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Springs of the clearest and purest
water, abound all over the Island,
and which not only do not freeze in
the winter, but the runs from them
into the sea, keeps a channel open,
though the ice on both sides there-
of will be a foot thick or more on
the salt-water. Fine water is also
obtained by digging wells at moder-
ate depth, it being rarely necessary
to exceed twenty-five feet, and there
is very seldom an instance of being
disappointed in getting water.
John Stewart: An Account of
Prince Edward Island (1806)
early every Islander has a
favourite spring... one of those
special places where water bubbles
or pours out of the ground in a hid-
den grove or valley. They are part
of the Island’s collective memory.
Recall the bubbling spring that
could be tapped to pipe water right
to the farm kitchen, or water for the
livestock without having to dig a
well. Remember the winter roads
across the frozen rivers or bays,
“bushed” with lines of evergreen
saplings to guide travellers around
places where the ice was thin or soft
because of a spring flowing below.
Springs were also used for local
industry; for example, we read in the
History of Clinton that Woodside’s
blacksmith shop was located near a
spring whose water poured from the
side of a hill into Harding’s Creek.
A large stone by this spring made it
possible for locals to get close to dip
water for drinking. It also supplied
the school with water in the days
before it had a well.
“She had made friends with the
spring down in the hollow,” Maud
Montgomery wrote, “that won-
derful deep, clear, icy-cold spring;
it was set about with smooth red
sandstones and rimmed in by great
palm-like clumps of water fern; and
beyond it was a log bridge over the
brook.” Anne made friends with her
spring within the first two weeks
of settling into Green Gables but,
unusual for her, never gave it a
name. Two of the most famous real
springs on Prince Edward Island
are the Healing Spring near Mount
Stewart and the Devil’s Punchbowl
in Granville. The Healing Spring
was noted as early as the 1750s
by Colonel Franquet when he vis-
ited to plan new fortifications for
the colony. It was later recorded as
“Medical Spring” in Meacham’s 1880
Atlas. Bishop Angus MacEachern
was said to have blessed the spring
in the early 1800s, and there are
many stories of its healing power.
MacEachern also had another con-
nection with springs he reputedly
hung buckets by springs near the
roadside, so travellers could water
their horses. The Devil’s Punchbowl
comes from the other end of the
religious spectrum, and appar-
ently received its name from an
encounter with the “old boy” him-
self. According to F.H. MacArthur’s
Legends of Prince Edward Island,
the devil stole a puncheon of rum
from one John Hawkins, who was
transporting it to the tavern in Hazel
Grove over a stretch of steep and
treacherous terrain on the Princeton
Road. The hole it made entering
the earth became the punchbowl.
Alan Rayburn noted this to be the
Island’s only “devilish” place name
in his 2001 book, Naming Canada.
Both Rayburn and an account by
Elinor Vass in The Island Magazine
(1986) report a happy ending, how-
ever, with Hawkins recovering the
rum and continuing along his way.
Other springs had connections
with spirits of another kind; evi-
dence of old stills can still be found
in and near springs throughout the
province. Springs are immortal-
ized in other place names: Roaring
Springs (Naufrage), Fountain Head
(North Lake Creek), Spirit Springs
(Dromore), and place names like
Spring Valley, Springfield, Spring
Hill, and Spring Park. Meacham’s
1880 Atlas notes where many are
located. Unlike maps today, the atlas
even included a symbol to identi-
fy springs, an important testament
to their importance in the life of
the community at the time. Some
of these must have been especially
important, since they included the
label “Spr” as well as the map sym-
bol. Today, springs are mostly hid-
den treasures, with some exceptions.
Donna Giberson Edward MacDonaldKyle Knysh
For example, the Bubbling Springs
in Stanhope is a popular destination
for walkers in Prince Edward Island
National Park. This is a typical “boil-
ing” spring where water bubbles up
through loose sand in a pool before
forming a stream. The edges have
been lined with large rocks, suggest-
ing it was probably the water source
for a local homesteader. These pools
were not stable enough to approach
without some sort of platform, and
there are reports in eastern Prince
Edward Island that a few farmers
used the rocks they pulled from
their fields each spring to help to
stabilize the banks of their springs
so livestock could use them.
