A Guide to Wetland Restoration and
Frog - Friendly Backyards.

Heather M. Gosselin and Bob R. Johnson

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Published by: Metro Toronto Zoo's

With financial support from the Ontario Horticultural Association; Environmental Partners Fund; Environmental Youth Corps; Canadian Wildlife Service; Consumer's Gas; George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation; Charles H. Ivey Foundation; Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation; The George Lunan Foundation; Sir Joseph Flavelle Foundation; The EJLB Foundation; Placer Dome Canada Limited; Wildlife Habitat Canada; Petro Canada; and the Metro Toronto Zoo Conservation Fund.

©Metro Toronto Zoo 1995

No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without the permission of Bob Johnson, Metro Toronto Zoo.

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The Ontario Horticultural Association and its many members, particularly Don Mathews, have been supportive since the beginning of this project.

Several reviewers made helpful suggestions and we would like to express our gratitude to John Ambrose, Christine Bishop, Gwyn Brundrett, Metjie Mabee, Graham Crawshaw, and Anne Morgan.

Merebeth Switzer provided insights that only an editor could provide and helped make this publication accessible to a wider audience.

Wally Edwards for his illustrations.

Barry Picov and Ray Shivrahan of Picov's Watergarden and Fish Nurseries were helpful in reviewing watergarden installation techniques and have been supportive of the Adopt-A-Pond programme in many ways.

All the nurseries; Picov's Watergarden and Fish Nurseries; Rob Tonus, Environmental Partners Fund; Tom Mantil, The Desktop; Tammara Boughen, Canadian Wildlife Service; Lesley Dunn, Canadian Wildlife Service; Glenn Barrett, Canadian Wildlife Service; Fifth House Publishers; Joseph Bruchac; Simon & Schuster Inc.; Methuen Books; Rob Milne, Consumers Gas; The National Association for Humane and Environmental Education; Denise Ryan; Chris Bauer; Adam Wiech; Maurice Dow; Ducks Unlimited; Environmental Partner's Fund; Environmental Youth Corp; Glenn Hopkins, Regency Printing; Metro Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

We are grateful to our funding partners:

Ontario Horticultural Association, Canadian Wildlife Service, George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, Charles H. Ivey Foundation, Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation, The George Lunan Foundation, Sir Joseph Flavelle Foundation, The EJLB Foundation, Consumers Gas, Environmental Youth Corps, Environmental Partners Fund, Placer Dome Canada Limited, Petro Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada, and the Metro Toronto Zoo Conservation Fund.


A Note For Homeowners

The Adopt-A-Pond wetland conservation programme originally focused on providing educational materials for educators and their students.

Metro Toronto Zoo receives many requests from homeowners for information on backyard ponds and restoring wetland habitats. In recognition of this interest, and with the encouragement of the Ontario Horticultural Association, Metro Toronto Zoo has written a guide that addresses wetland issues, backyard ponds and restoration techniques. Because of the need to provide additional information to conservation agencies and to those dedicated to the preservation of existing wetlands, "The Urban Outback" has become more than a simple guide to backyard ponds. For those who wish to put a simple pond in a well planted flower garden, we encourage you to read the sections most relevant to your own needs. However, we also encourage you to read those sections which provide a background to wetland issues.

Several reviewers commented that sections of the guide are too complicated for the "average" homeowner. We certainly agree. However, there are some wetland issues and restoration techniques that require a good understanding before they are attempted. In many cases scientists are still trying to understand what impact restoration has on wetlands. We include some of the technical information in anticipation that small scale restorations undertaken by homeowners will benefit from an awareness of issues which underlie the science of ecological restoration.

We have also been warned that some sections are repeated throughout the book. We are aware of this. Again, we feel that some aspects of wetland conservation are too important to risk having them missed by a reader who only consults one section which meets their needs. We ask for your understanding in this regard.

We are also aware that there are many individuals and organizations struggling to protect, preserve, and restore wetlands or degraded habitats. Some sections of this guide are written to support their goals and we have provided more scientific information that may not be of use to the backyard gardener. In some cases it is important to understand the issues which underlie wetland conservation before undertaking the modification of any existing wetland.

We remain committed to helping those who need information to preserve wetlands and the species that inhabit them. We remain equally committed to sharing our expertise with the widest possible audience.

A Note to Teachers

The Metro Toronto Zoo's Adopt-a-Pond wetland conservation programme empowers students to act on the behalf of wetlands. Our original publication, "For the Love of Frogs", outlines the issues relating to amphibian declines and provides classroom activities which focus on amphibian and wetland conservation.

