| Feb 21, 2013

Five years ago Robert McLeman, a geographer from the University of Ottawa, presented the results of a small research project on the potential effects of climate change on Addington Highlands and North Frontenac Township.

His research project did not end there, however, and he has brought some of his colleagues and student researchers into the region on a regular basis since then to look at different aspects of climate change and social change on the local population.

This week, McLeman bought these researchers together to present summaries of their findings at a research fair hosted by North Addington Education Centre in Cloyne. In addition to his own report, McLeman introduced colleagues from Queen’s and Guelph Universities, as well as Paul Lehman from Mississippi Valley Conservation (MVC).

Paul Lehman presented annual temperature and water level information that MVC has collected over the years, along with projected temperature and rainfall levels for the coming decades.

“We’ve seen a trend towards higher levels of precipitation overall, with the largest increases coming in the fall of the year, and also a trend towards higher minimum temperatures in the fall and the winter,” Lehman said.

He also noted that the water flows have been lower in the dryer summer period, which has been persisting for a longer period of time.

The implications of these trends are making the management of water levels on the lower end of the watershed more difficult, Lehman said. By storing and drawing down Crotch Lake, the principal reservoir lake in the Mississippi system, MVC attempts to maintain a flow rate of 5 cubic metres per second for the recreational season from May 24 to Labour Day.

Lehman noted that the tendency towards more intense rains storms of recent years has affected the total amount of nutrients in the lakes as phosphates and other minerals are washed off the shoreline into the lakes. This decreases the available oxygen in the lakes, with effects on fish habitat.

Scott Lamoureux from Queen’s has been taking sediment samples on two of the smaller lakes in Addington Highlands as well as two of the larger lakes. By analysing the sediment he can determine the amount of organic activity in the lakes over a period of decades.

What he has found thus far is that the smaller lakes have seen a dramatic increase in activity since 1950, probably due to increased development. The larger lakes, however, have seen little change.

Peter Keizer, a graduate student at the University of Ottawa, has been studying the pollen trapped in lake sediments on Tawney Pond in Cloyne and on Stoll Lake to the north of the hamlet. His studies have been able to determine the predominant tree species in the region over long periods of time. The main factor affecting the predominance of species has been temperature levels, with the notable exception being the logging frenzy that took place in the region in the mid 19th century. In general, the pine forest has thrived in cooler periods; hemlocks have been on a steady decline for hundreds of years, and the tendency since the 1870s has been for an increased hardwood forest and a decreased softwood forest. In terms of human impact, the preponderance of plants like ragweed and others can be seen as a direct result of human activity in the region.

Dawn Dietrich, a PHD candidate from Guelph, is studying community and family vulnerabilities in the forestry sector, particularly in communities with a history of small, family-based logging companies. She has been doing a comprehensive case study of the members of the Mazinaw Lanark Forest Inc., whose members log on Crown Land under forest management plans that are approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

She described what she called a “perfect storm, high cost of operations, a lack of markets, falling prices, and regulations stemming from the Sustainable Forestry and Endangered Species Acts that has pushed many of these businesses to the brink.”

She said that while most of the loggers that she has interviewed are committed to sustainable forestry practices and the protection of endangered species, the way the regulations have been imposed has made it very difficult for them to operate.

One of the loggers who was present at the Fair described a situation that has developed on a number of logging roads as the result of turtle sightings.

“All summer long, ATVs and pickup trucks are allowed to bomb down the roads at whatever speed they want, and we are not allowed to use them for logging; where’s the sense in that.”

Dietrich said that neither of the recent acts is responsible on their own for the plight of local forestry, but given how vulnerable the industry is, the way they have been implemented needs to be looked at again.

Finally, Stuart Fast talked about his study into local attitudes towards renewable energy.

The conversation returned to forestry when the subject of the potential for biomass power generation was raised. Although it is not in favour with the Province of Ontario in the way that wind and solar power is, it was pointed out that, on Crown land at least, less than half the volume of wood is forested than the amount that grows each year, leaving a large latent capacity for harvesting.

“The resource is there, and it is increasing every year, but that does not mean it is viable from an economic point of view at this time,” said one of the loggers in attendance.

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