Everyone can be a lake steward
By Darren Lum
Barb Elliot, professor at Fleming College’s eco-system management program, encouraged Kushog Lake residents to continue their efforts to ensure the health of Kushog Lake at the Kushog Lake Property Owners Association annual general meeting, held June 22.
Elliot, who has lived and worked in the Haliburton/Kawartha Lakes region since 1985, has been conducting water quality monitoring research with Fleming students on the lake annually since 2015. This monitoring has included an examination of various aspects of the lake, examining the microscopic life, the invertebrates (the bugs) that feed the web system, the chemistry and the temperature of the lake.
She acknowledged the strong stewardship efforts being made by Kushog residents and then presented the audience a tip with the challenges facing lakes’ ecosystems in the Highlands using the acronym WHEN: Water temperatures, Habitat loss, Excessive nutrients and Non-native species.
“So, if you remember that acronym, hopefully that will help you think about what’s going on ... and what we can do about it,” she said.
The concern for Kushog Lake related to rising water temperatures is how it can affect a cold water species such as lake trout. Or how warmer temperatures can introduce algae, which consumes oxygen and can displace other species. Maintain a natural shoreline, she said to the audience. This includes planting trees or keeping trees already on the shoreline to help provide shade, keeping the water temperature lower.
There is habitat loss created by the wakes, trailing behind large and fast moving boats. It also occurs from landscaping the shoreline, whether it’s removing native vegetation in favour of non-native species or even removing dead vegetation. She adds these changes not only change the habitat, but reduce it for animals and life forms that depend on it.
Excessive nutrients can be introduced with fertilizer for the lawn or by septic systems that are not working optimely – inspect them regularly, she said. If there is too much phosphorus and nitrogen, it can provide nutrients for algae to grow and take hold.
Non-native species have adverse affects on the native species.
Elliot said this starts at a microscopic level. Microscopic species set the foundation for the food web, starting with plants to small fish and so on. The native water flea is “critical” to so many other animals in the food web. The non-native spiny water flea feeds on the native species and does not have any natural predators. Cleaning boats is key to preventing the transfer of the fleas and other non-native species.
Elliot highlighted the importance of the responsibility of residents to maintain Kushlog Lake because of its place along the top of the Trent Severn Waterway watershed.
This can be as simple as keeping areas around homes and the shoreline as natural as possible.
She admitted some decisions related to the lake is out of the residents’ control, but reminded the audience the power of how one action multiplied hundreds of times can have a major influence. For example, if each resident of Kushog Lake planted two trees close to the shore it could provide plenty of shade and lower the overall temperature of the lake.
Although the odds of resolving the challenges facing lakes seem daunting, Elliot assured the audience their efforts are making a difference and is assisting with the upward trend, as indicated in the monitoring data related to the long term view.