What are springs, and how do
they form?
... the interior is intersected with riv-
ers which meander through the rich-
est natural forest in every district;
while springs, and streams of the
purest water, everywhere abound.
S.S. Hill, A History of Prince
Edward Island, 1839
Springs are points where ground-
water meets the surface and flows
out onto the land. There are many
types, and a surprising amount of
controversy about how to classify
them, but they form in similar ways.
Water from rain and snowmelt per-
colate into the ground, and collect
in geological formations called aqui-
fers. Aquifers are made up of rock
or sediment that is permeable or
porous, such as sands and gravels
that water can flow through. When
the water meets a layer of imperme-
able rock, or even the water table,
it flows laterally (to the side), and
if this takes it to the surface, it will
flow out as a spring. Flow can be
slow, or move through many small
points, at which point it is known as
a seep, or it can be rapid and gush-
ing, if the flow is under pressure.
Geologists classify and name
springs based on local geology, the
size and shape of the exit points
for the water, the force that drives
them to the surface, and the amount
of flow. All of these factors affect
the conditions of the water in the
spring. Spring habitats are referred
to as “crenic” (from the Greek Krene,
meaning fountain or spring) and
their scientific classification names
pair the suffix “crene” with anoth-
er Greek word that describes how
and where they flow. For exam-
ple, springs that flow into running
waters are called “Rheocrene” (Rheo
= flowing), and the ones that bubble
or flow into small pools are called
“Limnocrene” (Limne = lake). Other
springs seep into marshy areas,
and are called “Helocrene” (Helos =
Biologists use the same basic clas-
sification as the geologists, but also
consider the conditions that affect
organisms living in the spring:
temperature, water chemistry, and
oxygen levels. All of these depend
on how deep the water goes into
the ground and how long it trav-
els through it before emerging. For
example, “thermal springs” are more
than 5oC warmer than the mean
annual temperature of the region.
They are heated geothermally, and
rise rapidly to the surface before
they can cool, so are only found in
mountainous areas. Cool springs
approximate the mean annual tem-
perature of the region and are found
all over Canada. The water flow
doesn’t go as deep, and/or travels
more slowly to the surface, and so
it reflects the characteristics of the
surrounding terrain. Similarly, the
chemical nature of the water will
reflect the minerals in the sediment
it travels through.
One of the things biologists find
most interesting about springs is
that they form at the junction of
several different habitats or zones,
each of which are associated with
different organisms. On the terres-
trial side, the above-ground for
A portion of the Lot 38 map from Meacham’s 1880 Atlas, showing the “Medical
Spring” and other springs near Mount Stewart.
Excerpt from the symbols explana-
tions for the Meacham’s 1880 Atlas.
habitat sends roots through the
soil just above the groundwater in
the water table. This is called the
“vadose” (Latin for “shallow”) zone.
On the aquatic side, surface waters
grade into the groundwater zone
through an area just under the flow-
ing water zone called the “hyporhe-
ic” from two Greek words: “hypo”
(below) “rheos” (flow). The water
in the hyporheic area is a combina-
tion of groundwater and precipita-
tion and snowmelt. Springs, on the
other hand, consist of direct flow
of groundwater to the surface, and
are known for their cool and con-
stant temperatures and unique water
chemistry. Aquatic organisms that
inhabit the spring sources are often
uniquely adapted for the spring
conditions, especially the cool tem-
peratures, and springs may contain
endemic species, the term given to
species found nowhere else but in
that habitat or location.
The Island’s geology is character-
ized by fractured sandstone bedrock,
so not only does it store consider-
able amounts of fresh water, but
springs surge or seep to the surface
all over the province, and all three
types of springs can be found here.
They average just over 7oC where
they emerge from their source, and
show very little variation through
the year, ranging from about 6.7
to 7.5oC, winter to summer. They
are warmest between August and
November, and are coolest between
February and June. Similarly, many
chemical characteristics remain sta-
ble throughout the year within indi-
vidual springs, but can vary consid-
erably from spring to spring depend-
ing on local land use conditions.
