Benthic macro-invertebrates, colloquially referred to as “benthics” or “benthos”, are aquatic, spineless organisms that live on the bottom of water bodies. Since the late 1980’s they have been used as biological indicators for common aquatic pollutants as they spend part or the entirety of their lives in the water. Due to this long-term contact with the water around them, certain groups of benthics are more sensitive to stressors such as organic pollution (including excess phosphorus and nitrogen). This makes the presence or absence of certain groupings of benthics indicative of the overall ecological health of the water body in which they reside. The use of benthics as an indicator of water quality is now used throughout the world and has been widely used in Ontario since the early 2000’s.
In 2019 U-Links, Trent University, and Sir Sandford Fleming College participated in a pilot project involving six lakes within Haliburton County in order to determine if a program like this was possible. All six projects were successful and it was determined in early 2020 that the program would continue and expand to more lakes throughout the Haliburton region. Our program currently works with 14 lake, cottage, and property owners’ associations in the Haliburton and Kawartha Lakes region sampling 65 sites.
The landscape of Haliburton County is equally as important as the aquatic ecosystems that are connected to it. In conjunction with the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust (HHLT) and the Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve (Haliburton Forest), U-Links will be coordinating a number of terrestrial monitoring projects starting with vegetation monitoring. Over the summer of 2021 U-Links will be assisting in the creation of a number of permanent sampling plots on the properties of the HHLT and Haliburton Forest. These plots will be sampled by Trent University students every five years in order to assess how stressors like climate change are impacting these incredibly important ecosystems.
Students who are interested in assisting with this portion of the program are encouraged to get in contact with our Program Coordinator to learn more. This portion of the program is only in it’s first year so updates will occur frequently.