By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests

This is part of an 11-blog series on our work with Alcoa Foundation. Learn more here!

Located inside the St. Lawrence watershed in Quebec is the St. Paul Lake, which has suffered from major environmental degradation over the past decade.

St. Paul Lake in Quebec, Canada. Credit: Alain Hardy

Blooms of cyanobacteria have appeared for multiple summers, followed by high mortality rates among fish. The lake itself is relatively shallow, meaning that it is increasingly vulnerable to pollution from agricultural runoff from surrounding farms. Cyanobacteria blooms were last witnessed in 2006 and 2007, resulting in the deaths of approximately 2,000 fish. Agricultural pollution, with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, can feed the growth of bacterial blooms, and without necessary coastal vegetation, runoff flows uninhibited into the St. Lawrence watershed.

American Forests and Alcoa Foundation have partnered with the Comité de Zones d’Interventions Prioritaires Les Deux Rives (ZIPS) to try and prevent this runoff through targeting tree plantings around the coast of the lake.

The aim of the project is to plant 9,000 trees over the course of two years, with hopes of increasing and protecting biodiversity and improving water quality in the St. Lawrence watershed.

The project will establish a series of strips along the coast of the lake, with around 9,000 trees and shrub plantings planned. This vegetation will prevent sediment and runoff from nearby farming operations, as well as allowing the soil to retain necessary nutrients for ecological health. The strips of planted flora could also create corridors that will allow wildlife to move up and down the lake, increasing the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

ZIPS’s mission is to preserve, protect and develop conservation efforts along the St. Lawrence River and surrounding bodies of water. Through this project, ZIPS plans to partner with local farmers along the watershed, both to plant the physical trees as well as educate citizens about how agricultural runoff impacts biodiversity.

Through targeted planting efforts in strips along the edges of the water, along with education efforts aimed at local agricultural producers, ZIPS aims to increase the biodiversity and ecological health of the watershed. American Forests and Alcoa Foundation are proud to help ZIPS achieve this goal.