On February 13th, Norm Miller, MPP Parry Sound — Muskoka, met with members of the Friends of the Muskoka Watershed (FMW) to congratulate them on receiving a $74,400 Seed grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF).

FMW were awarded the grant to correct what it terms aquatic osteoporosis in Muskoka’s lakes through the coming year. The group will use a wood ash recycling program, collecting the ash from year-round and seasonal residents of the region.

Muskoka’s forests and lakes are suffering from long-term calcium (Ca) decline caused mainly by decades of acid rain. Multiple logging cycles can worsen Ca depletion, as well. FMW believes residential wood ash can help solve this problem and will be researching what it would take to develop and implement a wood ash recycling program in Muskoka. Bracebridge resident and Chair of the organization, Dr. Norman Yan will be conducting the study over the coming year.

“We need to become gardeners of our forests, supporting them by returning the nutrients that acid rain and logging have removed. Wood ash may well fulfill this need, and healthy forests sustain healthy lakes,” said Dr. Yan.

Since the 1980s, Ca levels have fallen by 30 per cent. Wood ash, rich in Ca, may help the lakes that have seen a long-term decline. The lack of Ca circulating in the watershed has resulted in diminished maple sap. In a post on their website, the organization said, “Wood ash is the best alternative to reverse aquatic osteoporosis. It is available locally; it solves a waste problem; and it contains the other minerals that came from the tree biomass.”

FMW will also be testing their program for results, looking for evidence of the following:

  • how quickly and completely the wood ash returns to the water cycle and can contribute to CA supply in pore water, stream water, etc.;
  • whether there are toxins in residential wood ash;
  • conducting a daphniid bioassay to measure wood ash toxicity;
  • Ca levels in wood ash versus its char component and variability thereof.

At the awarding of the OTF grant, MPP Miller said, “The biodiversity and resilience of Muskoka’s ecosystems are paramount to our collective successes in all arenas. It is with deepest gratitude that I recognize this groundbreaking, community stewardship program today.”

Left to right: Paul Grinnell – Director, FMW; Debbie Vernon – Director, FMW; Dr. Norman Yan – Chair, FMW; Norm Miller – MPP, Parry Sound-Muskoka; Fred Jahn – Commissioner of Engineering & Public Works, DMM; John Klinck – District Chair, DMM

The OTF grant will be used to help with some staffing and administrative costs, enable the group to host five information sessions, produce information materials and to help with the ash collection and distribution.

Visit Friends of the Muskoka Watershed at their website. Learn more about the Ontario Trillium Foundation at their site.


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