2020: new book — Darwin Meets the Buddha
Launching a new book during a lockdown for a pandemic is a challenge. None-the-less, Paul’s latest book, Darwin Meets the Buddha, was published by Sumeru Press this spring. You can visit the book’s web page here, order a copy from Sumeru Press, or watch videos of an online interview and a talk that Paul gave about the book.
December 2019: Green Gems of Lanark County
It has taken several decades of work. Exploring forests, wading through wetlands, reading old scientific papers, consulting unpublished reports, and speaking to local naturalists. Now here it is. A list of the 30 most important natural areas in Lanark County.
These are the green gems that need to be written into our official plans. These are the green gems that need public appreciation and support. Each of these thirty areas offers the opportunity to do something positive, supportive, and practical to protect the environment.
And, yes, since many of them also store carbon, protecting the forests and wetlands in these areas will also help reduce impacts of climate change.
November 2019: Twin Limit Marsh Model published
After several decades of work, the Twin Limit Marsh Model has been published in the scientific journal called Wetlands. This model uses input of water level records from lakes or rivers to predict marsh area on shorelines or in floodplains. The general principle is clear: flood pulses are necessary to create and maintain wetlands.
Paul wrote an OpEd in The Citizen on behalf of salamanders and frogs, regarding the negative impacts of urban sprawl upon wild creatures in general and wetlands in particular. It was a response to an earlier story in the newspaper complaining about land use restrictions on rural homeonwers who wanted to build a swimming pool in a protected wetland.
Paul and Cathy Keddy both received Meritorious Service Medals from the Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, in a ceremony at Rideau Hall. They were recognized for their contributions to natural area conservation.
Paul’s book Wetland Ecology has now been translated into Chinese and published by Higher Education Press in Beijing. The lead translator was Lan Zhichun, a professor of plant ecology at Nanching University.
To view the book for sale in its new language click here.
June 2018 Geology Excursion
One of the most important geological events that led to the modern world was the asteroid that hit Earth just over 66 million years ago, which is generally known as the K-T event. Paul’s book, Plant Ecology (pages 190-192), summarizes some of the consequences, including the replacement of gymnosperm forests by angiosperm forests, and the replacement of dinosaurs by mammals.
This June, Paul was taken to visit one of North America’s finest sites documenting the effects of the asteroid. He was driven out into the prairies east of Denver (away from the mountains) to a small cliff in an erosion gully. Here, among the layers of exposed sediment, it was possible to touch the precise rock layer containing dust from the asteroid. The layers of rock just above the dust layer reveal a devastated world, including soot from burning forests, and sulphur from acid rain. On the left is Dr. Ian Miller, a world expert on the event, who explained the geological record at that location. (And, a homework challenge for readers. The asteroid impact left evidence around the world, even as far away as New Zealand. Where is the nearest geological evidence of this event near your own home?)
May 2018 Plenary Lecture
Paul gave the opening plenary address to an audience of about 500 people attending the annual meeting of the Society of Wetland Scientists in Denver, Colorado. The purpose of his talk was to explain how a small number of general scientific principles might be used to unify the science of wetland ecology, as well as to guide conservation and restoration of wetlands. The theme of the Denver meeting was “Wetland Science: Integrating Research, Practice and Policy – An Exchange of Expertise.”
New book in 2017
Paul’s latest book Plant Ecology was published by Cambridge University Press in full colour. This book starts with the origin of plants and their role in creating the biosphere, moves through key causal factors that control plant communities, and ends with chapters on plant diversity and plant conservation. There are 13 chapters, over 300 illustrations, a glossary, review questions and suggested further readings. While the book is aimed at university students and scholars, the writing style and examples should make the book enjoyable for many non-specialists.
The book can be ordered directly from Cambridge University Press, or from other popular online sources including Amazon. Full details from the Plant Ecology page on this web site.
Paul gave a webinar on the foundational principles of wetland ecology titled “Five Causal Factors: A General Framework for Wetland Science and Restoration” hosted by the Society of Wetland Scientists in Madison, Wisconsin. There were 170 participants from around the world. The presentation was recorded and can be viewed here. You will need to enter your name and email address in order to start the webinar.
Review questions for Wetland Ecology are now available. As requested, there is now a set of review questions, organized by chapter. Students may find them helpful for study, while instructors may also find them useful for preparing tests or assignments.
