Category Archives: Muskoka Watershed Council

Algae and Water Quality. Looking back to see the future

As mentioned in previous posts, cottage owners and cottage buyers want to know about water quality on lakes in Muskoka. Because water quality has a direct relationship to property value, and algae – particularly algal blooms – directly affect water quality, we all want to know as much as we can .

I just completed and uploaded a video here for the Muskoka Watershed Council YouTube page. The subject is a talk that was presented by Dr. Andrew Paterson of the Dorset Environmental Centre at the Muskoka Stewardship Conference at Nipissing University in Muskoka (Bracebridge). The event’s theme was What Are You Watching?

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This highly interesting talk looks at studying lake sediments deposited over hundreds – and even thousands of years. Sediments are archives of environmental change and within them are clues to possible triggers of algae outbreaks.

Dr. Paterson talks about sediment research done in Lake of the Woods in north-western Ontario and the Hudson Bay Lowlands which may help scientist understand occurrences in the lakes of Muskoka. There is discussion on the relationship between water quality and property value for cottagers. The seeming paradox of stable or even declining phosphorous levels – the usual algal bloom suspect- at the same time as blue-green outbreaks are increasing. And of course, the effect of climate change.

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Algal Bloom Three Mile Lake 2005

Of particular note is the 2005 toxic algal bloom in Three Mile Lake in 2005, where research may indicate the possible triggers of record high temperatures coupled with record low precipitation which occurred in the fall of 2005 in Muskoka.

Slide 1

There is significant evidence that a warming climate is related to the increase in algal blooms. Dr. Paterson suggests that if algae was the music that we hear from a radio: then phosphorous is the volume; other nutrients (particularly nitrogen), light, etc., influence what species are present – are the “tuning”; and climate is the antenna. The presentation concludes that blue-green algae likes it hot!

Slide 1

Click here for the link to the video on YouTube.

What do you really want to know? Muskoka Watershed Council wants to hear from you.

In cottage real estate we get asked a lot of questions: Is it weedy?; Eeeew! What’s that stuff?; Why don’t we see crayfish anymore?; My boathouse dock’s underwater – what’s with the water levels this year?; Is my water safe for swimming?; etc. It’s really a lot of fun to answer most of the time!
But here’s a chance to have some of what you want to know, perhaps monitored over time and have it reported on every 4 years!

As many readers of this weblog know, the Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC) is a volunteer based non-profit organization with the mandate to champion watershed health in Muskoka; I am one of those volunteers.

MWC produces a Report Card every four years. The Report Card is a science-based evaluation of the health of the water, land, and wetlands in Muskoka and the municipalities that share Muskoka’s watersheds. Three Watershed Report Cards have been released to date (2004, 2007 & 2010)  We are also assisting the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve with the development of a State of the Bay Report for Georgian Bay, which will be released this year.

For the next Watershed Report Card due to be released in 2014, we want to hear from you, what you want to know about the health of our watersheds.
Click on the page below to ask your questions or find out more.

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Protect Your Muskoka Cottage Investment. Muskoka Lakes Association seedling sale; re-naturalize your shoreline this spring

The single most important thing you can do to protect the value of your Muskoka cottage waterfront property investment is to protect the water quality of your lake. One of the best ways to help sustain/improve water quality in your lake is to ensure you have a natural shoreline and a buffer zone; an area of natural vegetation running along your shoreline.

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The function of the buffer zone is to act as a filter for water flowing to your lake, and studies show that they greatly reduce water pollution. The plants and soil absorb runoff water laden with sediments, nutrients and pollutants harmful to the lake. Turf grass does not do an adequate job filtering water runoff, and is very attractive to geese and other nuisance species.

Native Plants … and lots of them!       “Ideally the buffer area is thickly covered with native vegetation. The higher the percentage of the ground that is covered, the better your buffer can work. A landscape made up of native plants is low maintenance. Once established, they can survive without extra watering, and without application of pesticides and fertilizers. Native plants are adapted to deal with local bugs and diseases and can get all the nutrients they need from existing soil.”

On the Living Edge Sarah Kipp, Clive Callaway
 

You can pre-order native plants from the Muskoka Lakes Association.

MLA

“The Annual MLA Seeding Day is scheduled for Saturday May 18, 2013 at the Port Carling Community Centre from 9 am to 12Noon. The emphasis this year will be on Muskoka native species. An order form (with pricing) is available from the MLA website here. We have a lot of seedlings available in some of the most wanted species including White Birch, Balsam Fir, White Spruce, Dogwood and Nannyberry among others.”

Order soon as quantities are limited.  Orders can be emailed to info@mla.on.ca, faxed to (705) 765-3203 or mailed to Box 298, Port Carling, ON, P0B 1J0

Signs of spring, or the health of your lake. What are you watching?

pussy willows

Many years ago my Grandmother won a contest with Toronto radio station CKEY (now long gone). I think you had to write in, and the best story about signs of spring won. The prize was a ride in the radio station’s traffic helicopter during a weekday rush hour.  Grannie’s story was something about the pussy willows growing up right out of the snow in front of the Sundial restaurant on the way up to Muskoka (also long gone). Anyway, she gave me the helicopter ride – that was cool!!!

