Great Lakes and Algal Blooms

In Michigan’s Great Lakes and especially Lake Erie the prevalence of algal blooms are becoming a hazard. Algal blooms occur when there is a rapid increase in concentration of algae in an aquatic environment. Due to the mild winters Michigan has recently experienced, algal blooms have become a problem. The lack of snow and mild winter has given away to more rain and warmer temperatures, which have resulted in more runoff into the Great Lakes and a spurred growth of algae. The concentrations of algal blooms have become issue specifically in Lake Erie due to its shallow depths.

The potential impacts of algal blooms in Lake Erie are harmful effects on water quality, aquatic ecosystem, public health, and public economies. High concentration of algal blooms will cause water quality to be poor because organic material will raise toxins within the water and create a lack of oxygen. In turn the aquatic ecosystem will suffer due to the toxins and lack of oxygen that the algae has created in the water quality, the toxins will kill off life and lack of oxygen will also smother species. The accumulation of toxins within some species of aquatic life can become a public health concern when people consider consuming contaminated shellfish. Algal blooms can also hinder local economies that survive on tourism of the lakes, because algal blooms create an unsightly effect on the beaches and waters of the lakes.

The recommended mitigation of harmful algal blooms is a chemical treatment on algae with liquid hydrogen peroxide and identifying and monitoring algal blooms with satellites and sampling to forecast effects. Using satellites as a mitigating factor for algal blooms is important. In order to treat and locate harmful algal blooms it is helpful to see discolored ‘hotspots’ of algae from a bird’s eye view. As seen with the satellite picture below of Lake Erie, provided by Great Lakes Echo website, it is easy to detect areas with a high concentration of algae.

Hannah DeZeeuw

Sources

http://greatlakesecho.org/2012/03/28/mild-winter-early-runoff-spur-swirling-sediment-in-lake-erie/

http://www.saveoursodus.com/special-projects/mitigation-of-a-harmful-algal-bloom/

http://greatlakesenvironment.blogspot.com/2010/07/forecasting-great-lakes-harmful-algal.html

http://www.lakescientist.com/2012/mild-winter-could-mean-worse-algal-blooms

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5 responses

  1. I just wrote a post on how climate change is affecting the Great Lakes shipping channels, and it seems that climate change has or will affect just about every aspect of our future lives. It’s hard to fathom all the effects of climate change, but I think you touched on one effect that is very close to us Michiganders. Unfortunately, even after all the climate studies and models that have been released, people are still hesitant to make changes. I think people underestimate how valuable the mass of fresh water we have in the Great Lakes is.

    Mike Crawford

  2. Bianca Iriarte | Reply

    I also wrote a post about climate change affecting the Great Lakes and how it leads to economic downfalls as far as hydropower plants and delaying shipment goes. This is a different aspect than I touched on and I think that Michiganders should know about the algae issues in Lake Erie, especially since I know some people who live right off of it. The mitigation strategy that you explained is actually a more in depth one that I was going to offer and I’d just like to add that maybe there is some sort of filtration system that could be used in order to purify the oxygen in the water even more then chemical treatment will.

  3. There are so many invasive species coming into the Great Lakes, such as zebra mussels, that we still need to figure out how to control. People need to figure out a way to control the algae before it gets too out of hand like the other species. The lack of oxygen and toxins are just one more thing that will harm the native fish, and therefore the fishing industry. If we don’t get a handle on this soon, the ecosystem could drastically change in the Great Lakes, along with the water quality.
    Megan Ludwig

  4. In fact the algal blooms is now a worldwide problem, many areas of China observed the algal blooms as well. The main reasons of algal blooms includes warmer climate, eutrophication( especially increased nitrogen and phosphorus in water). Satellites can obviously help us to handle the situation, using other species as natural enemies may solve the problem in another way, which suffering the risk of new species’ deluge. As weather is hard to handle, we can start from control runoff get into the great lakes by policy. Furthermore, most of detergent like dishwash liquid have plenty of nitrogen and phosphorus, so we should try some environmental-friendly detergent.

    Yiqing Ge

  5. This post is really interesting to me because I have experienced the direct effects of algae blooms. My family owns a cottage on Lake Huron near Tawas, MI. The past few years we’ve seen the water levels and water quality change dramatically. The amount of algae has greatly increase because of the warmer water temperatures throughout the year. It is a problem because it can damage the hulls of our boats and it of course not very attractive to look at. When the beauty of our water and shorelines is affected it will also affect the tourism and economy of Michigan. There are so many negatives to these algae blooms. I hope we can find a good solution to combat them before they take our our beautiful lakes!

    Kelly Cummins

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