The results are in!
Friends of the Muskoka Watershed, in collaboration with community, university, and government partners, along with thousands of volunteers, have collected and spread approximately 9.2 tonnes (9200 kg or 20,282 lbs) of wood ash. A phenomenal achievement.
Why so much ash?
Decades of acid rain have caused soils in Muskoka to be nutrient deficient, especially with calcium. Logging practices have also contributed to the problem. This results in our forests being “asleep”, using what nutrients are available to survive, but not enough to thrive. Our research data demonstrates that additions of wood ash can awaken these nutrient-starved trees. This awakening improves sapling growth, increases sap production in sugar maples and (though the data is not yet fully evaluated) increases wood production and foliar density. Findings like these suggest that regulated applications of wood ash will, by increasing overall forest vitality, help to improve CO2 sequestration and mitigate risks of flooding.
Our next challenge is to create ways in which our research can take on a broader scope and thereby have orders-of-magnitude greater impact on Muskoka’s sleeping forests.
Becoming a Citizen Scientist
How can you help make an impact? FMW is giving residents of Muskoka an opportunity to be both a part of our research and our solutions. We are launching our Citizen Science Program, whose aim is to further enrich our collective understanding of the benefits of wood ash for soil quality and tree and forest vitality, by using additional properties throughout Muskoka.
We are seeking property owners whose properties have areas that contain native tree species. We are also encouraging camps, community groups, municipalities, and any group or individual with permission to safely access an appropriate treed area to jump on board.
Are there benefits?
Definitely! Benefits to becoming a Friends Citizen Scientist include spending time outside, learning more about trees, and helping to improve tree, forest, and entire ecosystem health, which is good for everyone! Other benefits include helping with climate change mitigation and contributing to large-scale scientific data sets.
How does it work?
Citizen Scientists will be asked to locate two or more healthy, native trees of the same species and of similar size and similar setting on their property. One tree will receive ash and the other will not. Trees need to be a minimum of 10 cm (4 in) in diameter – that’s approximately 31cm or 12in in circumference. A measured quantity of homogenized, filtered, chemically analyzed ash will be provided to each Citizen Scientist to be spread around one tree. Instructions on how to collect data such as tree height, trunk diameter and canopy cover will be provided. As a part of the data collection, Friends of the Muskoka Watershed require photos of the trees, and some volunteers will be asked to gather soil and leaf samples. This information will be collected 2 to 3 times a year. Citizen Scientists will submit their data and photos either through our website, email or hard copy field sheets. Data will be compiled and analyzed by the FMW team. Participants will be provided with the results as they are available.
For those who don’t own or have access to such property, don’t worry! There are other ways you can help. These include volunteering, donating wood ash through our ASHMuskoka Program, or becoming a member of Friends of the Muskoka Watershed.