Understand the Complex Environmental Threats in Muskoka
And learn how to live in harmony with the natural environment around us.
Action-Based Approaches & Innovative Solutions Begin With Knowledge
When you arm yourself with the correct knowledge, you become uniquely positioned to embrace opportunities to further improve the understanding of threats to your freshwater lakes and local watershed. So you can protect the pristine beauty of Muskoka for future generations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can ecological damage be reversed?
Yes, history has shown us that with patience and persistence ecological damage can be reversed. It's complicated, but not impossible.
At a very high-level, here's how reversing ecological damage happens:
- Identify the threats
- Understand the steps that need to be taken
- Marshal the will for action in your community
We can make a difference if we're determined, persistent and work together.
What’s causing the increased algal blooms in my lake?
Good question. Increasing algal blooms are influenced by three main factors:
- A better habitat for algal growth, largely impacted by climate change
- Faster algal growth, caused by a variety of factors including increasing phosphorus levels
- Lower algal death rates, caused by the decreasing zooplankton population
Where did all of Muskoka’s calcium go?
A century of acid rain and historically poor logging practices have flushed calcium from the soil and from the lakes and rivers. Most of Muskoka’s lakes have lost 25% to 50% of the calcium they need.
Despite the improvement of these issues, it will take centuries for calcium levels to rebound without further intervention.
What do calcium deficiency problems look like in Muskoka?
All life needs calcium. For Muskoka this problem affects:
Forests. They're about 2% calcium by weight, and when calcium isn’t available, the trees and other forest plants can’t grow as quickly or efficiently. When trees aren’t growing as quickly, they can’t capture carbon as efficiently, impacting their ability to help fight climate change.
Aquatic creatures. Calcium is particularly important to hard-shelled creatures like crayfish, turtles and molluscs. And crayfish diversity in many lakes has already declined by 25%. In lakes, these tiny crustacea and molluscs often act as filter-feeders, performing a vital function in cleaning our waterways.
Is calcium deficiency a problem everywhere?
No. This problem is most severe in areas with thin soils, granite bedrock and a history of acid rain exposure. These specific conditions leave Muskoka and other parts of central Ontario uniquely positioned to feel the full force of this problem.
What will wood ash do to help solve the problem?
Wood ash is about 1/3 calcium by weight, and also contains many other key nutrients. Much of it is absorbed into the soil and quickly taken up by trees and other plants. What isn’t absorbed by the plants will make its way into the lakes.
How much ash will it take to solve the problem?
It will take roughly four tonnes of ash per hectare over many thousands of hectares to restore the calcium balance. While that is far more ash than Muskoka residents produce, but the lessons learned in the three-year ASHMuskoka study will be used to help develop a province-wide ash recycling program, to bring wood ash from southern Ontario.
What is FMW doing to protect and preserve Muskoka’s natural ecosystem?
FMW currently has three programs working to protect and preserve the Muskoka environment you know and love. Those programs are:
HATSEO: Now complete, HATSEO assessed the viability of using ash to replenish calcium in the watershed.
ASHMuskoka: The next phase in HATSEO and addressing Muskoka's calcium deficiency.
Road Salt Management: Addressing the increasing chloride levels in Muskoka lakes.
Want to learn more about our active programs? Click Here.
What are some of the other emerging threats to the watershed?
Despite the community-wide action already taking place, there's always more to be done. Here are some of the other emerging ecological threats currently facing our watershed:
- More algal blooms (HABs) despite low and falling phosphorus
- Calcium decline in about half of Muskoka's lakes
- Invasive species, like the spiny water flea
- Road salt is increasing chloride levels in many local lakes, including Lake Muskoka
- Climate change is causing more ice-free seasons
When combined, these various threats increase the level of stress on our freshwater ecosystem and threaten its overall health.
Want to learn more about the environmental threats on our radar? Click Here.
What are some of the ways I can safeguard my natural environment?
There are plenty of different ways you can protect your natural surroundings so that you can enjoy it for years to come.
For example, you could:
- Offset your carbon emissions from boating, travelling and driving
- Collect your ash for upcoming ASHMuskoka ash drives
- Join our community of action-takers as a volunteer
- Become an FMW member to support the ongoing maintenance of our current and future programs
Remember, every action counts. Even the smallest steps can have a huge impact.
New Knowledge Backing Action-Based Strategies
Will you join us in taking action?
Big, bold actions feel more manageable when you tackle them together. That’s exactly what happens when you become a Friends of the Muskoka Watershed supporter. With your gift, you become an active participant in spearheading the action-based strategies poised to make a tremendous difference in the health of your Muskoka.