Springs located in heavily forested
areas have similar water chemistry,
including similar amounts of nitrate,
phosphate, chloride, and oxygen, but
springs surrounded by agricultur-
al land can be quite variable. For
example, parts of the province with
high nitrate levels in the groundwa-
ter will also have high nitrates in
the springs. Nutrient loading into
the springs appears to affect the
organisms living in them, mostly
by changing the plant community
from one dominated by mosses and
similar plants to one dominated
by to one dominated by plants like
watercress. This in turn changes the
habitat and food resources for the
Bubbling Spring in PEI National Park.
D. Giberson
Kyle Knysh shows the “quick-sand” like nature of this spring by plunging his arm
into the sand.
Kristen Vinke
A bubbling spring located in Bear River, showing the diversity of plant life in the
Kyle Knysh
animals in the spring (e.g. the small
insects and worms), and changes the
overall community.
Some Recent
Springs Research
Recently, some students from the
University of Prince Edward Island,
in collaboration with Agriculture
and Agri-food Canada, Canadian
Rivers Institute, and the Souris and
Area Branch of the PEI Wildlife
Federation have been studying
springs. The project started as an
investigation on how land use affects
the biological communities that live
there, but since so little is known
about springs in Canada, especially
those here in the Maritimes, the proj-
ect has grown to look at biological,
physical, and chemical patterns, over
a large group of springs. Although
Prince Edward Island has a good
variety of rheocrene, limnocrene,
and helocrene springs, the focus of
the studies has been on the bubbling
limnocrene springs, since they are
easier to characterize than the oth-
ers. The overall goal of the project
is to find out what species of plant
and animal live in the springs, what
their life histories are, and how these
organisms relate to the habitat fea-
tures within and around the springs.
Twenty springs in eastern Prince
Edward Island (see map) were stud-
ied, ten of them in forested areas,
and ten surrounded by agriculture.
Sampling was carried out in 2011
and 2012.
There are some real challenges
to sampling springs. The unstable
bottoms means not only that it is
difficult to walk in them, but also
that just trying to do so could dis-
turb the water so much that the
sample might not be a valid one.
Therefore, we sampled from above!
A clever system of ropes and a har-
ness allowed us to hover above the
water and take our samples from
the undisturbed bottom materi-
als. In addition, flying insect traps
were suspended above the surface
to catch insects as they transformed
from their aquatic immature stage to
the flying adults.
To date, a number of interest-
ing creatures, most of them differ-
ent types of flies, have been found
emerging from the pools. Flies
belong to a group of insects called
Diptera, meaning “two-winged” to
distinguish them from most other
insects that have four wings. The
most common and most diverse flies
were the non-biting midges (Family
Chironomidae), which included
at least 26 species in our springs,
UPEI student Travis James taking a water sample from Fountain Head, a spring
in eastern PEI, spring 2011.
Kyle Knysh
though more are expected as we
continue to go through the samples.
Midge larvae are worm-like in shape,
but have a well-developed head with
rather ferocious looking teeth. They
are important food for trout and
salmon when in the water, and for
birds and bats when they leave the
water to fly and mate.
The spring pools were not home to
any biting flies, though, since mosqui-
toes need very still waters to breed,
and black flies need faster running
water and different food than found
Locations of springs in Eastern PEI that were sampled for this project.
in the spring sources. One interest-
ing and surprising fly that was found
was the phantom midge, Eucorethra
underwoodi. This species looks a bit
like a mosquito, but is usually found
in other woodland ponds. It is a vora-
cious predator, catching other small
invertebrates that live near the sur-
face of the water.
The biggest
challenge for
spring animals is
the temperature,
since it is too cold
for most to com-
plete their life
cycles; that means
that most species
in the cool-spring
pools have adap-
tations to survive
the cold water
conditions. The
ones in our spring
pools were a mix
of species that
are also found in
cold streams fur-
ther north, and
species that are
totally restricted to
springs. Relatively
few of the common stream insects
(such as mayflies and stoneflies)
can survive in springs, for example.
When they are restricted to this hab-
itat, they are known as crenobionts.
Keeping with the tradition of using
Greek terminology for classifica-
tion, this means “living in springs.”
Another group we find in springs
are those that are also found just
downstream of the pool, and we call
those crenophiles (or “spring-lov-
ing”). Table 1 shows the number of
species in the most common aquat-
ic insect groups so far identified in
Prince Edward Island springs. Most
of them are known from other cool
streams in our region, but some
appear to prefer springs or are
restricted to them.
