New multi-million-dollar partnership to revolutionize freshwater monitoring

Living Lakes Canada partners to deliver three-year project bringing environmental DNA technology to communities across Canada –  see below for a recording of the live announcement.

GUELPH, Feb. 4, 2019 – The power of environmental DNA technology is being extended to community groups across the country to allow for faster creation of more robust freshwater health data, as a result of a new $2.6 million partnership between Living Lakes Canada, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Genome Canada and Dr. Mehrdad Hajibabaei of the University of Guelph.

“We are very excited to be testing this new DNA technology on the ground with and for community groups who have the most to gain in understanding stream health through the sequencing of DNA for biodiversity purposes. This technology will be a gamechanger and is very timely given the urgent need to understand the health of our respective watersheds in Canada,” said Living Lakes Canada executive director Kat Hartwig.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding is a combination of DNA identification and automated DNA sequencing to generate biodiversity data for freshwater benthic macroinvertebrates, the small animals that live at the bottom of streams and rivers. Changes in the make-up of these invertebrate communities can be excellent indicators of pollution and other environmental stressors.

Compared to current monitoring methods, which can be slow and costly, eDNA metabarcoding technology has the potential to produce biodiversity data more quickly, more affordably and at a higher resolution. The results of DNA-based biomonitoring will support better environmental assessment, planning and regulatory decisions – which is essential as population growth, agricultural activity, resource development and climate change all put increasing pressure on Canada’s freshwater ecosystems.

“Our Watershed Reports found a shocking data gap with respect to freshwater health, despite the heroic efforts of community groups, staff and volunteers dedicated to safeguarding this essential public resource. This commitment brings community-based monitoring into the 21st century. Considering the increasing stress caused by climate change and the cumulative effects of other human activities, not to mention major developments on the horizon, the timing couldn’t be more perfect,” said Elizabeth Hendriks, vice-president of freshwater conservation at WWF-Canada.

While many community groups already use biomonitoring to understand and manage the impacts of resource projects such as mines, hydro dams and energy projects, access to new genomics-based techniques for assessing watershed health will broaden the reach and impact of existing community-based monitoring programs, ultimately leading to better and faster data for informed decision-making.

“This project is a stepping stone in the application environmental DNA metabarcoding for large-scale assessment of watershed health. Our lab has pioneered the use of advanced DNA technologies for biodiversity analysis for over a decade and we are very pleased in joining forces WWF Canada, LLC and ECCC and various other stakeholders and citizen scientists in using this approach for our valuable watersheds,” said Academic Project Lead Mehrdad Hajibabaei, Associate Professor at the University of Guelph.

Funding for this project, called STREAM DNA (Sequencing the River for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring) is provided by Genome Canada, WWF-Canada and ECCC.

Click below to watch a recording of the live announcement (beginning at 19:46 and ending at 25:02).

About World Wildlife Fund Canada

WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.

About Living Lakes Canada

Living Lakes Canada bridges the gap between science and action to foster citizen-based water stewardship. Our mandate is to help Canadians understand the intimate connections between water quantity, water quality, land-use, climate change, biodiversity, and healthy human communities by building a water stewardship ethic that all Canadians can be proud of.

About Environment and Climate Change Canada

Environment and Climate Change Canada has a mandate for research, monitoring and enforcement related to freshwater in Canada. The Department maintains the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network, which is a multi-partner program to measure freshwater ecosystem health with standardized methods, database tools and training.

Spreading awareness: World Wetlands Day 2019

Healthy wetlands play a crucial role for life on Earth.  

Besides providing a variety of ecological services including trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, and removing pollution, wetlands contain a disproportionately high number of plant and animal species, including endangered species. Wetlands are also powerful carbon sequestering ecosystems, offering a natural solution to climate change, one of the most pressing problems facing humanity and the planet.

Yet wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests, and more than a third of the world’s wetlands have been lost in just 45 years.

World Wetlands Day on February 2 is the ideal time to raise global awareness around the value of wetlands. To draw attention to how wetlands can help fight climate change, the theme of World Wetlands Day 2019 is “Wetlands and Climate Change”, a theme that will carry through to the World Congress on Wetlands and Lake Restoration taking place May 7-9 in Spain, when a global discussion on Business and NGO Partnerships for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation will occur.

