Fairy Lake science-based study to target invasive species


At Saugeen Shores Council meeting on January 25th, Frank Burrows, Manager of Parks, informed Council that Southampton’s Fairy Lake is about to undergo a science-based study for water quality and invasive species of vegetation and marine life.

“Fairy Lake in Southampton is one of Saugeen Shore’s most iconic and well-loved parks. It is particularly special due to its central location, walking trail and the natural beauty. Unfortunately, the lake suffers from poor water quality and several invasive species, including Curly-leaf Pondweed and Common Carp. Ecological restoration of the lake is particularly complex and several attempts to remove invasive species and improve water quality have had limited success,” said Burrows.  “The local community is concerned about the condition of the lake, and the Town is interested in exploring potential restoration options to improve water quality and manage invasive species.”

Two leading experts in wetlands ecology will study ways to control invasive species and restore the health of the Lake under a new research project launched and supported by the Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII) and the Town of Saugeen Shores.

Dr. Rebecca Rooney and Dr. Heidi Swanson of the University of Waterloo’s Department of Biology will conduct a biological assessment of the lake’s water quality, fish, plants, and sediment. They will also explore remedial actions to control the invasive Common Carp and Curly-leaf Pondweed that are choking the lake’s natural systems.

In a recent release by the Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII), it was explained that the Common Carp was introduced from Europe in the 19th century, while the Curly-leaf Pondweed is of Eurasian origin and has spread across North America, with particular concentration in the Great Lakes region.

The ecological restoration project will be administered by the NII’s Environment@NII program and funded by a $25,000 donation from Bruce Power, with the remaining $30,000 divided evenly between the Town of Saugeen Shores, University of Waterloo, and Mitacs to cover graduate-student stipends.

The Waterloo researchers are being brought in after previous attempts to control the invasive species proved unsuccessful. The new project may include a feasibility study into a potential restoration plan for the lake, as well as engaging the local community in caring for its long-term health.

According to Burrows, the project has three main objectives:

1. Characterize the current physicochemical conditions and the structure of the biological community in Fairy Lake

2. Investigate potential restoration plans in a pre-feasibility study. This will include a literature review, and might include pilot experiments, including exclosures for invasive Common Carp, physical or chemical actions that control invasive Curly-leaf Pondweed, or other targeted remediation actions

3. Develop a project webpage that will be hosted by Saugeen Shores. The website will facilitate communication and future engagement with the community. It will be established by fall 2021 and updated quarterly.

“There have been studies in the past,” said Vice-Deputy Mayor, Mike Myatt, “everything from draining the lake completely.  Unfortunately, water sources for the Lake are becoming fewer.  It used to be that water from the top of Hospital hill drained into the lake but that doesn’t happen anymore.”

“Invasive species and poor water conditions have plagued marine habitats in locations across Canada,” said NII’s Chief Innovation Officer Eric Johnston, who oversees the Environment@NII program. “The funding from Bruce Power will support research by these talented researchers out of the University of Waterloo and use Fairy Lake as an example of how we can counteract problems like invasive species that have a terrible effect on the lake’s ecology.”

“Fairy Lake is an ecological landmark in Saugeen Shores and, as a company that’s committed to sustainability, Bruce Power is excited to help fund this project with a goal of restoring it to its natural state,” said John Peevers, Director, Community, Media Relations & Economic Development.

Learn more about other Environment@NII research projects by visiting nii.ca/environment-at-nii.