/pearl NS-NB Water Quality Summary TEAM - Trends in Eutrophication and Acidification in the Maritimes

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Plain Language Summary of Research Program

The two major water-quality issues facing the Maritime region of Canada are acidification and eutrophication.  Due to the lack of long-term data sets, it is impossible to measure directly the extent of degradation (or possible recovery) in water quality.  Fortunately, new approaches are available to reconstruct these missing data.  This 5-year, multi-disciplinary, program combined novel paleolimnological (using information archived in lake sediments to reconstruct environmental conditions) and biogeochemical modeling approaches to address key issues related to water-quality changes in Nova Scotia and Southern New Brunswick.  Long-term goals were to develop pattern- and process-based models on regional scales to help address the diversity of water-quality issues facing eastern Canada.  These techniques will be widely applicable to other regions.

To achieve these objectives, a series of strategic projects was undertaken to address key processes related to acidification and eutrophication, and their interactions with other environmental stressors (e.g. climate change).  Consequently, short-term goals apply new approaches to provide detailed information on the trajectories of changes in water quality that have occurred in specific lakes of interest to our users.  This allowed us to determine if individual lakes are deteriorating or improving in water quality, and to determine what levels of stressors or pollutants result in detrimental water-quality changes (e.g. what are the critical loads for each lake? At what level of sulphate deposition do we see the first signs of acidification or at what level of watershed development does eutrophication become a problem? Are hypolimnetic oxygen levels in NS brook trout lakes decreasing? If so, what are the causes?).  Moreover, by reconstructing pre-impact, background conditions, we will establish realistic mitigation targets (i.e. are these lakes naturally acidic or naturally eutrophic or do they naturally suffer from deepwater oxygen depletions?).  These data also provide insights into biogeochemical processes and models so that more realistic assessments of environmental change will be possible.

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