Click on a word below to find out more about some of the terms used throughout the site.
What’s wrong with bottled water?
What is climate change?
What is green space?
Green space is undeveloped land, or land that is left in a natural or semi-natural state. Examples include parks, forests, and even home gardens.
Why is green space important to the Great Lakes?
The benefits of green space are almost endless. Green space filters pollution out of air and water, moderates temperatures, protects drinking water sources, swallows up carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change, provides vital habitat for birds and animals, reduces flooding, helps prevent soil erosion, encourages local food growth, reduces urban runoff, provides recreation space for locals and tourists, and lowers the burden on municipal storm water systems.
What if there isn't enough of it?
Without adequate green space, we don't have enough trees to filter air pollution. Grass and dirt help decompose pollutants, but if those same pollutants end up on concrete roads they just get washed into the Great Lakes when it rains. And instead of having moist soil to absorb heavy rain, rain runs quickly into overloaded creeks and storm drains which can cause flooding in streets and homes.
How can I help preserve green space in my neighbourhood?
Luckily it's easy to protect and enhance local green space.
· Plant and maintain trees in your community
· If you have a yard, grow native, drought-resistant plants
· Water your garden with a rain barrel
· Use parks in your neighbourhood – use it or lose it!
· Compost household waste – it's great at absorbing water
· Take the Greenbelt Pledge
What is considered nearshore?
What kinds of personal care and pharmaceuticals are found in the Great Lakes?
What is phosphorus?
Phosphorus is a naturally occurring nutrient. Phosphorus becomes a problem when there is too much of it in one place.
How does extra phosphorus get into the Great Lakes?
Phosphorus is found in sewage, fertilizer, manure, and many detergents. Farms and construction sites release the phosphorus in disturbed soil. Phosphorus makes its way into rivers and lakes through ditches, municipal wastewater systems and storm drains.
What does it do?
Excess phosphorus leads to algae blooms. When too much algae exists in a water system, it creates oxygen-deprived areas that are fatal to fish and other plants.
Phosphorus pollution first became an issue in the 1960s, when it caused so much algae to bloom Lake Erie that the lake was considered “dead.”
What has been done to fix this?
The situation in Lake Erie inspired Canada and the US to sign the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972.
Measures taken to reduce the amount of phosphorus going into the Lakes allowed them to recover. However, new sources of phosphorus and invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels now threaten to undo that progress. Lake Erie’s problems have returned.
What can I do to help?
Maintain septic systems.
Use natural, phosphate-free fertilizer, or replace your lawn with native plants and shrubs.
Use phosphate-free cleaners, like the ones suggested in Environmental Defence's Toxic Nation guide to spring cleaning.
What are riparian zones?
A riparian zone is the transition area between a river and the land around it. For example, if you look at an aerial photo of a healthy stream, the band of trees and thick vegetation surrounding it is the riparian zone.
Why are riparian zones important?
Riparian zones act as important links between different ecosystems, and provide diverse habitats for different species. They allow nutrients to travel from one area to another, and help clean and purify drinking water.
How are riparian zones impacted?
There are two types of impacts.
1) Direct changes to stream morphology, such as dams and channelization.
Dams alter water levels and introduce barriers that fish and other species can't cross. Channelization involves straightening and clearing a stream, which removes species habitat.
2) Indirect changes to riparian zone habitats, like land clearing and mining.
Land clearing for farming and urban development eliminates species habitat and prevents vital nutrients from entering the ecosystem through dead trees. Mining introduces extra sediment and new toxins into the stream, upsetting its habitat and delicate nutrient balance.
What can I do to help?
There are many not-for-profit groups in Ontario dedicated to restoring streams in the Great Lakes and nearby basins. Stream restoration is a great way to get involved in your community and have a direct positive influence on your local environment.
To get involved, contact:
What are they?