Lake Erie has been in the news due to its algae bloom caused by excessive nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into the lake. Algae bloom, a rapid increase in the population of algae in water bodies, can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and aquatic life whilst also causing hypoxia and killing fish and other aquatic life. These toxins can make the water undrinkable and result in beach closures. Efforts are underway to reduce the amount of phosphorus that enters the lake by 40% by 2025 by reducing phosphorus runoff from agriculture, treating sewage effluent and using green infrastructure to manage urban runoff.
The Power of the Algae Bloom: A Look at Lake Erie’s Ecosystem
Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes, plays an important role in North America’s ecosystem. Apart from being a source of freshwater, the lake is also home to a variety of plant and animal species. However, in recent years, Lake Erie has been in the news for a less pleasing reason: its algae bloom. The algal bloom phenomenon happens when excessive nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus flow into the lake, causing the growth of algae that can be harmful to humans and animals alike. In this article, we’ll look at the power of the algae bloom and what it means for the Lake Erie ecosystem.
The Anatomy of an Algae Bloom
An algae bloom is a rapid increase in the population of algae in water bodies, which can result in a color change to green, red or brown. These blooms can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and aquatic life. The more nutrients present in the water, the more algae will grow. The most common causes of algae blooms are agricultural runoff, wastewater treatment effluent, and the application of lawn fertilizers.
Algae blooms are a common occurrence in many water bodies worldwide. In the United States, Lake Erie has been experiencing an increase in blooms since the 1990s. The most significant blooms occurred in 2011, 2015, and 2019. These blooms have been linked to nutrient pollution caused by the discharge of agricultural fertilizer runoff, sewage treatment plants, and lawn fertilizers.
The Impact of Algae Blooms on the Lake Erie Ecosystem
Algae blooms can have a disastrous impact on the Lake Erie ecosystem. The blooms can produce toxins that are harmful to human health, cause hypoxia (oxygen deficiency in the water), and kill fish and other aquatic life. The toxins produced by the blooms can also make the lake’s water undrinkable and cause beach closures.
The blooms have also affected the region’s economy. The tourism industry around Lake Erie generates billions of dollars every year. However, the occurrence of these blooms has resulted in decreased tourism and related industries.
Efforts to Control Algae Blooms on Lake Erie
Water quality management programs have been implemented to control nutrient pollution in Lake Erie. The programs have the goal of reducing the amount of phosphorus that enters the lake by 40% by 2025. This reduction aims to keep the phosphorus level below 1,800 metric tons per year, the amount necessary for an algal bloom to occur.
The management strategies include the reduction of phosphorus runoff from agriculture, stemming the flow of treated sewage effluent, and the use of green infrastructure to reduce urban stormwater runoff to the lake.
FAQs About Lake Erie’s Algae Bloom
What is the cause of the algae blooms in Lake Erie?
The algal blooms in Lake Erie are caused by an excessive amount of nutrients, mainly phosphorus and nitrogen, which come from sources like agricultural runoff, wastewater treatment effluent, and the application of fertilizers in gardens and lawns.
How do the algae blooms affect human and animal health?
The toxins produced by the blooms can be harmful to human and animal health. The toxins can cause liver damage, diarrhea, and vomiting. In severe cases, they can even be fatal. The blooms can also cause oxygen depletion in the water, leading to the death of fish and other aquatic life.
What measures are being taken to reduce the algae bloom in Lake Erie?
To reduce nutrient pollution, water quality management programs have been implemented. The programs aim to reduce the amount of phosphorus that enters the lake by 40% by 2025. Management strategies include reducing phosphorus runoff from agriculture, treating sewage effluent to reduce the amount of nutrients discharged in the water, and using green infrastructure to manage urban runoff.
Can the algae bloom have any economic implications?
Yes, the algae bloom can have a significant economic impact. The tourism industry generates billions of dollars every year in the region. However, the occurrence of these blooms has resulted in decreased tourism and related industries.
Can individuals help reduce the algae bloom?
Yes, individuals can help reduce nutrient pollution in Lake Erie. They can do this by reducing the use of fertilizers on lawns and gardens, properly disposing of household chemicals and medications, and reducing stormwater runoff by using green infrastructure practices such as rain barrels and permeable pavers.
Lake Erie’s algae bloom is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. While the bloom may seem like a minor issue, it has significant implications for human health, aquatic life, and the regional economy. Fortunately, efforts are underway to reduce nutrient pollution, and individuals can also make a difference by adopting eco-friendly practices in their daily lives. Only then can we ensure that the lake remains a crucial part of our ecosystem for generations to come.