Wetlands and Lake Water Quality Management

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Tracy Scott
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Presented at the Alberta Lake Management Society Conference 2022, this presentation discusses wetlands irreplaceable ecosystem services, such as nutrient filtration, and the effects of wetland removal and drainage.

Wetlands act as nutrient sinks (such as phosphorus) on the landscape, and when water moves through wetland networks, they reduce direct surface water drainage into lakes allowing for nutrients to be filtered out and stored in wetlands. However, when wetlands are drained and removed, these areas become sources of phosphorus and other contaminants in freshwater bodies as they are no longer being removed prior to water flowing into lakes.  

In Alberta, many lakes in the southern parts of the province suffer from increased nutrient loading, resulting in blue-green algae blooms as a result of wetland removal. Toxic blue-green algae in lakes can lead to a decline in dissolved oxygen, resulting in the death of fish and other aquatic wildlife. Not only affecting wildlife, the removal of wetlands and their filtering capabilities will lessen the effectiveness of water treatment facilities.