“The Living Lakes Canada team will be going to Valencia, Spain to celebrate Living Lakes International’s 20th anniversary as well as take part in the World Congress on Wetland and Lake Restoration,” said Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig, “and we are being supported by Kicking Horse Coffee to attend. Kicking Horse Coffee also wants to help support stewardship for the RAMSAR-designated internationally significant Columbia Wetlands, located in the East Kootenay’s Columbia Valley, which is home to the company’s headquarters.”

Living Lakes International is a global network of over 120 non-government organizations that share the mission to enhance the protection, restoration and rehabilitation of lakes, rivers, wetlands and watersheds throughout the world.

The program for the World Congress for Wetland and Lake Restoration can be viewed here.

World Wetlands Day marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) in Ramsar, Iran, on February 2, 1971. To learn more, visit www.worldwetlandsday.org.

 

Living Lakes Canada delivers CABIN training in Smithers

Thanks to our Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) field practicum participants in Smithers, B.C.! What a great couple days in October in the streams with representatives from Gitxsan Environmental Services, Gitanyow Fisheries Authority, Wetsuweten Fisheries, Skeena Fisheries, Lake Babine Fisheries and Eclipse Geomatics.

A big thank you to Donald Baird from Environment and Climate Change Canada and University of New Brunswick for helping us out with the course and teaching us about eDNA.

Living Lakes Canada is trained by Environment and Climate Change Canada to train community groups, professionals, industry and First Nation communities in the CABIN methodology, the established national protocol in Canada that collects benthic macroinvertebrates and uses their counts as an indicator of a water body’s health.

Water monitoring helping predict watershed behaviour in a changing climate

Submitted by Chris HiebertNorth Kootenay Lake Water Monitoring Project

The North Kootenay Lake Water Monitoring Project (NKLWMP) is working to improve understanding and prediction of how small- and medium-sized watersheds are going to behave in a changing climate, especially in conditions of extreme high and low precipitation.

The project has established seven hydrometric stations, two high-elevation climate stations, one low-elevation climate station and two high-elevation snow course sites on the North end of Kootenay Lake.  Stations are monitored and maintained by a combination of professional and citizen scientists. By focusing on the monitoring of streamflow and related climate variables, the results from NKLWMP will provide key data for making a range of critical conservation decisions, especially with respect to climate change.

The NKLWMP recently partnered with Living Lakes Canada and is excited to be working with LLC to foster a deeper understanding of water, climate change and healthy communities in the West Kootenays. The project has recently been working on orientating new volunteers and repairing, maintaining, and winterizing hydrometric and climate stations.

NKLWMP also presented at the Friends of Kootenay Lake Summit in Kaslo. We are now gearing up for the 2019 snow course measurements at our two high elevation stations and are working on the preparation of the first NKLWMP report, which will be available soon!

To learn more about the NKLWMP, or to become involved as a volunteer, please contact us at nklwmp@gmail.com.

NKLWMP volunteers taking snow course measurements.
NKLWMP climate station
NKLWMP volunteer at Ben Hur Hydrometric station after completing repairs.

Living Lakes Canada co-hosts CBWM Roundtable in Ottawa

On November 27 and 28, 2018 Living Lakes Canada in partnership with The Gordon Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund-Canada co-hosted a Roundtable gathering in Ottawa, ON. The goal of the Roundtable was to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members, academia, all levels of government, First Nations and industry that are involved or interested in community-based water monitoring (CBWN). The group was invited to take part in discussing recommendations and opportunities for elevating the profile and potential support for CBWN with the federal government.

CBWN is building momentum across Canada. A recent National scan conducted by LLC, SFU and U of Acadia, showed that CBWM has grown 3-fold within 10 years (see a summary of the report’s highlights here).

Citizens, scientists, academia, government and Indigenous communities are collaborating to build local water monitoring programs with a goal to understand the state of local watersheds. CBWN is a powerful way to achieve effective water management and stewardship practices that are tailored for local conditions and capable of keeping pace with rapid environmental change.

The growth of CWBN programs across Canada presents an opportunity for the Government of Canada to simultaneously advance a number of its core priorities. There are already significant investments across Canada including programming led by Environment and Climate Change Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. To make the most of these investments, efforts are needed to ensure programming across departments is well-coordinated, and effectively address community water stewardship needs.