Good examples of crenophile spe-
cies in our springs are the stone-
fly (Nemoura trispinosa) and the
caddisfly (Lepidostoma vernalis),
both known only by their Latin
names, since they don’t have com-
mon names. Both species require
cool water and feed by shredding
dead plant matter like, fallen leaves.
These shredders are usually found in
tree-shaded headwaters in streams,
where food is readily available, and
since they are cold-adapted, they do
well in the spring pools as well as in
the cool springbrooks.
An example of a possible crenobi-
ont in our springs is the tiny water
mite Hydrovolzia, which is generally
spring-restricted. Hydrovolzia mitch-
elli, the only species known from
the Maritime Provinces, requires
temperatures under 10°C and is
under two mm long. It can be found
crawling around moss-like plants
at the spring source hunting tiny
prey. Radical changes in the pool
plant communities related to land
use (from a moss-like plant commu-
nity to a vascular plant community)
can affect the habitat of the moss-
crawling species, and also the spe-
cies associated with them (such as
A critical point about this
research is that most of the animals
that live in our spring pools are
tiny, and belong to fairly obscure
invertebrate groups that are not
easy to sample and identify. For
example, many of the specimens
captured had to be mounted onto
microscope slides before they could
be identified by someone with the
Formation of springs: A. Water percolates down through permeable sediments
to an impermeable layer, then moves laterally. If it meets the ground surface,
water may flow or seep out and over the land. B. As with the upper panel, water
percolates down to an impermeable layer and moves laterally, but may be
forced upward along fracture points to pour out of the ground.
Diagrams adapted from
Schematic showing the relationship between habitats
that influence springs. Figure adapted from Barquín,
José, and Mike Scarsbrook. “Management and con-
servation strategies for coldwater springs.” Aquatic
Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 2008.
Table 1. Species diversity summary for common aquatic insects found in
springs in eastern Prince Edward Island
Taxa Number of Number that are
Species Encountered Crenophiles/Crenobionts
Mayflies 4 1
Stoneflies 6 3
Caddisflies 12 6 or 7
Flies 35+ To be assessed
Kyle Knysh being lowered down to sample spring bottom
sediments from above.
Insect emergence traps suspended over a woodland spring
Moragh Jang.
Kyle KnyshKyle Knysh
Kyle Knysh
Eucorethra underwoodi: a preda-
tor that lives in the spring pools.
Specimen next to penny shown full
Two specimens of the water mite, Hydrovolzia sp.
(< – 2 mm) showing a dorsal (top) view at left and a ven-
tral (bottom) view at right.
Bottom view of the head of one of the chironomid larvae
inhabiting the spring pools in eastern PEI.
Qi Liu
appropriate training and expertise, a
time-consuming process that limits
how many springs could be studied.
The work was useful, though, since
it has allowed us to determine what
species are present in our springs,
and how they might be affected by
disturbances. We have seen that
the insect and plant communities
of springs in agricultural areas are
quite different from those in forest-
ed zones, due to differences in nutri-
ent concentrations and food types.
As noted, springs with high nutrient
concentrations were dominated by
vascular plants (including the non-
native watercress), whereas the low
nutrient ones (generally those in for-
ested areas) were mossy, leading to
very different types of habitat and
distributions of the various aquatic
insects. So far, we have found that
the abundance of some stoneflies
and caddisflies is higher in agricul-
tural areas than in the forested areas,
while midge numbers are lower.
Other ongoing projects in the
springs have helped us understand
patterns in species distribution, and
Two invertebrates that live in the spring pools, but are also found downstream
in the springbrook and other cool-water streams. The stonefly larva, Nemoura
trispinosa, is below and the caddisfly adult, Lepidostoma vernale, is above.
show that not all work in the springs
needs to be as intensive or detailed
to provide useful information. These
have provided information on the
nature of the riparian community
around the springs, the extent of
the influence of the spring on the
downstream springbrook (tempera-
ture and water chemistry), and the
nature of the substrate (bottom)
materials in the spring. Differences
in the surrounding trees influence
the quality of the food available to
the “bugs,” since conifer needles are
harder to digest than leafy material
from deciduous trees like maples
and alders; therefore, land-use pat-
terns that affect the riparian trees
can also affect the animals. A
student project on the riparian
vegetation around springs
showed that deciduous
trees were more com-
mon in the forested
springs than those
in agricultural
zones. Another
student project
on temperature
and chemical changes downstream
of the spring pool helped us to
understand the reasons for the dis-
tribution of the spring-loving species
downstream into the springbrook. A
third project helped us understand
how agricultural practices affect the
bottom substrates of the springs.
