Research scientists and management agencies are working together to reduce the amount of phosphorus that is entering Lake Erie and Ohio’s streams and lakes. The nutrient, an important ingredient in agricultural fertilizer and animal feedlot runoff, is also a key factor causing blooms of toxin-producing algae. Investigators and agency representatives met March 28 to discuss research results and implications for management actions to improve the situation.
The seven research projects are supported by grants from USEPA and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission and are part of a collaborative effort led by Ohio Sea Grant and Lake Erie Millennium Network to investigate nutrient runoff and harmful algal blooms (HABs). HABs are excessive growths of toxin-producing algae. These toxins can cause illness or irritation-sometimes even death-in pets, livestock, and humans. Last summer, the concentration of algae-produced toxins in Ohio’s Grand Lake St. Marys was over 2,000 times the amount considered safe for drinking water.
Many scientists are convinced that reducing phosphorus runoff into waterways will reduce HABs. Scientists reduced large blooms in Lake Erie in the 1960s and 70s by reducing phosphorus loading into tributaries by two-thirds. Researchers spoke about their projects and outlined some of their findings, followed by a discussion of the implications these findings should have on management strategies.
"Our team of 15 scientists from 11 different colleges and universities has done, and is doing, a superb job of rapidly addressing the problem and suggesting management actions to eliminate it," said Dr. Jeffrey Reutter, Ohio Sea Grant Director and Lake Erie Millennium Network U.S. Co-Chair. "This is a huge challenge and it is not just an Ohio issue. This is a national problem. We must address it before someone is seriously hurt, but we must seek strategies that do not reduce our ability to produce food. I am very optimistic that we will be successful."
The Lake Erie Millennium Network is a binational, non-regulatory, voluntary program to foster communication, cooperation, and collaboration among scientists and resource managers around Lake Erie to identify problems and opportunities, research and management needs, and develop projects and communication strategies to address those needs.
Jeffrey Reutter, Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory, Director, 614.292.8949, firstname.lastname@example.org_ .
Jan J.H. Ciborowski, University of Windsor, Dept. of Biological Sciences, 519.253.3000, email@example.com_ .