Trillium funding to help haul ash
A substantial grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation will allow the Friends of the Muskoka Watershed to conduct a study on the use of wood ash to restore calcium levels in the region, a study that will have implications for Haliburton County.
“The ultimate goal is to protect the water,” says freshwater biologist Dr. Norman Yan, who is the chairman of Friends of the Muskoka Watershed. As Yan explains, decades of acid rain, along with logging in the area, have resulted in calcium depletion in soils and waterbodies. All living organisms require calcium, and when it comes to lakes and rivers, hard-shelled species such as crayfish and turtles can be particularly affected by low calcium levels.
According to Friends of the Muskoka Watershed, most lakes in Muskoka have lost somewhere between 25 and 50 per cent of the calcium they require.
“The growth of the forest is currently limited by calcium availability,” Yan says.
Wood ash is about one third calcium by weight, and the goal of the Hauling Ash to Protect Our Forests’ Future project is to use wood ash to rejuvenate calcium levels in forests and lakes.
In December, Friends of the Muskoka Watershed learned it would receive a $730,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation for a three-year study that will look at ways of collecting, storing and distributing wood ash – essentially how to create an ash recycling program.
The ash will come from non-industrial sources, such as residential wood-burning fireplaces, home boilers, etc., and the organization will be seeking 100 to 200 Muskoka residents to volunteer to donate their wood ash. The ash will be spread at three test sites – maple bushes in Muskoka – and recordings taken.
Spread on the ground, calcium from the ash will be absorbed by trees and plants, the rest making its way into waterbodies by runoff. It’s estimated it will take four tonnes of ash per hectare to restore calcium balance.
The project, which was scheduled to get underway this week, will involve a number of graduate students and, as Yan told the Times, the plan is to eventually expand it to include surrounding areas facing similar calcium depletion issues, “one of which is Haliburton County.”
“The goal is to have a sustainable ash recycling program,” he said, adding that would likely require partnership with local governments, who could set up ash collection bins at their landfill sites.
Representatives of the Coalition of Haliburton County Property Owners’ Associations have met with Yan to discuss the project, and will be keeping an eye on its progress.
“The goal is to make this much more than just a Muskoka project,” CHA chairman Paul MacInnes told the paper. The idea is that eventually ash collection and distribution will start in Haliburton County as well.
“We reached an agreement that we would very much like to be involved,” MacInnes said. “ . . . It’s just a win-win situation.”
For more information about the project and the Friends of the Muskoka Watershed, visit https://friendsofthemuskokawatershed.org/