Posted by: Vicki Burns | June 4, 2013

The Future of the Boreal, The Future of Lake Winnipeg – How They Are Intertwined

Manitoba's Boreal , photo courtesy of Liberals blogspot

Manitoba’s Boreal , photo courtesy of Liberals blogspot

I have to confess that its only recently that I have understood the important connection between the boreal region and the quality of water in Lake Winnipeg. Those of us working on water issues in Manitoba tend to focus so much on what is causing the growth of huge blue-green algae blooms on the lake that we don’t pay much attention to what is helping the lake from becoming even more polluted with cyanobacteria( blue-green algae).
The boreal that surrounds almost 80% of Lake Winnipeg is an area that is comprised largely of coniferous forests, particularly spruce, interspersed with vast wetlands. The rivers on the east side of the lake provide clean water to the lake, with little phosphorus content , because they are flowing mostly through areas that have very little human development. There are some First Nation communities on the east side of the lake who are working hard right now to keep the boreal in that area from being disturbed. They are seeking a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation and I hope they can be successful in that quest.

According to this CPAWS publication “The proposed World Heritage Site area is called Pimachiowin Aki (pronounced‘Pim–MATCH–cho–win Ahh–KEY’) which is Ojibwe for “the land that gives life.” Considering the Boreal region is the world’s largest source of fresh water, the northern lungs of the planet, gives clean water to Lake Winnipeg, and provides sustenance for many local First Nations, this title couldn’t be more accurate.”

Many years ago during my first job after university, I had the opportunity to fly around much of northern Manitoba visiting many of the First Nation communities in that area. At that time, I had no idea how valuable the miles and miles of forest and wetlands were, in terms of giving us clean water and fresh air. I understand now that this really is “the land that gives life”.

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