Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative Science Program
Under Phase I of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative (LWBI), a science plan for the lake and its basin was implemented to better understand the gaps related to ecology and nutrient cycling, and the sources and transport mechanisms for nutrients.
The science plan for Phase II of the LWBI includes further monitoring and research to fill priority knowledge gaps in science, finding ways to measure results, and assessing the effectiveness of efforts to clean up the lake.
Phase II of the LWBI science plan (2012-2017) encompasses four key deliverables:
1. Address knowledge gaps related to the impact of human activities, particularly land use, on fate, effect and delivery of nutrients in Lake Winnipeg tributaries.
2. Develop predictive capabilities in support of nutrient management in Lake Winnipeg and its basin.
3. Undertake water quality and biotic monitoring to track the spatial and temporal flux of nutrients transported from the watershed to Lake Winnipeg and support modeling scenarios.
4. Address critical knowledge gaps in lake nutrient dynamics relative to changes in nutrient loads to Lake Winnipeg.
Several projects are currently underway to study the fate and effects of nutrients originating from agricultural activities, especially in the Red-Assiniboine sub-watershed. Modeling of possible methods to manage nutrients in the basin and Lake Winnipeg is also occurring alongside transboundary monitoring of the lake’s biology and water quality.
Environment Canada and other federal and provincial partners are developing watershed nutrient loading estimates and nutrient concentration measurements, tracking or “finger-printing” the sources of land-based nutrients, and analyzing micro-toxins and algal bloom trends in Lake Winnipeg. Scientists are also examining the role of hydrology and climate on nutrient loading, measuring the nutrients retained in dams and reservoirs, analyzing nutrient change and identifying best practices for nutrient management.
Environment Canada’s “Yellow Submarine” Aids Water Quality Research in Lake Winnipeg
It’s a sunny autumn morning in the marshlands surrounding Lake Winnipeg’s south basin and rising from the cattails and reeds of Netley-Libau Marsh is an unexpected sight – a rapidly moving object that looks like a small torpedo or a miniature yellow submarine.
The brightly colored device is the EcoMapper, a one-and-a-half meter long “autonomous underwater vehicle” (AUV) that is the newest tool employed by Environment Canada scientists to collect water quality data that will help clean up Lake Winnipeg. Sensors within the device are capable of collecting continuous “real-time” data on conductivity, temperature, depth, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and presence of blue-green algae.
The EcoMapper, and other AUVs, has been invaluable for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s water quality research in the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Erie. The EcoMapper provides rich data and good manoeuvrability to navigate the lake. Environment Canada’s EcoMapper, purchased with funding from the Great Lakes Nutrient Initiative (GLNI), will be used to monitor water quality in Lake Erie and Lake Winnipeg.
Environment Canada freshwater researchers, Ram Yerubandi and Jean-Francois Bibeault, conducted initial tests this fall with the EcoMapper to learn more about Lake Winnipeg’s water quality. They were testing the device in Manitoba’s Netley-Libau Marsh and Lake Winnipeg’s South Basin. Drs. Bibeault and Yerubandi, part of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative, want to get a more detailed picture of nutrients and sediments entering the lake and the conditions that contribute to harmful blue-green algae blooms.
“The Ecomapper is a valuable tool because we get continuous high resolution spatial data as it moves through the water,” said Jean-François Bibeault, Manager of Fresh Water Quality Monitoring within the Hudson Bay Watershed. “Traditional water quality monitoring is done from boats at selected stations only. Because the EcoMapper is self-powered and can be operated by one or two people, we can reduce the long term costs of monitoring and get better data.”
“We are hoping that the EcoMapper’s high resolution imagery will allow us to identify regions where sediments from the Red River’s plume disperse into Lake Winnipeg,” said Ram Yerubandi, research scientist with the Watershed Hydrology and Ecology Research Division. “The AUV will help understand and mapping hypoxic (oxygen-depleted) zones in the North Basin and to assess water quality conditions under ice and at other times when we can’t access the water by boat.
For freshwater scientists working within Lake Winnipeg, the world’s 10th largest lake, technology can complement more traditional water quality monitoring and allow for access to difficult-to-reach monitoring locations. With potential data coming in every minute, the EcoMapper may inform where future monitoring and nutrient management efforts should be concentrated within Lake Winnipeg. This is an important tool that will help Environment Canada’s scientists understand and improve the health of Lake Winnipeg.
Photo 1: Environment Canada scientists Ram Yerubandi (L) and Jean-François Bibeault with EcoMapper
Photo 2: Environment Canada’s EcoMapper ready and loaded for first mission in Netley-Libau Marsh
Photo 3: Environment Canada scientists Bruce Holliday and Ken Tsang plotting course for EcoMapper’s first mission
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