Friends of the Muskoka Watershed (FMW), in collaboration with community, university, and government partners, along with thousands of volunteers, have collected and spread approximately 9.2 tonnes (9200 kg or 20,282 lbs) of wood ash. A phenomenal achievement.
Why so much ash?
Decades of acid rain have caused soils in Muskoka to be nutrient deficient, especially with calcium. Logging practices have also contributed to the problem. This results in our forests being “asleep”, using what nutrients are available to survive, but not enough to thrive.
FMW research data demonstrates that additions of wood ash can awaken these nutrient-starved trees. This awakening improves sapling growth, increases sap production in sugar maples, and (though the data is not yet fully evaluated) increases wood production and foliar density. Findings like these suggest that regulated applications of wood ash will, by increasing overall forest vitality, help to improve CO2 sequestration and mitigate risks of flooding.
The next challenge is to create ways in which the research can take on a broader scope and thereby have orders-of-magnitude greater impact on Muskoka’s sleeping forests.
Becoming a citizen scientist
How can you help make an impact? FMW is giving residents of Muskoka an opportunity to be both a part of its research and its solutions. They are launching a citizen science program, with the aim to further enrich our collective understanding of the benefits of wood ash for soil quality and tree and forest vitality, by using additional properties throughout Muskoka.
FMW is seeking property owners whose properties have areas that contain native tree species. They are also encouraging camps, community groups, municipalities, and any group or individual with permission to safely access an appropriate treed area to jump on board.
Are there benefits?
Definitely! Benefits to becoming a Friends Citizen Scientist include spending time outside, learning more about trees, and helping to improve tree, forest, and entire ecosystem health, which is good for everyone!
Other benefits include helping with climate change mitigation and contributing to large-scale scientific data sets.
How does it work?
Citizen scientists will be asked to locate two or more healthy, native trees of the same species and of similar size and similar setting on their property. One tree will receive ash and the other will not. Trees need to be a minimum of 10 cm (4 in) in diameter—that’s approximately 31 cm or 12 inches in circumference.
A measured quantity of homogenized, filtered, chemically analyzed ash will be provided to each citizen scientist to be spread around one tree. Instructions on how to collect data such as tree height, trunk diameter and canopy cover will be provided. As a part of the data collection, Friends of the Muskoka Watershed require photos of the trees, and some volunteers will be asked to gather soil and leaf samples. This information will be collected two to three times a year. Citizen scientists will submit their data and photos either through the FMW website, email or hard copy field sheets. Data will be compiled and analyzed by the FMW team. Participants will be provided with the results as they are available.
For those who don’t own or have access to such property, don’t worry! There are other ways you can help. These include volunteering, donating wood ash through the ASHMuskoka Program, or becoming a member of Friends of the Muskoka Watershed.
To find out more about the citizen science program, or to be added to the list of interested citizen scientists to be contacted when the progam launches, please contact citizen science coordinator, Katie Paroschy at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the form here.
An update on tree tapping and sap sampling
Last year, FMW tapped and sampled 24 trees within eight test plots—i.e. three per plot. Four of these test plots had received an equivalent ash dosage of four tonnes per hectare and four were control plots (no ash), so this was a good way of assessing the impact of wood ash additions on maple sap quantity and quality.
This year FMW is adding an additional 12 trees within four new plots which received a dosage of two tonnes per hectare. This gives us the ability to compare results of two different levels of ash addition—i.e. two tonnes versus four tonnes—as well as continuing to compare results for trees with and without ash.
Sampling in 2021 was conducted from March 20 to May 4.
Not all of the data has received rigorous, statistical evaluation by the team at Trent University, but it appears that trees on the plots receiving ash dosages produced more sap than the control plots where no ash was spread.
This is great news and FMW is looking forward to both further results and more data in the near future.
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