Springs are the sources of most of
our surface water on Prince Edward
Island, so are critical resources –
both as indicators of the health of
our groundwater and as habitat for
fish and other aquatic organisms.
In 1859, the editor of the Day Dawn
of Orono, Ontario wrote of a recent
visit to Prince Edward Island (report-
ed in the Charlottetown Islander, 8
Oct. 1859), “We never saw clearer
or prettier streams than here; the
Islanders pride themselves on the
fact that their water is of the purest
kind, and we cannot detract from its
qualities in the least.” These words
clearly aren’t as true now as when
they were written more than 150
years ago, but our studies can help
us understand what will be needed
to protect the water resources into
the future.
This study into biology and chem-
istry of eastern PEI springs has been
led by Kyle Knysh (UPEI Master’s
student), but has also included sev-
eral projects by undergraduate stu-
dents in Watershed Ecology at the
university. A summary of their find-
ings is shown below.
Table 2. Tree and shrub species found in quadrats within 15 m of the spring pool for eight springs in eastern PEI (four
in forested areas and four in agricultural areas) and their percent occurrence in the forested or agricultural spring
riparian zone. Shade tolerance values are from the PEI Department of Energy and Forestry website.
% abund % abund Shade
Scientific Name Common Name Tree type forest agric. tolerance
Juniperus communis Common Juniper coniferous shrub 0.3 0.3
Abies balsamea Balsam Fir conifer 34.9 28 tolerant
Picea glauca White Spruce conifer 0.6 23.1 intermed
Picea rubens Red Spruce conifer 0.6 5 tolerant
Alnus rugosa Speckled Alder deciduous shrub 16.8 1.7
Amelanchier spp. Serviceberry deciduous shrub 2.1 3.3
Corylus cornuta Beaked Hazelnut deciduous shrub 0.9 1.2
Myrica pensylvanica Northern Bayberry deciduous shrub 0 0.3
Rosa spp Wild Rose deciduous shrub 0.4 0
Salix spp Willow deciduous shrub 0.1 0.3 intol.
Sorbus americana American Mt. Ash deciduous shrub 0.7 1.6 intol.
Viburnum cassinoides Wild Raisin deciduous shrub 4.8 3.1
Acer rubrum Red Maple deciduous 12.3 4.2 intermed
Acer spicatum Mountain Maple deciduous 0.6 0 tolerant
Betula papyrifera White Birch deciduous 3.6 4.5 intol.
Betula populifolia Grey Birch deciduous 0 1.2 intol.
Malus spp Apple deciduous 0 5.6
Populus tremuloides Trembling Aspen deciduous 0.3 4.7 intol.
Prunus pensylvanica Pin Cherry deciduous 0 0.3 intol.
Prunus virginiana Chokecherry deciduous 2.5 0 intol.
snag dead tree 17.9 10.8
Number of Species 16 17
Riparian zones around freshwater
springs have not been well studied in
Prince Edward Island, even though
springs are the source for most of our
streams. A riparian zone is the area of
land surrounding a water-body where
the vegetation is influenced by the pres-
ence of water. Riparian areas protect
against run-off and soil erosion, and
replenish the organic layer around the
water body as leaves decompose. The
micro-organisms and organic carbons in
the soil are effective at absorbing pesti-
cide and nutrient runoff and the amount
of organic material can indicate whether
or not soil erosion is occurring in the
area. The vegetation type can also be
important, since deciduous and conif-
erous trees differ in how much shade
they provide at different times of year
and how much organic material they
contribute to the soils. These factors can
affect plants and animals living in the
spring, by regulating runoff and sun-
light reaching the water surface. The
type of forest will vary depending on
the surrounding land use, because of
previous forest-cutting practises. The
objectives of our study were to quantify
the differences between the woody-plant
communities surrounding springs in
agricultural areas and forested areas.
