Water. Every person, creature and living thing on Earth needs it for survival. Without it, we die – and quickly. Further, our communities, countries, industries and business es all need water in order to sustain their ongoing operations. It lies at the heart of our economy, representing a fundamental part of our regional and national infrastructure – and our prosperity. It is so critical that we do everything we can to properly preserve, manage and protect the waters of Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes.
This is our mandate at Georgian Bay Forever. We know that the Great Lakes, especially Lake Michigan-Huron and Georgian Bay, are at great risk. We are deeply concerned about the threats evident to even the most casual observer: threats to water quality, water quantity/levels, biodiversity and ecosystems. Like many of the world’s remaining freshwater lakes, our Great Lakes are highly vulnerable to the pressures and stresses of human development, including climate change.
Our goal? To preserve and protect the water of Georgian Bay and the creatures it is home to with thorough scientific process and research that answers and raises important questions to get to the right solutions. In the process, we also protect our health, safety and quality of life, which, like the region’s economic future, all rely heavily on the permanent presence, quantity and quality of these essential waters.
It takes dedication to protect the Bay. Here’s what we are tackling around water quality:
New: GBF is raising funds to purchase the first autonomous underwater vehicle in Canada. This will drastically improve water quality data measurement by filling gaps of information that exist in the US but not in Canada on water, monitoring will be much more efficient and accurate, and costs will be reduced.
Learn more about this amazing transformative technology and how you can help. Link to AUV information.
Status – Ongoing: We are working closely on water quality protocols with the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, who is building on our previous work with the Township of Georgian Bay, the Ontario Ministry of Environment’s Lake Partner Program and the Severn Sound Environmental Association.
Work from this project will be reflected in updates to the “State of the Bay” ecosystem health report for eastern and Northern Georgian Bay, which is updated every 5 years. GBF was a partner in the development of this report card. The enxt report card is expected in 2018.
This DNA-based research is a novel diagnostic tool which helps us to identify the source of organisms found in the water, such as bacteria, and determine whether they are naturally occurring or the result of human interaction, such as failing septic systems or grey water discharge in boater bays.
In order to understand the seriousness of water quality problems; you’ve got to study the past. That is why Georgian Bay Forever supported the paleolimnologic studies in the North and South Bays in the Honey Harbour area.
Paleolimnology is the scientific examination of lake sediments to reconstruct past environmental conditions. Sediments provide a history of long-term trends in water quality, algal and aquatic plant abundance, and community composition. By cross-referencing these factors against what we know of more recent human activities, water level and climate changes, scientists will have a better chance of determining the cause or causes of the area’s water quality.
The paleolimnological studies were conducted in the North and South Bays of Honey Harbour to show historic water quality, water levels and temperatures by analyzing fossils in freshwater sediments that have accumulated over the past 500 years. This research helped to establish baseline conditions before European settlement and enabled comparisons of changes as they occur in relation to current and fluctuating water levels and water quality.
The results showed that the current water quality at the time of the study (2013) was not significantly degraded. However, human activities were shown to have reduced water quality historically during the lumber industry of the late 1800s, increased shoreline development in the 50’s and 60’s, and with climate change impacts.
Learn more in this full report: Historical Water Quality Trends in Georgian Bay Embayments (Hutchinson Environmental Sciences Limited)
Completed: Dr. Dittrich will submit the final report for their project in May 2017
Georgian Bay Forever joined Environment Canada and the Ministry of the Environment in sponsoring a study of blue-green algae, (cyanobacteria) by Dr. Lewis Molot of York University. This is just the latest in a distinguished line of research on this subject being done in Georgian Bay, in particular Sturgeon Bay in the Pointe au Baril area, on this potential property-value destroying, recreation-barring, summer-holiday destroying bacteria.
The old certainties about high phosphorus levels being the only trigger for this potentially toxic phenomenon have been questioned, as blue-green algae outbreaks are increasing worldwide (and most alarmingly in the Great Lakes), and showing up in water-bodies registering well below the accepted thresholds for phosphorus.
To understand this phenomenon, Dr. Molot posited that there is a complicated evolutionary struggle between benign forms of algae that dominate in nutrient poor water (the water we like in Georgian Bay) and their more toxic cousins that seem to take over in nutrient-rich wetlands. While high phosphorus levels are undoubtedly a risk factor for the bad type of algae, a particular form of iron that is associated with anoxic (oxygen-deprived) sediments that lie in the basin of certain water-bodies, may play a part.
Understanding the interrelationships among all the factors that can trigger an outbreak of algae blooms may help us identify communities and wetlands that are at particular risk and help us introduce measures to prevent these outbreaks.
Of more recent concern, is a government suggestion that Phosphorus levels could increase by up to 50% safely? With the low level of Phosphorus conditions in Georgian Bay and the findings in this report, the safety of that suggestion seems in doubt.
Learn more in this full report: A novel model for cyanobacteria bloom formation: the critical role of anoxia and ferrous iron (Molot and others)