The numerous lakes of the Cataraqui Region are highly diverse and important watershed features providing habitat for wildlife, recreational opportunities, sources of drinking water, and are a cornerstone of many local businesses. As part of its conservation mandate, Cataraqui Conservation collaborates with both public and private sector partners to understand, communicate, and protect the health of the lakes in the Cataraqui region.
Cataraqui Conservation is one of 36 watershed-based agencies within Ontario dedicated to the conservation and protection of the natural environment through a variety of management tools including land ownership, education, monitoring, reporting, restoration, and regulation.
With this important mandate in mind, and with the advent of recent technology, Cataraqui Conservation has created an online Lake Reporting Dashboard to access lake-specific information and resources to learn about the character of our lakes, what vulnerabilities are impacting them and what actions you can take to combat cumulative impacts that compromise lake heath.
The new dashboard can be found at https://cataraquiconservation.ca/pages/lakes.
In the past, Cataraqui Conservation produced Lake Reports in a more traditional ‘paper’ format, using what data we had to meet reporting targets, with just 45 lakes able to meet this threshold for the last reports issued in 2017. But, thanks to a more sophisticated and comprehensive methodology, the new online Lake Report Dashboard allows for at least some information from every named lake within the Cataraqui Region to be included.
“One important goal of the new Lake Reporting Dashboard is to educate and increase awareness of human-caused impacts to the lakes in our region. By outlining vulnerabilities specific to a given lake, those with an interest in that lake’s health – or in the health of all lakes – have some direction as to how they can take meaningful actions that will lead to positive change in restoring and enhancing the lake’s health and resilience,” said the lead Cataraqui Conservation staff member on the project, Watershed Planning Co-ordinator Holly Evans.
“The important take-away for anyone interested in the health of our lakes is that every lake is different, and to a certain extent, so are the ways to help improve their resilience and preserve biodiversity.”
Since the last lake reports were issued five years ago, Cataraqui Conservation staff, led by Evans and GIS & Data Technician Chelsea Penlington, with input from the rest of the Watershed Planning & Engineering Team, as well as the various staff members in the Communications department, built this one-stop, internet-based information platform from the ground up.
This updated and more detailed approach to lake reporting will allow those interested in the health of one or all lakes to have questions or concerns addressed in areas respecting the overall characteristics and potential vulnerability of these lakes, through the new user-friendly online dashboard.
There are ten key areas of investigation dealt with as part of the interactive dashboard. These include:
- Soil and geology
- Lake depth, thermal class and fish that inhabit the lake
- Flow, including position within the lake’s particular watershed, flushing rate and any water control structures in place
- Trophic status
- The number of wetlands and forests in the lake’s watershed
- The level of human-made development surrounding the lake
- What species at risk have been observed in and near each lake
- How exposed the lake is to invasive species introduction
- Have there been confirmed harmful algae blooms?
- General lake health trends over the short and longer term
For each of these topics there are easy-to-understand explanations with informative illustrations, alongside videos and/or other links to help explain in more depth the significance of each topic, why it matters and, crucially, what can be done to mitigate any negative circumstances. For clarity and background, for each topic there is a section explaining how that criterion was ranked is given. Additionally, the dashboard features cutting-edge graphics with clickable maps, summary graphs and lake-specific interpretations for further clarification.
The Lake Report Dashboard also allows Cataraqui Conservation staff to update any of the metrics in real time for each lake so that interested individuals, municipal officials, lake associations, property owners and other stakeholders can have the most timely and accurate information.