I continue my discussion about the “Recreation Lakes Dilemma” in my February Alberta Outdoorsmen column. In this chapter, I look at how lake shore development can reduce fish habitat and increase the amount of nutrients that drain into the lakes. Nutrient loading is a natural process but cultivation and other land disturbance can increase the amount of these nutrients heading to the lake. As well, use of fertilizers and septic systems increases the flow of nutrients.
Why is this a problem? Nutrients, such as phosphorous, increase the amount of algae in lake water in the summer. Algae reduces light, which in turn reduces the diversity of life in the food chain–reducing the food for fish and other wildlife. As well, blue-green algae which often blooms under these conditions in the summer, produces toxins that are harmful to fish, wildlife and family pets. The result is a lake that is no longer providing the benefits that people come to expect.
Many of our most popular recreation lakes in Alberta are suffering from low water levels and nutrient loading. Next month, I’ll look at what some are doing to solve the problem.