Whether: “is the ice-out”, other signs of spring, habits of wildlife or indicators of a healthy lake, we are often asked about key things cottagers need to know – or go by, and we are happy to help!
But here’s an opportunity to get all the scoops on what to look for: plan to attend the Muskoka Stewardship Conference, put on by the Muskoka Watershed Council. This conference is titled What Are You Watching?

Planned, are talks on algae (identification and monitoring), loon surveying, water quality, landscaping for wildlife, NatureWatch programs and more. There’s even the opportunity to join naturalist Al Sinclair on an outdoor birdwatching session before the talks begin.

Taking place at Nipissing University in Bracebridge, the whole day is only $30 and includes lunch. Register, and get more info here.

Muskoka Minutes

I just finished the final edit and posted a couple of videos to YouTube that I shot back in July: Muskoka Minutes Slog, Muskoka Minutes Zoe.

The idea behind Muskoka Minutes is to show work being done by scientists and others in the field here in Muskoka on the Muskoka Watershed Council’s YouTube Channel. More details are here on the day spent tracking Blanding’s turtles, a species at risk in Ontario. My thanks to Jeremy, Kelsey, Mike and also Glenda.

Blanding’s Turtle

They used to have a much larger range in Ontario and were much more common in Muskoka – see below. They have many predators and like other turtle species have had their habitats carved up by roads.

Historic and current range of Blanding’s Turtles.

Muskoka Moments starts with a winner!

I posted a few videos today. One is the 1st of a Muskoka Moments collection.

The idea of Muskoka Moments is to show people and places in Muskoka, but more importantly, to try to show the connection between the two.

Our first video Backyard Swamp, Bracebridge, is a perfect example to lead off. The star of the video, shows off his knowledge of the natural world around him and his excellent backyard! The video was created by a newbie to Final Cut Pro -nice work!

If anyone has a 1 or 2 minute video (or aspires to shoot some) that shows the connection between people and our beautiful environment here in Muskoka, let me know.

We can even do the editing for you!

A wild solution for Climate Change.

A fascinating presentation by Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University, this is the evening keynote lecture from the biennial Muskoka Summit on the Environment . On June 6th and 7th I recorded the presentations over the two day summit. Broadcast, in part, by CBC Radio’s Ideas with Paul Kennedy, (search for Buying Into Biodiversity), these were world-class lectures, presented here in Muskoka. I am delighted to be able to ensure these are available to the world.

This lecture is now available at the following link on Muskoka Watershed Council’s YouTube channel: A wild solution for Climate Change.

Advisor to Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, Dr. Lovejoy discusses implications and complications of climate change from many interesting perspectives, but, also offers workable solutions.

Planetary engineering to lower atmospheric carbon.

Biodiversity science for global environmental change.

At the biennial Muskoka Summit on the Environment Steve Hounsell from the Ontario Biodiversity Council presented Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy – Protecting What Sustains Us.

On June 6th and 7th I recorded the presentations over the two day summit. Broadcast, in part, by CBC Radio’s Ideas with Paul Kennedy, (search for Buying Into Biodiversity), these were world-class lectures, presented here in Muskoka. I am delighted to be able to ensure these are available to the world.

I have just finished editing this lecture, which is now available at the following link on Muskoka Watershed Council’s YouTube channel: Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy – Protecting What Sustains Us.

In this straightforward and important talk, Steve gives us an acronym to help understand threats to biodiversity, speaks of the need to link Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and talks about the Strategic Biodiversity Plan for Ontario.

H I P P O soon to be C H I P P O.

Living Landscape. A Biodiversity Action Plan for Greater Sudbury

Many of us remember the really interesting, but bleak landscape that was Sudbury a few decades ago. As one of the epicentres of sulfur dioxide pollution from the nickel smelters, Sudbury’s landscape resembled the Moon, or Mars much more than the rest of Northern Ontario.

Well things are quite different now and Stephen Monet presents the 4th lecture from the biennial Muskoka Summit on the Environment . On June 6th and 7th I recorded the presentations over the two day summit. Broadcast, in part, by CBC Radio’s Ideas with Paul Kennedy, (search for Buying Into Biodiversity), these were world-class lectures, presented here in Muskoka. I am delighted to be able to ensure these are available to the world.

This lecture is now available at the following link on Muskoka Watershed Council’s YouTube channel: Living Landscape. A Biodiversity Action Plan for Greater Sudbury

Stephen takes us through the process of rehabilitating the Greater Sudbury area and commits that “we are in it for the long haul.”

Improving the lake is only a short term fix without improving the watershed.

This is a real community effort and the results are all headed in the right direction.

Students do some of the work and learn about biodiversity.

Biodiversity science for global environmental change.

Another highly engaging presentation, this one by Andrew Gonzalez of McGill University and the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science, is the 3rd lecture from the biennial Muskoka Summit on the Environment . On June 6th and 7th I recorded the presentations over the two day summit. Broadcast, in part, by CBC Radio’s Ideas with Paul Kennedy, (search for Buying Into Biodiversity), these were world-class lectures, presented here in Muskoka. I am delighted to be able to ensure these are available to the world.

This lecture is now available at the following link on Muskoka Watershed Council’s YouTube channel: Biodiversity science for global environmental change.

Using Baker’s yeast, Andrew and team observed “evolutionary rescue” – the recovery of a declining population due to local adaptation under increased environmental stress.

Extinction and evolutionary rescue with a robot

Among Andrew’s key messages: Biodiversity loss is as important as major forms of environmental change.

Changes in productivity – species loss compared to environmental change.