The Adopt-A-Pond newsletter, "Amphibian Voice", keeps the programme current with new information on wetland conservation programmes, amphibian biology, classroom activities and stories and photographs of school pond adoptions. The newsletter includes many submissions from students and teachers.

However, as the programme progresses it is clear that the challenge of restoring wetlands is unique to each region, and, in many cases, local politics. As much as this book is intended for homeowners and the creation of frog-friendly backyards, it provides information on wetland ecology and conservation that is equally important for teachers, students, and school wetland projects. As a result, all schools now involved in the programme will also receive "The Urban Outback - Wetlands for Wildlife" as a summary of wetland conservation projects.


Although several reviewers suggested that we include a bibliography, we have not done so. Most of the books we could list are found in local libraries and none cover all the subjects outlined in this publication. We encourage you to look for books on aquatic plants and their culture; wetland conservation issues; wetland and habitat restoration techniques; and water gardens. A recent trip to a large bookstore revealed that there are many excellent books on water gardens alone. We encourage you to read the relevant sections in this publication and consult the pond, water garden and wetland sections of your local library or bookstore.

Try to read a number of books as many still contain inaccurate or misleading information on wetlands and wetland species. Look at the many colour photos which will provide ideas for your own pond or wetland. We encourage you to design your pond or wetland by understanding how it fits into your own landscape.

Use of the term "wild life" is intentional. Wild life may be defined as all forms of life within an ecosystem, from microbes through to plants and animals.

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he looked upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years...

Walt Whitman


"Experience to date indicates that too little is known about restoration and creation (of habitats) and there are too many variables to predict "success" for restoration or creation in many contexts. There have been too few projects with too little monitoring and there is too limited a literature base. This does not mean, however, that wetlands with characteristics approximating certain natural wetlands or with specific functions resembling those of the natural wetlands cannot in some instances be restored or created."

Wetland Creation and Restoration edited by Jon A. Kusler and Mary E. Kentula, 1990. Island Press.

"Wetland restoration or creation without hydrologic design will fail".

Wetland Creation and Restoration edited by Jon A. Kusler and Mary E. Kentula, 1990. Island Press.

"No man-made marsh to date has shown the stabilization of physical and chemical properties in the range of values for natural marshes".

Wetlands. (1982). Race and Chrisite.

"One focus has been to focus conservation efforts on the best natural areas "representing" the diversity of pre-settlement ecosystems, such as provincial parks and areas of natural and scientific interest. This approach is useful in targeting limited agency resources but, at the local level on fragmented landscapes, all the remaining natural landscapes should be the subject of environmentally sensitive planning."

The Natural Heritage of Southern Ontario's Settled Landscapes: A review of conservation and restoration ecology for land-use planning , 1994. OMNR

"Our level of knowledge about the ecology and natural history of our own landscape is humbling. The knowledge required for the maintenance of species and ecosystems at risk is daunting. Our investment in expanding that knowledge is minimal, despite the public expectation that science has been actively pursuing relevant environmental research for decades."

The Natural Heritage of Southern Ontario's Settled Landscapes: A review of conservation and restoration ecology for land-use planning, 1994. OMNR

"The Greater Toronto Region is, both literally and figuratively, at a watershed. Not long ago, society believed that the environment was endlessly able to absorb the detritus of a modern, industrial-based economy. More recently, the assumption was that the environment and the economy were inevitably opposed: opting for one meant damaging the other. Today, however, it is clear that the two, rather than being mutually exclusive, are mutually dependent: a good quality of life and economic development cannot be sustained in an ecologically deteriorating environment. The way we choose to treat the Greater Toronto Waterfront is crucial. If governments and individuals recognize- and act on- the need to resolve past environmental problems and forge strategies to protect the waterfront now and in the future, we will, indeed, have successfully crossed a watershed.

David Crombie in "Watershed". 1990. The Interim Report of the Royal Commission on the Future of the Toronto Water front, 1990.

"It is often assumed that wetlands restored or created to replace those lost to construction, filling, draining, or contamination are successfully constructed systems that effectively duplicate the functional values and self-sustaining characteristics of the original (natural) wetland. However, information gleaned from extensive review of existing literature...pertaining to wetland creation and restoration fails to support this assumption."

Wetland Creation and Restoration: Description and Summary of the Literature. 1990. USFWS Biological Report 90(3).