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Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority

Skip Navigation LinksLake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority > Watershed Health > Climate Change

A photo of the sun near clouds surrounded by hazy air and heat.  Tempertatures are increasing because of global warming.

Climate Change

Climate change, the long term change in Earth's weather patterns - is one of the most pressing environmental and social issues of our time. A changing climate brings with it extreme heat, drought, flooding, more intense weather and storms, rising sea levels, and a host of other impacts that all contribute to enormous environmental, social and economic challenges.

Climate change is a global issue, but we're also seeing changes locally.

Shorter ice season

That's not just bad news for those who enjoy ice fishing. ​

A shorter ice season doesn't just mean a shorter ice fishing season. A number of key lake processes are driven by lake temperature, which can have dramatic impacts on the cycling and distribution of oxygen and nutrients in the lake.

There are also a number of biological processes that are tied to annual changes in lake temperatures. Changes in lake ice could alter the timing of these temperature changes potentially causing predator/prey relationships to become decoupled. For example, it could leave young fish with no prey to eat at key stages of development.

Kempenfelt Bay - Days of Ice​ Cover

The number of days with ice cover is on the decline. It's worth mentioning that the five years with the shortest ice cover occurred after the year 2000 and the five years with the longest ice cover occurred before 1900.

A graph showing the decreasing days of ice cover on Kempenfelt Bay.​ 

Seasonal changes in river and creek flow

We're seeing less water flowing into our c​reeks and rivers in spring, and more flowing in winter. Biological processes in our streams and rivers are tied to seasonal water flows.

Climate change is affecting our lakes and streams. River and creek flow, and phosphorus run-off, impact biological processes.

More phosphorus

The amount of phosphorus in the Lake is associated with the amount of run-off entering the Lake. And since climate change generally me​ans more intense rain storms, and more intense storms mean more run-off, we can expect increased amounts of phosphorus entering the Lake.

For more details about the local impacts of climate change, see our Sc​ience Newsletter Vol 5.

What we're doing

We're addressing climate ch​ange in two key ways:

Mitigation

Mitigation is about reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. Reducing greenhouse gases means decreasing the use of fossil fuels and promoting carbon capture (sequestering) through the protection and enhancement of natural areas such as forests.

Our Climate Mitigation Strategy identifies the main sources and sinks of greenhouse gases within the watershed. This overall understanding of the watershed's carbon budget will feed into recommendations for how we can mitigate climate change.

We are also engaged in our own Carbon Reduction Strategy,​ a multi-year commitment to reducing our corporate carbon footprint by 40% by 2026.

Adaptation

Adaptation is about building resilience so that we can better prepare for the impacts of climate change such as extreme weather, drought and flooding. 

Our Climate Change Adaptation Strategy​ reviews the potential impacts of a changing climate on watershed function and recommends changes to our programs and services to ensure they remain effective at protecting the Lake Simcoe watershed in projected future climates.

Other examples of how we are currently adapting to a changing climate are:

    • Low impact development is one way we're building resilience into the watershed. Low impact development is about adapting the way we build to help water mimic the natural process and go into the ground, not run-off into our waterways or overflow our infrastructure, leading to flooding.
    • Our Phosphorus Offsetting Policy, which came into effect in January 2018, requires new development to control 100% of the phosphorus from leaving the property.
    • Forestry – We've just completed a comprehensive study to address the challenges faced to our forests as a result of climate change. The study, “Adapt​i​​ng Forestry Programs for Climate Change" was approved by our Board of Directors in May 2018 and includes a list of climate-suitable species.​​​