by Mario Garavito
In its simple definition, a lake is a body of water that is surrounded by land. A lake can be found in every continent around the world, varying greatly in size and in depth. It could be small enough to fit in your backyard – like a pond – or so big that it is known as sea – the Caspian Sea is the world’s largest inland lake, measuring over 371,000 km2 in size!
Canada is exceptionally fortunate when it comes to lakes. According to different studies, our country is home to the largest number of lakes in the world, with about 7.6% of Canada’s nearly 10 million km2 being covered by freshwater. Therefore, despite an apparent abundance, the freshwater resource must be managed carefully. We have a responsibility of protecting these important bodies of water!
Lake-side adventures (photo: Mario Garavito).
Why are lakes important?
Lakes are ecosystems: areas where biological energy flows through a food chain that is used by many different types of organisms like birds, mammals, plants, and insects. In other words, a lake is a community where living organisms live and interact. Its health is vital for maintaining the equilibrium, or balance, of the whole system.
Did you know: Some scientists believe the first living organisms on Earth developed in lakes?
Likewise, lakes are important in preserving and maintaining wildlife populations. These freshwater areas serve as migration stops and breeding grounds for many birds and as refuges for a wide variety of other animals. For people, lakes are valuable resources in a variety of ways. For example:
- Farmers use lake water to irrigate crops;
- Lakes supply many communities with water; and,
- Because they are often very beautiful, lakes are popular recreation and vacation spots, and, for some fortunate ones, their permanent homes.
Is my lake healthy?
We are completely sure that if you are reading this article, you care about Canada’s lakes. Because of that, you probably wonder if the lake where you live or which you constantly visit is in good health. The answer is not as simple, as not all lakes are alike, but there are some common aspects that can help to make a first evaluation:
- Healthy characteristics:
- Life! If you see fish and plants, it is a good sign;
- Turbidity: the less, the better;
- Wildlife: have you seen deer or other animals drinking water from the lake?
- Water circulation: allows oxygen to be spread throughout the lake and is an essential part of keeping the lake alive.
Pied-billed Grebe with baby (photo: Simon Lunn).
- UNhealthy aspects:
- Eutrophication: when a lake gets too many nutrients, it causes blue-green algae growth;
- Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria): It stays on the surface of the water and forms a sort of mat. When the conditions are just right, the algae multiply quickly. This is called an algal bloom and is harmful to lakes, animals, plants, and people; and
- Invasive species: can change the natural habitat of the lake and are known as biological pollutants when this happens.
Algae bloom (photo: Barbara King).
What can I do for my lake?
There are many actions that you can take to protect and take care of your lake. At Watersheds Canada, we have been working all over the country alongside local community groups and individuals with the mission to protect and restore freshwater. One of them is Love Your Lake, a shoreline evaluation and stewardship program that provides individuals with a property specific report outlining voluntary actions that can improve the health of your lake and shoreline property.
The Love Your Lake Program has successfully assessed more than 150 lakes across Canada which includes almost 40,000 shoreline properties. You can learn more about the Program at loveyourlake.ca
Also, we would love to know which is your favourite lake in Canada and what you are doing to protect it. We invite you to write it in the comments and share this article with some friends or family that love the lakes as much as you. You can also fill in this short survey to let us know what you love about your lake: loveyourlake.ca/survey