The headwaters of our watersheds are important for a number of intrinsic reasons, as well as for their impact on maintenance of downstream environments. The emphasis of research and management in stream ecosystems has typically been on salmonid fish, to the neglect of other stream and riparian organisms. Headwaters are sources of a large proportion of the energy used to fuel river food webs via organic matter that enters headwaters in the form of leaf litter from riparian vegetation. Headwaters themselves harbour a number of poorly known species, some of which occur nowhere else. There are many species associated with these environments, especially invertebrates, for which we lack even the most basic of information. Finally, the cumulative effects of small, incremental alterations to headwater channels may have impacts on downstream environments, but we have yet to design studies that adequately address this issue.
Richardson, John S.. 1999. Life Beyond Salmon Streams: Communities of Headwaters and Their Role in Drainage Networks (in Proc. Conference Biology & Management of Species and Habitats at Risk). Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. Conference Biology & ManagementProceedings. Vol. 2