In October, 2012 we assessed ripar-
ian zones around eight springs; four
in forested areas and four surrounded
by agriculture. We established three
transects at right angles and parallel to
the spring outlet, and divided each into
three, five-by-five metre plots, starting
at the spring pool and running fifteen
metres out. Then we identified all of the
trees and shrubs, including snags (dead
standing trees) found in each square,
measuring the diameter of the trunks
at one and a third metres above ground.
We measured crown closure; how much
the crown of the tree shades the ground
below, using a device called a spherical
densitometer and in the plots closest
to the spring took soil samples with a
soil auger to measure the measuring the
depth of the organic layer.
We found the overall tree and shrub
diversity (number of species) were
similar around springs in the two land-
use types. Tree sizes were also similar,
though the extent of the riparian zone
was larger in forested sites. Balsam Fir
was the most common type of tree in
the riparian zone for all springs, fol-
lowed by Red Maple and Speckled Alder
in forested springs, and White Spruce
in the springs in agricultural areas.
Generally, springs in the forested areas
had more deciduous trees, and those
surrounded by agriculture were domi-
nated by conifers. Springs located in
forested areas had nearly 80% crown
cover (shading), compared to only about
50% in the agricultural areas. Also, the
organic soil layer averaged about 6.5 cm
close to forested streams, compared to
only 3.5 cm in springs surrounded by
agriculture. In both cases, the differenc-
es between the forested and agricultural
springs were statistically significant.
Forested springs should have less direct
sunlight and fewer nutrients running
into them from surrounding land than
those in agricultural areas, so would be
expected to have different biological
communities (animals and plants).
Riparian Zones Surrounding Bubbling Springs in Eastern Prince Edward Island
Christian Gallant, Roxanne MacLean, and Ian Manning
Water temperatures in cool
springs are usually around the mean
annual air temperature of the soil
they flow through about ten metres
below the surface. For example,
Prince Edward Island springs have
temperatures a little above 7°C,
compared to about 4°C in Labrador.
Surface water streams, on the other
hand, are usually fairly close to air
temperature. Therefore, one com-
mon way to distinguish the spring-
source from the springbrook below
it is to note the point where the
water temperature has increased
by 2°C above that of the source.
Other characteristics like pH, dis-
solved oxygen and total dissolved
ions should show little change down-
stream of the spring source, but
this had not been tested in Prince
Edward Island. Springs are impor-
tant sources of surface water on
Prince Edward Island, so it is impor-
tant to understand how changes or
Temperature Patterns Downstream of Prince Edward Island Bubbling Springs
Stephanie Peckford and Kelsie Warren
Table 3. Chemistry and stream patterns at 10 m intervals downstream of the spring source for five spring sites in east-
ern Prince Edward Island, 12 October 2012. The length of the springbrook (in meters) is given for each site and the
numbers are average values with the range of values shown in parentheses below.
Dissolved Forest
Site Oxygen Conductivity Canopy Stream
Land Use Name pH (mg/L) (µS/cm) cover (%) width (m)
Type (distance) (range) (range) (range) (range) (range)
Agricultural Souris One 6.96 11.43 217 73.52 1.4
(160m) (6.9-7.1) (11.1-11.9) (212-220) (18-96) (0.4-4.3)
Souris Two 6.96 9.78 197 66.38 0.5
(50m) (6.9-7.0) (9.3-10.2) (194-206) (38-95) (0.3-0.9)
Naufrage 7.68 11.66 210.7 72.56 2.6
(160 m) (7.6-7.8) (11.5-11.9) (201-217) (24-96) (0.7-7.0)
Forested Cross River 7.37 12.25 176.5 22.85 1.5
(175m) (7.2-7.6) (11.2-12.8) (154-181) (12-75) (0.5-1.5)
Bear (North) 7.51 11.28 195.2 45.08 2.1
(90m) (7.4-7.7) (10.7-11.9) (192-197) (12-96) (0.85-3.85)
Note: “pH” is a measure of acidity, with a pH of 7 being neutral; “Dissolved Oxygen” shows the amount of oxygen available for the
animals and plants, and levels should be above five mg per litre to support most animal life; “Conductivity” is a measure of how
well the water conducts electricity and relates to the amount of material dissolved in the water – it is measured using “microSie-
mans” units (µS/cm), with higher numbers indicating more dissolved materials. The “Forest canopy cover” simply indicates the
amount of shading to the stream.
