New Report on the Role of Wetlands in Removing Phosphorus to Protect Lakes in Ontario
Barrie, Ont. (February 11, 2020)—Research conducted by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) helps build the case for large-scale wetland restoration that harnesses the power of natural infrastructure for water quality improvement in agricultural landscapes.
As part of our conservation program in the Lake Erie watershed, DUC is quantifying the extent to which restored wetlands capture phosphorus from surface-water runoff before it enters downstream rivers and lakes. Researchers assessed eight recently restored wetlands for one full year, measuring their nutrient-capture efficiency in all seasons.
Our findings indicate that the restored wetlands acted as “phosphorus sinks,” retaining nutrients in the wetland basins in all four seasons—regardless of the relative ages of the restorations. Notably, the wetlands efficiently captured soluble reactive phosphorus, generally referred to as SRP, which is the form of phosphorus found in excess in Lake Erie.
Excess phosphorus is a main cause of the dangerous blue-green algae outbreaks that increasingly affect rivers and lakes across Canada, the nation with the most freshwater in the world. DUC is advancing the science on water quality in support of widespread restoration of the most productive ecosystems in the world: wetlands.
DUC thanks the landowners who allowed their wetland restoration projects to be monitored as part of the project. The study was led by the Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research, DUC’s research arm, and field work was conducted by the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority. The project was funded in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.
Mike Harris, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and Andrea Khanjin, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks joined DUC with the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority today to release the results of research that advances the science on the use of wetlands as “natural infrastructure” to improve water quality in agricultural landscapes.
“Ducks Unlimited Canada’s research uncovers the unique relationships among wetlands, watershed health and biodiversity, and is central to helping us understand the potential impacts of our conservation actions,” said Phil Holst, director for Ducks Unlimited Canada and chair of DUC’s national conservation committee. “It also equips us with the data we need to take a meaningful message to Canadians about the role of wetlands as a natural solution for clean water.”
“Ducks Unlimited Canada is a trusted partner for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry,” said Mike Harris, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “The ministry and Ducks Unlimited Canada have worked together on a number of significant projects that included creating new wetlands, as well as restoring existing wetlands, within the Lake Erie basin. Minister Yakabuski and I appreciate the hardworking volunteers and staff who have contributed to these projects.”
“The research Ducks Unlimited Canada has conducted in Lake Erie provides valuable insights on how we can work together to protect and restore our Great Lakes and inland waters for future generations,” said Andrea Khanjin, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “Our government is proud to work with partners like Ducks Unlimited to address the problem of excess phosphorus so we can improve water quality and support a healthy, clean environment as outlined in our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.”
“We are all aware of the algae issue that plagues Lake Erie every year,” said Erin Carroll, director of biology for St. Clair Region Conservation Authority. “And we are all working together to come up with solutions to this problem. Our positive partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada has helped us increase wetland cover in our region which not only improves local water quality but also reduces flood risk and provides important habitat for wildlife.”
A summary of the research project and the full report, Determining the Nutrient Retention Capacity of Newly Restored Wetlands in Southwestern Ontario, are available online.
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