Participants of the Roundtable gathered to review, edit and revamp the draft recommendations for the Government of Canada. Examples of successful CBWN were presented from government, Indigenous, academia and community-led initiatives and projects across Canada.

Host organizers of the event will be reviewing and gathering the input provided to create the final recommendations to be put forward to the Government of Canada.

Living Lakes Canada (LLC) Executive Director Kat Hartwig speaks at the Community Based Water Monitoring Roundtable gathering in Ottawa that was co-hosted by LLC, The Gordon Foundation and WWF-Canada in November 2018.
Participants at the Community Based Water Monitoring Roundtable gathering in Ottawa co-hosted by LLC, The Gordon Foundation and WWF-Canada in November 2018.

Experts collaborate on Columbia Basin Water Data Hub initiative

On November 20, 2019 in Cranbrook, B.C., Living Lakes Canada hosted an inaugural in-person Steering Committee meeting. Over 20 people attended this full-day meeting to brainstorm and share content from their expert backgrounds to help develop the Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Framework and Data Hub Initiative.

The next steps will be pulling together the important information gathered at this meeting to develop the first draft of the Framework Initiative. 

This initiative will coordinate a collaborative, systemic guiding framework for addressing water monitoring data collection and data storage needs in the Canadian Columbia Basin. With the participation of all levels of government, including First Nations, this initiative will build upon the backbone of water monitoring data from Federal and Provincial governments. It will address identified priority water data gaps and help to prioritize the expansion of water monitoring in the Basin, including support for community-based monitoring.

This initiative will also create a cost effective open-sourced data hub that is an accessible way to store and share local, traditional, and scientific water data. This will include communication considerations, such developing analysis tools needed for interpretation so that the water data can be used effectively by decision makers, academia, and interested public.

The guiding framework will support efforts necessary for watershed stewardship through engagement, education, capacity and partnership-building. This will include providing training, mentoring, and technical support as needed. It will also work as a central funding hub to coordinate grants from various sources and distribute them to water monitoring groups and researchers who may not have the capacity to do this fundraising themselves.

The outcome is for more informed collective decision-making in efforts towards increased ecosystem resiliency and community resiliency in the face of a changing climate and development pressures.

Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig (centre) at the Stewardship Committee meeting in Cranbrook on November 20, 2019.
Attendees ponder a Water Monitoring Framework and Data Hub for the Columbia Basin at a Stewardship Committee meeting in Cranbrook, B.C., on November 20, 2019.

Urgent changes needed to limit climate change, says IPCC

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, the IPCC said in a new report. With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on Monday (October 8, 2018).

The report’s full name is Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.

Find the IPCC press release here. 

A direct link to the report can be accessed here. 

“The way we are fighting climate change now suggests that we are in for dire times with both water quality and water quantity in Canada as well.  People still seem to think that we will be better off than the USA, but in fact most of Canada’s water is in the north while most of the people live in the south,” says LLC advisor Dr. David Schindler.

The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2°C.

RELATED NEWS

 

Water Monitoring in British Columbia: Scanning the Data Landscape

In 2017, members of the BC Water Funders Collaborative’s Working Group on Water Monitoring commissioned a Water Monitoring Landscape Scan to inform discussions on a shared vision for water monitoring and reporting in British Columbia.

Living Lakes Canada, along with other members of the water monitoring working group, helped guide the project, which is captured in a new report authored by Carol Luttmer, BSc (Eng), MSc. Carol is also the Program Manager of Living Lakes Canada’s Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program.

The Scan, while not intended to be comprehensive, identified over 125 water monitoring initiatives that represent a range of types of monitoring that vary in scope from monitoring at a single site to province-wide networks. Over 40 diverse data hubs, portals or databases that are sharing and/or summarizing data were also identified. Because of different monitoring objectives and organizational capacities there is no one-size-fits-all approach to water monitoring and reporting.

Click on the image to download the report.

Living Lakes Canada assists with East Kootenay lake monitoring

From September 4 – 7, 2018, Living Lakes Canada (LLC) and the BC Lake Stewardship Society (BCLSS) enlisted the help of several volunteers and local residents to collect lake quality data for five East Kootenay lakes as part of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC)’s ongoing provincial lake monitoring program.

Water quality data is collected annually by MOECC, in both spring and fall, from lakes throughout the province. This year, LLC and the BCLSS were asked to assist with sampling in the East Kootenay region, including Windermere, Columbia, Whiteswan, Premier and Moyie lakes.

