Tag Archives: algae

Muskoka and Global: Environmental Good News Stories.

Did you know that Gravenhurst Bay in Lake Muskoka is 4 to 5 times cleaner than it was 1970?
Did you know that everyone alive in the 70’s had toxic levels of lead in their blood?
Did you know that Muskoka has only half as many acid lakes as it once did?
Well, how about this then: if it wasn’t for the life in lakes, we would all be blind, deaf , stupid and dead.

Dr. Norman Yan
To be blunt; we would all be blind, deaf , stupid and dead if it wasn’t for the life in lakes.

From the Muskoka Watershed Council Lecture Series I have just finished editing and have just posted this video on the Muskoka Watershed Council’s YouTube page.
Dr. Norman Yan, an extremely engaging speaker, revisits some past environmental successes, what we have learned and the steps we need to take to solve today’s environmental problems.

Phosphorous is the conrolling factor in eutrophication.

Learn how the reduction of phosphorus resulted in a clean up in Gravenhurst Bay while the International Joint Commission was still debating whether its carbon or phosphorus that spikes algal growth? This local Muskoka cleanup helped convince the world that phosphorus is the cause of cultural eutrophication. This phenomena is of increasing concern as population grows and the climate heats up; after all, we learned from this lecture, that algae really love heat.

Current photo of lake in China where people swim in an algal bloom.
Current photo of lake in China where people swim in an algal bloom.

Revisit the change to unleaded gas which got the toxic levels of lead out of our blood. Dr. Yan also discusses the many benefits of the ban on DDT, as well as the immediate benefits of the recent Ontario ban of cosmetic pesticides and herbicides. Also be sure not to miss houses disappearing from view as the Sudbury environment improves over 40 years!

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?


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.

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.

Cottager’s questions about lake quality answered.

Last  Saturday I made a presentation on behalf of the Muskoka Watershed Council to the Sparrow Lake Association. The SLA was founded way back in 1926,  and is one of many lake/cottager’s associations throughout Muskoka and elsewhere.

Sparrow Lake Association webpage.

As always, there were a lot of questions at the end of the talk and because we ran out of time, more questions one-on-one after the meeting.  It thought it might be helpful to repeat them here as sort of an FAQ about water quality and cottage waterfront living. But after typing out a few Q&As, I thought I should send you to a better source.

Michelle Palmer received her doctorate based on lake studies; specifically changes in our lakes over time. Recently I recorded, edited and posted a video of Dr. Palmer’s lecture which includes a Q&A session at the end: Our Lakes: How Have They Changed Over the Last 25 Years?