LAKEKEEPERS: EQUIPPING CITIZEN SCIENTISTS FOR WINTER LAKE MONITORINGCategory: 2018, Current, Grant, Major Project, Water
Eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) is one of the most pressing issue facing aquatic ecosystems. In Alberta, where lake ecosystems are naturally nutrient rich, the symptoms of eutrophication may be dramatic. Toxic algal blooms, odours, and anoxia may reduce biodiversity, limit recreation, and threaten the health of humans and wildlife. Much of our awareness of eutrophication is limited to the summer months when health advisories attract the attention of the media and community based monitoring programs such as LakeWatch and LakeKeepers work to monitor the issue. However, the symptoms of eutrophication are not limited to the summer – they extend into the winter and under the ice.
Under the ice, large masses of phytoplankton sink to the lakebed and decompose. This process consumes oxygen, and, if substantial enough, can result in the death of fish populations en masse, a phenomenon known as a fish kill. During the winter, monitoring and management of recreational fisheries is limited and reactionary. With this program, the Alberta Lake Management Society (ALMS) will equip ice fishing Albertans with the tools to monitor lakes for dissolved oxygen concentrations under the ice from January to March 2019. This data would improve fish kill predictions, contribute to fisheries management, demonstrate the link between eutrophication and fish habitat, and provide a more holistic approach to monitoring lake ecosystems.
Results of this project will be compiled into water quality reports which summarizes the data collected for each lake. Within these reports, data will be compared to existing standards such as the Canadian Council for Ministers of the Environment guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life, Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality, and to historical water quality data, if available. This data will also be included in future LakeWatch or LakeKeeper reports. Reports will be shared on the ALMS website where they are publicly available for a free download.