Land Trust facilitates the health of the Salmon Brook watershed

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By Shirley Murtha
The Granby Land Trust’s acquisition of many significant pieces of property, whether outright gifts or conservation easements, has played an important role in maintaining the health and viability of the Salmon Brook watershed. By keeping development away from many of the streams feeding the watershed, the water remains free of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, road salt and myriad other chemicals.
This was one of the main points of a lecture given by retired Kingswood-Oxford biology teacher Dick Caley on October 9 in the Workshop at Holcomb Farm. A member of the Land Trust for many years, and staunch protector of our streams and the life in them, Caley continues his study of the macro-invertebrates that inhabit these waters and act as the “canaries in the mines” regarding the health of the streams.
A watershed is essentially a basin encompassed by higher terrain. Water flows into and out of the basin from surrounding streams. The Connecticut River watershed, from the river’s origin just shy of the Canadian border to its joining Long Island Sound, comprises seven million acres and 50,000 square miles of contributing streams. Granby’s Salmon Brook watershed is fed by 15 tributaries: Beach, Belden, Bissell, Creamery, Dismal, Enders, Fox, Higley, Hungary, Kendell, Moosehorn, Mountain (2), Ring and Wright.

Photo by Shirley Murtha

In addition to keeping these tributaries inaccessible to development, the forest canopy of these undisturbed areas also plays an important role in the health of the water. The shade of the forests helps to keep the water cool, which in turn increases the oxygen content necessary to support much of the life in the water.
Different organisms have varying dependence on oxygen. Those that can survive in water with a low oxygen content and can tolerate pollutants are indicators of an unhealthy body of water. The organisms in the Salmon Brook watershed are intolerant of pollutants and are highly dependent on oxygen; this indicates how healthy the supplying tributaries are. In fact, the East and West Branches of the Salmon Brook are considered Grade A streams. In contrast, those of more urbanized impacted streams are Grades B and C because of the development that has taken place in their surroundings.
Due to the past summer’s heat and lack of rain, many of the watershed’s tributaries have low oxygen and concomitant algal blooms. Hopefully the upcoming winter will have normal (or above) precipitation and return these streams to their healthy condition.
Caley is adamant that the future of Granby’s watershed is tied to the continued success of the Granby Land Trust.
Caption: Dick Caley selects some insect larvae culled from a Granby stream to illustrate the type of invertebrate life present in the healthy Salmon Brook watershed.