HATSEO – Hauling Ash To Solve Ecological Osteoporosis – successfully demonstrated that wood ash recovered from residential wood stoves in Muskoka is both chemically safe and biologically appropriate for use in replenishing calcium levels in soil and water.
With ASHMuskoka, we will deeply explore this idea that wood ash can safely be used to restore the well-documented damage to forests and lakes caused by widespread calcium (Ca) decline in Muskoka. Restoration should begin by restoring soil and groundwater Ca levels to their pre-acid rain levels. We will take the opportunity to launch this project in local sugar bushes which follows sugar bush operators’ recent independent assessment that their sugar maples are suffering from severe low Ca stress in Muskoka, and by our HATSEO project results indicating both that there is enough wood ash generated in Muskoka to launch the program, and that most local residents are keen to share their wood ash for this purpose. We will also seek local leaders to expand this initiative beyond Muskoka.
Calcium (Ca) is essential for all life. Trees are about 1% Ca; fish, 2-8% Ca; and clams and crayfish over 20% Ca. Unfortunately, acid rain has stripped Ca from our environment, and the growth and health of sugar maple, for example, is now limited by Ca supply, while Ca levels in many Muskoka lakes have fallen by 25 to 40% over the last 4 decades, harming many calcium-rich animals.
A new Ca source, is needed to fix this problem, and residential wood ash can fill this need. As we confirmed in HATSEO, it is rich in Ca; contains other essential minerals; is produced in large quantities by local residents; and is considered a waste. Based on previous surveys, we remain confident that many residents will share their ash to help restore our forests and lakes.
We plan to ensure long-term recycling of wood ash and the ongoing participation of local residents in the program by:
- collaborating with the District Municipality of Muskoka staff to establish policy, training, infrastructure and personnel needs to sustain the program in perpetuity;
- providing District staff with tested tools to calculate needed wood ash application rates;
- developing ongoing marketing strategies to ensure the wood ash supply from the public;
- seeking leaders to expand the program beyond Muskoka;
- training these leaders
We will also find appropriate ways to work in partnership with the forest management industry and large not-for-profit environmental corporations to develop their support of this new recycling initiative to supplement the blue box and green bin programs.