Shhhh -- the trees in Beacon's woods are sleeping.
Since last September, when the days became shorter, the trees started to fall asleep, slipping into a dormant state to survive Muskoka's long cold winter.
The trees at camp, and throughout the region are also asleep in a different way. According to research done at the Dorset Environmental Science Centre here in Muskoka, there is a serious lack of calcium in the soil in Muskoka. This has resulted in lower photosynthesis rates, as well as lower reproduction and wood accumulation rates, comparable to the trees 'falling asleep'.
How did this happen? This nutritional shortfall is due to unregulated logging practices historically, and decades of acid rain. Both practices flushed the calcium from Muskoka's soils and lakes and rivers. Thankfully there is less acid rain now, and more controlled logging practices, but the effects are still being felt. The granite rocks of the Canadian Shield are trace mineral poor, so can't replenish Muskoka's soils at the same rate as the limestone based soils can in southern Ontario. It could take centuries. This is a problem not just for trees but many other life forms in the region, as all living things need calcium, such as the turtles and crayfish in Beacon's lake.
But something is being done to alleviate the problem. A program to literally add calcium back into the soils using wood ash is being implemented in Muskoka. Pioneered at the Hubbard-Brooks Experimental Forests in New Hampshire, where there was the same problem due to acid rain, it was then tested in our neighbouring Haliburton county. The results were dramatic -- the forests 'woke up', with a 50% increase in photosynthesis, reproduction and wood accumulation. The same results are hoped for here, with tests being done this year at selected maple sugar bushes in the region, (maple trees need more calcium than other trees). As the program continues over the next three years research will also be done to determine what is helping. It is estimated that approximately one ton of wood ash will be needed per hectare.
As camp prepares for another summer season the type of environment from which the campers come from is often an unknown. Is it toxic and unregulated, and are some of these campers 'asleep'? As they are exposed to God's Word, and to His Creation, and the love of the councilors and staff at Beacon let's pray they 'wake up'!
In the book of Luke, Jesus tells the following parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” (Luke 8: 4-8 NIV)
Many of the people who pray for Beacon are already praying for the hundreds of campers who will join us this summer. Please pray that God would be preparing the soil of their hearts for the work that will happen at camp, and that like the trees of our beautiful Muskoka, campers would be ready to “wake up”!