Watershed Council asks for help with biodiversity concerns
MUSKOKAN - Muskoka has some of the highest biodiversity rates in the province, and the Muskoka Watershed Council wants residents to find ways to keep it that way.
WORTH WORKING FOR.
Courtesy of the Muskoka Watershed Council
Biodiversity includes every living thing and their ecosystems. There is world-wide concern over an increasing trend to biodiversity loss, including in Muskoka, with some observers saying the planet may be entering a mass extinction on the scale of the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.
A biodiversity sub-committee of the Muskoka Watershed Council recently completed a two-year, 53-page report titled Muskoka’s Biodiversity, Understanding our Past to Protect our Future. The full report is available on their website at muskokaheritage.org/mwc.
Through a study of Muskoka’s history, an extensive scientific review and conversations with longtime members of the community, the sub-committee has developed a picture of Muskoka’s biodiversity past and present.
Muskoka has a rich biodiversity compared to areas both north, where the climate is harsher, and south, where development has taken its toll. But we should not become complacent, said Ian Turnbull, a member of the biodiversity sub-committee. “We’re quite rich in ecosystem biodiversity,” Turnbull told Muskoka Watershed Council members. “But the richer we are in these things, the more work we have to do to stay rich.”
In speaking with longtime residents, Turnbull said there was consensus that the environmental changes that have occurred over the years are the result of humans.
In the earth’s history, there have been five mass extinctions, all natural. The last was when the meteor hit and the dinosaurs were wiped out, said Judi Brouse, director of watershed programs for the Muskoka Watershed Council. It’s possible the next mass extinction will be caused by us.
“The rate of species lost at this point is at the same rate as is expected as you move into a mass extinction,” explained Brouse. “We aren’t there yet. You really can only see, like many things in science, these things after they’re done, but it is a trend of concern to see the rate at which we are losing species and the impact that may have.”
Biodiversity can be likened to a house of cards, explained Turnbull. “You can take this card out. You can take that card out. You might take out 10 more cards; you might be OK. Which card will make the house fall down?”
The Muskoka Watershed Council representatives say they do not have the solution to biodiversity loss in Muskoka. Though typical best environmental practices are a good start, is there more we could be or should be doing?
“We, for a long time maybe, have been content with saying, ‘Let’s stop doing bad things and everything will be ok,’” suggested Turnbull. “So is it enough that we simply stop doing things that aren’t good or should we be going beyond that? That’s an important discussion we need to have… Do we want to be a trendsetter? Do we want to remain different? Do we want to remain a little bit ahead of the curve? And if we do, how do we get there?”
These are some of the questions the Muskoka Watershed Council hopes residents will help answer. The group is holding meetings throughout Muskoka, beginning next week, with the goal to start a conversation about biodiversity loss and what we, as individuals, communities, industry and government, can do about the problem. Everyone is welcome.
Meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 1 at Lake of Bays Council Chambers in Dwight; Wednesday, Oct. 3 at the Raymond Community Centre; Thursday, Oct. 4 at the Severn Bridge Community Centre; Wednesday Oct. 10 at the Glen Orchard Community Centre and Thursday, Oct. 11 at the Vankoughnet Village Square. For more information, call the Muskoka Watershed Council at 705-645-7393.
“As we have discussions with communities, hopefully, they’ll come up with suggestions,” said Brouse. “We don’t want to go and tell anybody anything, besides giving them the background. We want them to start thinking about what mechanisms they can use within their community to look after their own backyard.”