fluctuations in these variables affect
plant and animal diversity. In our
study, we determined thermal and
chemical patterns downstream of
spring outflows. We also compared
patterns from springs in forested
areas to those in agricultural areas to
see if there were any differences.
To look at these patterns, we mea-
sured water temperature, oxygen,
electrical conductance (a measure
of dissolved ions) and pH every ten
metres downstream of the source
pool in five springs. All were locat-
ed between the St. Peter’s and East
Point watersheds; two of the springs
originated in agricultural areas and
three in forested areas. The tempera-
ture and chemistry variables were
measured on site with a water qual-
ity meter. Measurements continued
to about 170 metres downstream of
the source unless the stream ended
(for example by flowing into a larg-
er stream). All measurements were
taken on 12 October 2012. Air tem-
peratures during sampling ranged
from 15-17°C.
Water chemistry variables
were very similar at all sampling
points downstream of the source
pool, and did not show any obvi-
ous patterns with land use. Water
temperature and stream width
increased gradually downstream,
but none of the springs showed the
2°C increase at the measured points
that would have indicated more sur-
face influences on the brook. Forest-
area springs had temperatures that
ranged from 7.2°C at the source and
7.5-8°C at the furthest point down-
stream. However, the springbrooks
in agricultural areas were general-
ly about 1°C warmer than the ones
in forested areas and had higher
amounts of dissolved materials giv-
ing a higher electrical conductivity.
Springs have generally stable
chemical, physical and thermal prop-
erties which make them important
habitats for plants and animals.
Because the amount of water flow in
springs is quite stable year-round, the
size of the substrate particles should
also be similar within and among
springs, depending on local geology.
Differences in the size of rocks on
the bottom affects habitat for bottom-
dwelling animals like macroinverte-
brates (insects, mites, worms, etc.)
by changing the sizes of pore spaces,
current velocity and the surface area,
which in turn affect the amount of
habitable space and food availability.
Bubbling springs in Prince
Edward Island have sandy bottoms,
and up-welling in springs with sandy
substrate can produce a “quicksand”
effect which makes the bottom sub-
strates very unstable. However, some
Substrate particle sizes in Prince Edward Island springs
Dan Gillespie, Devon Gardiner and Roxanne MacLean
springs in eastern Prince Edward
Island have bottoms with very large
rocks, and relatively little exposed
sand, and some have high amounts
of silt; both of these patterns could
relate to local land use. Stories from
farmers in the area suggest that
rocks picked from nearby fields
were sometimes placed into springs
to stabilize them so that livestock
could drink from them without get-
ting caught in the loose sand. Runoff
from nearby fields could also affect
the sediment patterns by depositing
fine silt into the spring pools. The
goal of our study was to evaluate
substrate sizes in springs to deter-
mine what the “normal” size distri-
bution is, to compare to springs in
agricultural and forested areas.
For our study, substrate size dis-
tribution was estimated for three for-
ested and two agricultural springs by
dividing each spring into grids, and
photographing the spring bottom in
each grid with a digital camera from
approximately one metre above the
water surface. Photos were then ana-
lysed with the photo-image-analy-
sis software program “ImageJ” to
obtain the area of each particle in
the photo. The median (middle)
value and range of values were then
obtained for each spring. The three
forested sites had mainly sandy sedi-
ment with some larger stones up to
11 cm or so (4.5 inches) in width.
The agricultural sites also had sandy
sediment, but also had several larg-
er rocks up to a half meter across
(18 inches) in one spring and 15 cm
(6 inches) in the other. One of the
agricultural sites also had consider-
able amounts of very fine silt that
may have washed off from adjacent
Table 4. Comparison of substrate sizes in a selection of springs in eastern Prince Edward Island.
