Report from Parliament Hill:
The world’s freshwater laboratory right on our very own doorstep
Bob Nault, MP, Kenora Riding
Did you know that 58 lakes near Kenora are celebrating a pretty significant milestone this year?
Now these aren’t just any old lakes.
The 58 lakes and their watersheds set aside for research on freshwater systems are called IISD Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA) and this year they are turning 50.
Or rather, 2018 marks 50 years since these lakes were set aside by the Government of Canada for a very unique approach to scientific research—experimenting on whole lakes (or ecosystems) to mimic what happens in nature.
Back in 1968, many lakes in North America were suffering from toxic and unsightly algal blooms. The Government of Canada set aside remote lakes in northwestern Ontario for experiments that would ultimately prove much more effective at identifying what was causing algal blooms—phosphorus—than any experiment in a laboratory could.
Since 1968, the site has grown in size and scope, and has researched everything from the impact of acid rain and mercury on fish populations to how climate change has affected when lakes freeze and melt.
Its unique research approach has influenced billion-dollar decisions of governments and industries. It has generated more cost-effective environmental policies, regulations and management, all to ensure the safety of our freshwater supplies.
The original research on algal blooms led to water management policies around the world being rewritten, and phosphates being banned in many household items. Its work adding mercury to lakes to see how it would build up in food webs was highly influential in the Minamata Convention on Mercury—a global effort to protect human health and the environment by reducing how much mercury is emitted. Its 50-year long lake-monitoring dataset has revealed that in our corner of the globe, lakes are getting warmer and darker and our fish are getting smaller and more cramped in their habitats.
I visited these lakes back in 2015, and was taken aback by their beauty and scope, especially considering the impact that they have had around the world. The scientists took the time to explain their work and let me get my hands dirty. It was such a great trip which really opened my eyes to the kind of unique science that takes place in our own backyard.
Given my close relationships with those lakes, I am happy to be helping to host an event on Parliament Hill with IISD-ELA on May 9 to celebrate their 50th anniversary. It will be a great chance for our government to learn about Canada’s incredible contribution to freshwater science, and discover what they have planned for the next 50 years.
And IISD-ELA is celebrating its 50th year in style! They have everything planned from a gala in Winnipeg and trips to the site for local communities to some really cool campaigns on their social media accounts. They are also kicking off a ground-breaking new study into the impact of oil spills on fresh water systems, and what the most effective clean-up methods are.
Here in northwestern Ontario, we have access to such abundant supplies of clean, fresh water. But we cannot be complacent—with that comes a great responsibility to protect those resources for future generations.
Why not learn more about the amazing freshwater laboratory that is hidden away in the Boreal forest, and discover how you can help keep our water supplies clean?