Cover image for Watersheds : a practical handbook for healthy water
Watersheds : a practical handbook for healthy water
Dobson, Clive, 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Willowdale, Ont. ; Buffalo, N.Y. : Firefly Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
152 pages : color illustrations, color map ; 26 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TC409 .D62 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Water is our most vital resource. Yet few understand even the basics of watershed ecology

Watersheds: A Practical Handbook for Healthy Water provides a fascinating overview of the fundamentals of ecology from the simple concept of a watershed to the biological intricacies of a wetland ecosystem and its implications on the environment.

More than 100 illustrations, especially done for this book, help explain the numerous environmental issues and the intricate web of life that connect each of us to all other life on the planet through out involvement in the watershed cycle.

Watersheds includes information on:

water and nutrient cycles bioregions and aquatic habitats exotic species invasions
- water and air pollution ecological restoration habitat loss

Special "How Can I Help?" sections throughout the book provide practical and meaningful ways in which individuals can make a difference to the health of watersheds by reducing water and air pollution, preserving native forests, and helping restore the health of streams and rivers.

Author Notes

Clive Dobson is a Toronto-based artist
Gregor Gilpin Beck is a research biologist and writer He teaches college and university courses in water pollution, biology and ecology in Toronto



Introduction Impressions of nature spring to mind as we take a quiet morning walk during the early days of March. Here in the Northeast, there is still plenty of snow amid the maple, beech, and cedar trees. The spring thaw has just begun, the air is heavy with fog, and while the winter has been easy, there is enough snow left in the woods to challenge a tall pair of boots. It is a magical time of year. In this wintry region, warm spring days appear hopelessly distant and elusive. But beneath the snow and in the rising sap of trees, the signs of reawakening and rebirth are singing loud and clear. Everywhere we look, water is flowing again! The forest is still carpeted in deep snow, but here and there, streams are playing hide and seek. Irresistibly, we are drawn to these places where short-lived creeks appear and disappear beneath the snow. Within a month, though, these surface waterways will be gone. Without a conscious thought, and with childlike fascination, we follow the course downstream. The first hint is a gentle depression in the snow, then a broad sheet of ice, and finally, much farther along, the first bit of open water. It's just a trickling flow - certainly no Mississippi or Fraser River here, but even those mighty rivers have modest origins. In places, the water meanders unhurried through the thawing earth. Elsewhere, there are narrow and clearly formed rivulets - perfect little streams, flowing fast and wild over gravel and sand. We follow this elusive stream as best we can, but ultimately it seems to disappear without a trace under the snow. Perhaps it continues to flow unseen, carving out a little gorge between the snow and frozen soil. Or perhaps its course takes it on a secret underground route toward a frozen lake. Whatever its actual path might be, we know that these particular waters, and the various pollutants and nutrients that tag along, will eventually enter rivers and lakes downstream, and finally make their way to the sea, No matter where we live, we are all part of an incredible watershed story, and we are all part of nature. Water is essential to life on Earth, and it is constantly on the move. Maybe this is part of our fascination with that meltwater stream, and part of our fascination with every other stream and lake and ocean. Sooner or later, we all stare into a river and wonder where it has been, and where it is heading. When probing the mysteries of a watershed, one can detect many things, both wondrous and worrisome. It is through such observation that we embark on a voyage of discovery and, at the same time, gain understanding and compassion. And because water is a lifeline for us all, it is the natural focus for a book like this one, which serves as an introduction to ecology and environmental issues. In this book, we are addressing three main goals. First, we hope to promote a better understanding of the fundamentals of ecology. Because water is vital to life, we pay particular attention to water-related issues, from the simple concept of a watershed to the biological intricacies of a wetland ecosystem. (A glossary of technical terms used in the text appears on page I46.) With this ecological context in place, we aim secondly to examine and explain the numerous environmental issues affecting the health of natural ecosystems in North America. Finally, we hope that readers will become active in furthering the goals of conservation and helping to protect and restore the environment. We have included "How Can I Help?" sections throughout Part it to illustrate simple things that individuals can do to support the environment. Gregor Gilpin Beck and Clive Dobson Excerpted from Watersheds: A Practical Handbook for Healthy Water by Clive Dobson, Gregor Gilpin Beck All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Part 1 Ecology and the Watershed Concept
Chapter 1 What Is A Watershed?
A Typical Watershed
Magnification of Environmental Problems
North American Bioregions and Their Watersheds
Eastern Deciduous and Mixed Forest Bioregion
Boreal Forest and Tundra Bioregion
Grassland Bioregion
West Coast Rainforest Bioregion
Desert Bioregion
Chapter 2 How Watersheds Work: Water and Nutrient Cycles
The Water Cycle
Aquifers and Groundwater
The Carbon Cycle
The Nitrogen Cycle
The Sulfur Cycle
The Phosphorus Cycle
Chapter 3 From Headwaters To Outflows: Parts of A Watershed
The Flowing Waters of Streams and Rivers
The Still Waters of Ponds and Lakes
Lake Ecology
Estuaries: Where Rivers Meet the Sea
Rocky Estuaries
Saltwater Marshes
Eel Grass Beds
Chapter 4 Natural Changes Within Watersheds
Beaver Ponds and Meadows
Natural Succession of Plant Communities
Eutrophication of Ponds and Small Lakes
Part II Environmental Issues, Implications, and Solutions
Chapter 5 Air Pollution
Good Ozone:The Ozone Layer
Bad Ozone: Problems at Ground Level
The Greenhouse Effect
Acid Rain
Acid Shock in Meltwater Pools
Dead Lakes
Forest Decline
Effects of Soils and Winds
How Can I Help?: Air Pollution
Chapter 6 Water Pollution
Bioconcentration and the Effects of Contaminants
Industrial Sources of Water Pollution
Oil Spillage
Thermal Pollution
Radioactive Wastes
Urban Sources of Water Pollution
The Moral of Summer Thunderstorms
Sewage Treatment and Water Filtration
Alternative Sewage Treatment
Nitrogen and Phosphorus Pollution: Too Much of a Good Thing?
Agricultural and Rural Sources of Water Pollution
How Can I Help?:Water Pollution
How Can I Help?: Environmentally Friendly Cleaners
Chapter 7 The Impact of Exotic Species: Hidden Invaders
Deceptive Beauty: Purple Loosestrife
Sea Lampreys in the Great Lakes
Norway Maples and the Native Forest
How Can I Help?: Exotic Species
Chapter 8 Habitat Loss and Degradation
Meddling With the Flow of Water: Dams and 0ther Intrusions
Forestry Issues
Logging Practices
Additional Forestry Problems
Alternative Logging Practices
How Can I Help?: Saving the Forests
Agricultural and Rural Issues
Prairie Sloughs
Farming the Bottom Lands
How Can I Help?: Habitat on the Working Farm
Urban and Suburban Issues
Urban Rivers
Problems with Fragmented Habitats: Landscape Ecology
The Edge Effect
Wildlife Corridors
Chapter 9 Ecological Restoration: Righting Environmental Wrongs
Restoring Habitats Close to Home
The Multiple Benefits of Native Plants
How Can I Help?: Restoring Backyards
How Can I Help?: Stream and River Restoration
Assessing Your Local Stream: How Clean is the water?
Biological indicators of Water Quality
Bioindicator Species for Fast-Flowing Streams
The Five Kingdoms of Living Things
Food Chains, FoodWebs, and Ecological Pyramids
Common Aquatic Invertebrates of Flowing and Still Waters
Selected Bibliography