Spring Surrounding Land
Size (area) of rock
or particles (cm2)
Range in sediment
particle size (cm2)
Area of spring pool
Bear River, Spring 1 Forest 2.915 0.05 - 129.7 3.0
Bear River, Spring 2 Forest 0.9034 0.04 - 40.7 7.75
Hay River Spring Forest 0.4185 0.12 - 0.80 5.0
Souris, Spring 1 Agriculture 0.8594 0.01 – 2205.0 6.0
Souris, Spring 2 Agriculture 1.247 0.001-202.7 4.0
Example of spring with fine sediment. Example of spring with rocky sediment.
R. MacLean
... Therefore, it might be expected that springs and their fauna would be well known throughout the province. However, though locations of springs are generally well-known on PEI (mainly for historical reasons as local water sources or their reputation for healing; Giberson et al. 2013), very little was known about the fauna of springs prior to my research (Knysh 2014). The focus of my project was how agricultural inputs affected springs in eastern PEI, but I quickly learned that I needed the baseline information on what was present in the springs before I could evaluate the potential agricultural impacts. ...
... Fourthly, look into local written and oral histories of an area. Springs were important sources of water, and many settlements and homesteads were located near them (see examples in Giberson et al. 2013 for Prince Edward Island). Springs today may or may not be in the same location as described, like hot springs in Haida Gwaii (British Columbia) in 2012, in which much of the flow stopped after an earthquake, but historical accounts of spring water use can be helpful in locating springs. ...
... When the water meets a layer of impermeable rock or even the water table, it flows laterally (to the side), and if this takes it to the surface, it will flow out as a spring. Flow can be slow or move through many small points, at which point it is known as a seep, or it can be rapid and gushing if the flow is under pressure (Giberson et al. 2013). In the Himalayan region, the natural springs are an essential source for the existence of human beings. ...
Full-text available
Springs are the main source of water for drinking, agriculture, livestock feeding and other household consumption in the north-eastern Himalayan states of India. The largest number of populations in this region are completely dependent on these springs for all water needs. But in recent year it was observed that the majority of life-giving perennial springs discharging pattern has become seasonal and concentrated to monsoon period only, due to the change in rainfall duration and intensity, land use/land cover and anthropogenic activity in recharge areas. So, water scarcity and demand increased during the non-monsoon period, which is an uncertain situation for the long-term sustainability of the human population in the region. To sustain in this water scarcity condition, adopt suitable springshed and water management practices. Such as reviving/restoration and development of perennial springs, protection of springshed and store water when it is in excess. Anthropogenic activity in the springshed area is also affected by the spring discharge pattern and cause drying such as mounting tourist spots and rapidly growing towns and other human activity. In recent years, it was noticed that the water quality degraded due to poor management of springshed. The human activity in springshed is the main cause of water degradation such as agricultural practices, new construction, toilets, sewage, and industrial waste, etc.
The freshwater resources are likely to be severely impacted by climate change as reported by many researchers around the globe. India already facing a shortage of freshwater resources due to rapid urbanization and industrialization and acceleration of economic development activities. Assessment of water resources plays a key role in the development of the economy of any nation. Northeastern states of India are blessed with huge water resources. The region faces inconsistent circumstance as devastating floods in monsoon months and water scarcity in non-rainy periods at many places. Most of the areas having high reliefs or undulating terrains where rainwater does not get sufficient time to infiltrate into the soil. As a result, quick runoff is dominant in the region, and ultimately reduces the recharge of springshed, and results in the reduction of discharge of many springs and streams during the non-rainy season. To overcome freshwater stress in the region, a proper understanding of the water cycle, its management, and development of various infrastructure is highly required. Though some problems could not be solved due to the lack of hydrological data like spring discharge data, water quality, etc. The alternate use of environmental isotope technologies aids researchers to estimate origin, recharge source age, and its movement within the hydrologic cycle can be of ultimate solutions. The stable isotopes (Deuterium and Oxygen-18) are excellent indicators of the water circulation, whereas radioisotopes (Tritium and Carbon-14) distinct value in detecting the mean residence time (MRT). This methodology has special value in terms of its cost-effectiveness and the investigative encouragement of the specialists. This paper presents the use of isotopic hydrology for sustainable development of the water resources of northeastern region of India.
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