A core sample will be taken at one of the deepest parts of Mara Lake for a research project to be conducted by UBC Okanagan in order to provide a centuries-long look at nutrient deposition on the lake bottom. (Jim Cooperman photo)

A core sample will be taken at one of the deepest parts of Mara Lake for a research project to be conducted by UBC Okanagan in order to provide a centuries-long look at nutrient deposition on the lake bottom. (Jim Cooperman photo)

Researchers to dig deep into bottom of Shuswap’s Mara Lake

UBC Okanagan to use core sample to analyze lake deposition over the centuries

Researchers from UBC Okanagan will be digging deep into Mara Lake beginning in January.

At the Dec. 12 meeting of the Shuswap Watershed Council, members approved a new $19,320 research proposal on behalf of Dr. Jeff Curtis, professor and researcher at UBC-Okanagan in Kelowna.

“The project, which was invited by the Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC) and supported by the Water Protection Advisory Committee, will collect a lake-bottom sediment core from Mara Lake and analyze its contents to provide a centuries-long look at nutrient deposition on the lake bottom,” writes Erin Vieira, SWC program manager, in a Dec. 19 news release. “The results of the project, which will span approximately January – September 2019, will provide an understanding of the natural (un-altered by land use and development) nutrient loading to Mara Lake.”

Related: Column: Shuswap Watershed Council marks productive first year

A sediment core from the bottom of Mara Lake will be collected and analyzed, and a ‘profile’ of nutrient-loads over several decades and perhaps centuries will be produced from the analysis – including the introduction of phosphorous over the years and maybe even centuries, says Vieira, noting that naturally occurring phosphorous in western Canada is low.

“Essentially, what this will tell us, is what the nutrient load into Mara Lake was like before and during (recent past) human land-use and development,” she says.

Columbia Shuswap Regional District chair and Area E Rural Sicamous director Rhona Martin also sits on the watershed council and is in full support of the new research project.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she says, noting she was amazed by the information revealed by a core sample taken after the 1997 Swansea Point debris flow. “I was absolutely amazed at the information they got; it’s remarkable, you never think of all the particles in the air making it to the bottom of the lake. If there is contamination coming through, it will be in layers.”

Related: Contaminant not found in Shuswap Lake

Vieira points out that core sample was done to look at sediment size in an effort to find out if the area had been subjected to other debris flows over the centuries.

Vieira says members of the watershed council are anticipating the results of a three-year research project with UBC-Okanagan on the Shuswap and Salmon River in the spring of 2019.

“The results of this study will help us to focus our efforts on diverting nutrients from surface waters through better management,” she says. “To-date, we understand that our waters are naturally very low in nutrients. A nutrient-profile from a lake bottom sediment core will be complementary information to the study that’s currently underway.”

Members of the Shuswap Watershed Council include representatives from CSRD, City of Salmon Arm, Thompson Nicola Regional District, District of Sicamous, Adams Lake Indian Band, Regional District of the North Okanagan, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Ministry of Agriculture and three community members.


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