Paul received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Wetland Scientists at their annual meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This recognized more than forty years of original research on wetlands, many conservation achievements, and most especially, his book Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation. The society said the award is “for a lifetime of exceptional work for wetland science and conservation, highlighted by a vigorous research program, prolific and profound writings, excellent grantsmanship and committee work, and an international influence and reach.”
A concise guide to wetland restoration. The newly-published Routledge Handbook of Ecological and Environmental Restoration is a comprehensive guide to repairing damaged ecosystems. Paul contributed the chapter “Restoration of Freshwater Wetlands”
Paul was interviewed by Tom Spears about the benefits for wetlands from the recent high levels of spring flooding in eastern Ontario.
Ottawa Citizen article Flooding hits the ‘reset button’ for river life, scientists say
Paul participated in a workshop at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters, to provide expert review of ongoing work on relationships between wetlands and water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. This project is a significant example of applying the scientific principles of wetland ecology to the practical goal of restoring and protecting wetlands. The focus of the workshop was on measuring the benefits of the natural alternation of lake water levels between high and low. The second chapter of Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation describes how water level fluctuations produce wetlands on lakes in particular, and along watercourses altogether. The foundations for this CCIW work were laid back in 1986 in a scholarly paper (Keddy and Reznicek 1986) describing the relationships between water level fluctuations and wetlands in the Great Lakes.
Paul’s guide to the scientific literature on wetlands has now been published by Oxford Bibliographies in Environmental Science. This contribution begins with a general guide to introductory sources, particularly important books. Other sections will guide you to sources of information on more specific topics including flooding, nutrients, other causal factors, and geography. Two concluding sections give an overview of wetland conservation, and an introduction to the significance of aquatic plants. You can consult this guide online at Oxford Bibliographies here. If you are not working at a large research institution or library, you will have online access to only the introductory section. If so, you may view a version of the complete article on this web site here.
Paul’s talk Functional Groups in Wetland and Riparian Plants: A Strategic Perspective is now available online. It is 15 minutes long.
Wonderful conservation news! The Nova Scotia Nature Trust has just announced yet another purchase of significant wild land with rare coastal plain plants, based upon field work and maps prepared by Paul several decades ago. This concentration of rare wetland plants was discovered on a canoe trip made back in 1982.
- Read about this latest land aquisition. Quintessential Rare Plant Site Protected, Forever!
- View an online guide to Atlantic Coastal Plain Plants here.
Paul was interviewed by Ottawa Magazine about his donation of a square mile of forest and wetland to the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust. Read magazine story here.
Paul traveled to Providence, Rhode Island for the 2015 meeting of the Society of Wetland Scientists. Their primary mission is to promote understanding, scientifically based management and sustainable use of wetlands. This year’s theme was “Changing Climate, Changing Wetlands.” At this meeting, Paul was made a Fellow of the society, “the highest recognition of membership bestowed by the society”. He also gave a keynote address to open a symposium focused on using plant traits to carry out predictive modeling for wetlands and floodplains. His presentation was titled: “Functional Groups in Wetland and Riparian Plants: A Strategic Perspective,” and as he said in his talk, the challenge was to cover a hundred years of progress in just 15 minutes.
Paul received the prestigious W.E. Saunders Award for natural history from Ontario Nature in recognition of his self-published guide Earth, Water, Fire: An Ecological Profile of Lanark County.
Paul and Cathy Keddy received a conservation award from the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club for their “land conservation achievements in the Lanark area,” particularly the donation of land and development rights to the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust that created the Keddy Nature Sanctuary. This sanctuary protects hundreds of acres of Lanark County, including a large area of old hemlock forest, and more than a hundred acres of provincially significant wetland.
Read local story with a photo in The Millstone here.
Competition is one of the most important forces in ecological systems. Paul published an updated and expanded version of his entry on Competition on the Encyclopedia of Life Sciences.
The international journal Wetland Science & Practice, published by the Society of Wetland Scientists, wrote about the creation of the Keddy Nature Sanctuary as “An outstanding example of a personal contribution to Wetland Conservation.”
Radio conversation. Paul was interviewed by Bob Perrault for Lake 88 on June 27. The topic was his donation of a square mile of forest and wetland to the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (see April 2014 news).
Paul gave a talk to the annual general meeting of the Mississippi Lakes Association on 31 May. The title was “Mississippi Lake: Past Present and Future.” The talk focused upon the ecological services provided by wetlands and the role of seasonal changes in water level for maintaining healthy wetlands. View the talk here.
