Haliburton County is home to many exquisite natural environments that many locals and visitors have enjoyed for generations. In an attempt to learn more about the natural environments of Haliburton and the surrounding region, a number of organizations ranging from small lake associations to conservation authorities reached out to U-Links to facilitate a unified monitoring program. This program initially started with a focus on benthic macroinvertebrates, but has now grown to include terrestrial ecosystems as well. The program is divided into two large sections that are detailed below: Aquatic Biomonitoring, with a focus on benthic macroinvertebrates, and Terrestrial Biomonitoring, with a focus on terrestrial vegetation.
Aquatic Biomonitoring (Benthic Biomonitoring)
Benthic macro-invertebrates, colloquially referred to as “benthics” or “benthos”, are aquatic, spineless organisms that live on the bottom of water bodies. Since the late 1980’s they have been used as biological indicators for common aquatic pollutants as they spend part or the entirety of their lives in the water. Due to this long-term contact with the water around them, certain groups of benthics are more sensitive to stressors such as organic pollution (including excess phosphorus and nitrogen). This makes the presence or absence of certain groupings of benthics indicative of the overall ecological health of the water body in which they reside. The use of benthics as an indicator of water quality is now used throughout the world and has been widely used in Ontario since the early 2000’s.
In 2019 U-Links, Trent University, and Sir Sandford Fleming College participated in a pilot project involving six lakes within Haliburton County in order to determine if a program like this was possible. All six projects were successful and it was determined in early 2020 that the program would continue and expand to more lakes throughout the Haliburton region.
Information for Lake Associations:
If you are part of a lake association that would be interested in participating in this program, more information can be found here. You can also contact our Biomonitoring Project Coordinator, Brendan Martin, at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about the program or discuss a research project idea.
Terrestrial Biomonitoring Program (Starting 2021)
The landscape of Haliburton County is equally as important as the aquatic ecosystems that are connected to it. In conjunction with the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust (HHLT) and the Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve (Haliburton Forest), U-Links will be coordinating a number of terrestrial monitoring projects starting with vegetation monitoring. Over the summer of 2020 U-Links will be assisting in the creation of a number of permanent sampling plots on the properties of the HHLT and Haliburton Forest. These plots will be sampled by Trent University students every five years in order to assess how stressors like climate change are impacting these incredibly important ecosystems.
This portion of the program is still in the planning stages so check back in the summer of 2021 for this next phase of the program!