What is a nearshore or littoral zone?
The Citizen Science Nearshore Water Quality Study works with citizen scientists to collect water quality data in the nearshore zone of each lake. This project is focused on the nearshore zone or littoral zone, which is the area of the lake where light reaches the bottom, supporting plant growth. It is the most productive part of the lake, and it provides habitat for a diverse range of organisms, from algae to fish, birds and macroinvertebrates. The nearshore zone is also the location of highest human interface, it is where people enjoy recreational activities such as swimming, fishing and building infrastructure such as docks and 'sea' walls or other means of modifying the shorelines. By taking nearshore samples we are getting an idea of the health of this important area so we can better understand how to improve it.
The Kawartha Region of the Trent Severn WaterWAY
Lake Scugog, Balsam, Cameron, Sturgeon and Pigeon Lakes are the part of the Kawartha Region of the Trent -Severn waterway, which connects Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay by a 386km long route. The lakes provide significant economic, social and ecological benefits to residents and visitors of the Kawartha Lakes region. The lakes are fed by a large watershed that consists of mostly agricultural, and natural land use with some developed areas such as Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon and Lindsay. This study is in place to fulfill goals of the watershed plans published by Kawartha Conservation in order to fill identifiable data gaps.
Phosphorus and nitrogen
The water samples are tested for phosphorus and nitrogen, which are essential nutrients for plant and algae growth, but in excess can start to cause problems in a lake ecosystem. Too much of these nutrients can lead to algal blooms which eventually die and decompose, reducing the oxygen available for other organisms in the lake. The provincial guideline for acceptable phosphorus levels is below 20µg/L.
E. coli levels are tested in each water sample collected. E. coli is commonly used as an indicator of fecal contamination from humans or animals. With the processing methods used in this study it is not possible to tell the source of the E. coli. When levels of E. coli get too high they can result in beach closures due to it's potential human health implications. The provincial guideline for safe recreational water use is 200 colony forming units/100ml using a geometric mean from 5 sub samples.
Chlorophyll a is also an important water quality parameter tested in this study. Chlorophyll a is a pigment in plants and algae, which is often used in aquatic studies as an indicator for algae growth. Although algae is an important part of the aquatic food chain, in excess in can produce a green scum and unpleasant odor. In addition some algae can produce toxins which may be harmful to humans. Studies have shown that chlorophyll a concentrations above 20ug/L can indicate signs of a nutrient enriched system.
Natural levels of chloride vary depending on the mineral content of the surrounding earth. Background levels tend to be low, but they can be increased by pollution especially from road salting, municipal wastewater and industrial and agricultural runoff. The provincial guideline for surface water chloride is 120mg/L.