Eastern Ontario now has a new 500-acre nature sanctuary.
Paul spoke to the monthly meeting of the Ottawa Field- Naturalists’ Club on March 11. The illustrated lecture was based on his popular book, “Earth, Water, Fire: An Ecological Profile of Lanark County”.
- view film
- for more on natural history in Lanark County, go here
- for more scientific readings on Lanark County, go here
- for a report on the event by Lynn Ovenden go here
Paul gave a public talk on wetlands to the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. The main topics included (1) what wetlands are, (2) the four different kinds, (3) what their values are, and (4) some simple rules for their conservation. He also talked about local examples including the Mississippi Lake wetlands and the Appleton Swamp. This presentation was based upon the first chapter of his book, Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
Paul gave the opening plenary address to Open Landscapes 2013, a conference in Germany which brought together researchers from around the world with an interest in wild, or semi-wild landscapes. Paul’s talk was titled “Restoring and maintaining biodiversity in semi-natural open landscapes: bridging the oceanic divide”.
- View main page for Open Landscapes 2013 here
- View Keddy page for Open Landscape 2013 here
- View abstract of Keddy presentation here
- View talk recorded at conference here. (with thanks to Rebecca Winter)
Death in the Forest. On a snowy winter night in mid January Paul gave this talk to the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. It addresses the role of carcasses (or ‘coarse meaty debris’) in forests, how they fit into the bigger context of forest restoration, and more.
View this talk at Vimeo here.
Nothing is more embarrassing at a party, or a comprehensive exam, than finding people are talking about a scholar, or a field of knowledge, about which one is entirely ignorant. Really, one should just know about topics like Darwin’s finches, or Galapagos tortoises, or carnivorous plants, or peat bogs, just as one should know something about Beethoven or Shakespeare. But where you do start in your reading? Now available online — a guide to basic readings in ecology, from Dampier and Darwin to modern sources. Short essays with an annotated bibliography.
In the middle of May 2012
Paul spent two mornings with a film crew from Stornaway Productions who are working on a project tentatively called “Watershed.” They arrived at his home in the forest, and set up two cameras focused on one lone white chair, with a beaver pond in the background. The first morning with Paul in that chair was spent on the scientific principles underlying wetland ecology, particularly flooding and fertility, and the need for simple general principles to unify ecological research. A muskrat put in an appearance, voluntarily. The second morning was spent on the relationship between science and conservation, which led to a wide-ranging inquiry into how humans can appear to be blind to the consequences of their harmful actions. Topics included the fall of Troy, The March of Folly, Easter Island, and Hurricane Katrina.
1 May 2012
Over 120 people came to Arnprior to hear Paul give a public talk entitled “No Place Like Home in the Ottawa Valley” to the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club. Drawing in part upon his book on Lanark County, and in part upon Wetland Ecology, Paul explored the importance of deciduous forests, the wetlands of the Ottawa River and introduced some of the most important natural areas in the region.
Paul spoke in Toronto for World Wetlands Day on 2 February 2012. The topic was “Science in the Service of Wetland Conservation: Advances, Retreats, Opportunities”. View the talk and additional background.
View conference web site at Science in the Service of Wetland Conservation: Advances, Reatreats, Opportunities.
Published in 2012!
A new online bibliography to supplement Competition.
Keddy, Paul A. 2012. Competition in Plant Communities. In: Oxford Bibliographies Online: Ecology. Ed. David Gibson. New York: Oxford University Press.
You can consult it here or here.
The first chapter of Competition, “Studying Competition”, is now posted online. Visit the Competition book page.
Paul gave the plenary address at the International Association for Vegetation Science in Lyon, France.
“Where the Wild Things Are”. Public lecture in Lanark, Ontario, on the importance of wild places in Lanark County, for the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust Conservancy.
2010 Symposium Address
Given to the Society of Wetland Scientists in Salt Lake City, Utah. Looking back and looking ahead: Is there progress in wetland ecology?
2008 Champion of Nature Award
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists give Paul a Champion of Nature award in a ceremony at Union Hall in Lanark County.
2008 Public Lecture
“Earth, Water, Fire: Lanark County’s Natural Heritage” in Almonte, Ontario.
2008 Louisiana Coast
The future of the Louisiana coast requires that cypress swamps be protected.
Keddy, P.A. 2008. Cypress logging and the Louisiana Coast. The Ponchatoula Times