FMW’s approach to protecting Muskoka watersheds is to work with the local and scientific communities to identify, develop and foster solutions to the stressors in our watershed. The proposed solutions may be novel, such as the use of non-industrial wood ash to solve the widespread calcium decline problem. New approaches are risky. They may not work. This issue’s Graph of the Month provides the first proof that the risk was worth taking, i.e. local firewood ashes do provide a rapid and substantial benefit to local sugar maple.
The accompanying chart highlights one key result of Holly Deighton’s Masters thesis research directed by Dr Shaun Watmough at Trent University, and FMW partner. With FMW support, Holly added ashes from maple, yellow birch and pine firewood to small 2*2 m plots supporting maple seedlings in a local sugar bush. All three ash types reduced the acidity and increased calcium and magnesium levels in the soil. The chart shows this led to dramatic increases in calcium levels in all parts of the maple seedlings. Holly’s work was a small pilot study in the ASHMuskoka project, but it provides our first proof of principle that local residential wood ashes can provide the solution to ecological osteoporosis in Muskoka forests.
It takes knowledge and will to solve ecological problems. For the ecological osteoporosis problem, we are beginning to develop the knowledge. The next step is to refine the needed doses and prove additions work at a larger scale in multiple locations. That’s why we are following the results of last November’s larger ash additions in three sugar bushes. This should teach us what we need to know for our watershed-scale ash addition over the next 12 months.
Please keep “saving your ash” for us. We will be continuing to collect it from you over the coming months.