What’s black and white and red all over? OK, maybe just red on its sides? The redside dace (Clinostomus elongatus)!
The redside dace is one of approximately 150 species of fish found in the Great Lakes region. Almost 90% of their population in Ontario lives within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This minnow has been considered endangered in Ontario since 2009 due to loss of critical habitat and decreased water quality associated with urban development and agricultural practices.
Redside dace are the only minnow species in Canada that jumps out of the water to catch their prey. They play an essential role in ecosystems; as insectivores they help manage the populations of insects such as mosquitos. If redside dace populations continue to decline, we may see an increase in mosquito populations – and no one likes mosquito bites!
Redside dace require clean, clear, and cold streams to survive. They used to be commonly found throughout the GTA’s watersheds, though now they are limited to the headwaters of our local rivers. The decline in their population can be linked to:
Loss of streamside vegetation: insects prefer to gather near long grasses and shrubs along the stream and when this vegetation disappears the redside dace’s main food source disappears as well;
Excessive sedimentation: when there are too many soil and sand particles in the water column the water becomes unclear which impacts the ability for redside dace to hunt),
Alteration of flows: impervious surfaces cause flash flooding and increased streamflow that can impact redside dace resting pools;
Increasing water temperatures: redside dace will not tolerate water temperatures over 23°C; and
Increased pollution: redside dace are very sensitive to chemicals, contaminants, and road salts in the water.
Ontario Streams is an environmental charity that has been heavily involved in the conservation of redside dace and their habitat for over 26 years. Our mission is to promote the protection and rehabilitation of Ontario’s streams, rivers, and wetlands through education and community action. Through the planting of streamside native shrubs, installation of in-stream habitat enhancement structures, and litter cleanups, Ontario Streams is strengthening the remaining redside dace populations. Our goal is to encourage them to return and spawn in these historic habitats, improving the overall health and resilience of this species in the GTA.
In addition, Ontario Streams leads outreach and educational programs to raise awareness about the redside dace. We recently contributed to a video series with the Toronto Zoo’s Great Lakes Program to share the importance of protecting redside dace and their habitat. To complement the videos, we also launched a collection of engaging infographics.
You can also take action to protect redside dace and their habitat by:
Planting native shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses such as red osier dogwood and serviceberry;
Reducing water consumption;
Collecting litter from parks and natural areas;
Sharing what you’ve learned about redside dace with others; and
Kat is the Outreach Coordinator at Ontario Streams where she develops and delivers environmental education and stewardship programming for students and community members. She graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science, Zoology and a Master of Environmental Science with a focus on aquatic toxicology and fish reproduction. Kat is passionate about conservation education and connecting others with their local environment.