MOECC staff taught volunteers the sampling protocol used for the fall sampling project. First, temperature and dissolved oxygen were measured in the lakes using a 100-metre sonde. This data was used to determine the different “layers” of water that would be sampled. Next, composite water samples were collected to be analyzed for chemistry, nutrients, chlorophyll a, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and mussel larvae. This process took the team of volunteers between 2-6 hours for each lake that they sampled.

Monitoring for all of these parameters helps summarize the current ecological productivity of a lake, which is important knowledge for water quality and fisheries management. By monitoring every year in spring and fall, the lake data will show if and how these lakes may be changing over time.

This project was a great example of collaboration between community and government, and demonstrated how community-based water monitoring groups can play a more active role in provincial water monitoring programs.

Thanks go out to Norm Zirnhelt with the BCLSS for training the LLC staff and directing the fall field sampling. Special thanks also to the volunteer boat drivers who committed their time and efforts for this lake sampling: Gavin Jacobs (Lake Windermere Ambassadors), Dave Rae (Columere Park Community), Tracy and Glenn Flynn (Columbia Lake Stewardship Society/East Kootenay Wildlife Association), and Mike Labrie (Eagles Nest RV Resort).

Living Lakes Canada delivers CABIN training in the Liard River Watershed

The Dene Nan Yedah Guardian Program celebrate graduating the 2-day CABIN field practicum in the Liard River Watershed hosted by Living Lakes Canada in partnership with WWF-Canada for the Den Kayeh Institute.

The Kaska Dena nation has lived along the Liard River for thousands of years. They currently have an Indigenous Guardian Program called the Dene Nan Yedah program, which monitors moose, caribou, grizzly bear, fish, and protects high cultural use areas. Guardians act as the eyes and ears on their land, collecting important environmental data and enforcing traditional laws. Up until recently, the Dene Nan Yedah program did not include a water monitoring component.

On September 24/25, Living Lakes Canada trained the Dene Nan Yedah Guardian Program in the Environment and Climate Change Canada CABIN (Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network) protocol. The original training was scheduled to occur August 21/22, but was postponed due to the infringing fires, and the community was evacuated five days later. Community members were only able to return six days prior to the rescheduled training.

Although the area was severely affected, the Lower Post communities’ resilience pushed the course forward.  

After the two-day field practicum, the Guardians – in collaboration with Living Lakes Canada and WWF-Canada – set up five CABIN stream assessment sites along the Alaska Highway from Lower Post to Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park.

The Environmental DNA (eDNA) benthic samples that were collected will be sent to the University of Guelph for meta barcoding analysis, which uses gene sequencing linked to DNA/RNA barcode libraries to allow for a faster, more complete profile of biodiversity content from very small samples. This is a made-in-Canada technology that is now moving beyond proof of concept to real world applications.

With the support of Living Lakes Canada and WWF-Canada, the Dene Nan Yedah program has now expanded to include water quality and benthic invertebrate monitoring, and this monitoring will provide adequate baseline knowledge to help ensure that developments are done in a way that does not compromise the wild status of the Liard River.    

James Malone from Good Hope Lake Guardians checks out Caddisflies during the Liard River watershed CABIN course.

Traditional monitoring for benthic invertebrates is time consuming and costly, as it requires a taxonomist to analyze the samples – eDNA helps combat this issue. Living Lakes Canada is partnering with WWF- Canada and the University of Guelph to support a national network of community based monitoring programs and/or Guardians programs that utilize eDNA technology to improve the understanding of benthic invertebrate communities in Canada.

The Dene Nan Yedah water monitoring program is one of the first to be trained using this technology through this initiative. At this stage, sampling is done with eDNA technology and traditional sampling methods to ensure accuracy.

The Dene Nan Yedah program is being implemented by the Dena Kayeh Institute on behalf of Kaska Dena communities of Good Hope Lake, Lower Post and Kwadacha.

Living Lakes Canada will be hosting  their next CABIN field practicum training with the Environmental Stewardship Initiative in Smithers, B.C. on October 11/12. The course is now open to community members who are interested in becoming certified in the CABIN protocol. The course is running as a Field Assistant level – training in data collection only; online modules can be completed up to 2 years after. For further information or questions about CABIN field practicums, email raegan@livinglakescanada.ca.