Algal Growth in The Great Lakes

The outbreak in algae growth in the great lakes is a subject that is close to home for me. My Family has a cottage on Lake Charlevoix, which is directly connected to lake Michigan. Lake Charlevoix as well as many other lakes are also experiencing algal outbreaks. These outbreaks are not directly harmful to humans but show that the residential development and other human activity are altering the delicate ecosystem that we need to fight to preserve.

               The algae thrive on minerals washed into the lakes from multiple sources including, lawn fertilizers, septic tanks, storm water runoff and sewage plant waste matter that has not been treated well enough.  This has been linked to higher water temperatures and lower lake levels. As well as greater water clarity caused by the invasive Zebra Mussels.

Many think the bigger culprits are the Zebra Mussels rather than the phosphorus pollution. Zebra Mussels are an invasive species that reached the Great Lakes in the late 1980’s. The mussels promote algae growth by filtering water and making it clearer, allowing sunlight to penetrate deeper. Shoreline algae, known as cladophora, often fastens itself to the mussel shells and feeds on their waste.

The only mitigation that is known of is reducing the amount of phosphorous that enters the water from runoff. This is the only way people can help reduce future algae growth because attempts to curb the zebra mussels increasing populations has been extremely ineffective. There has been no safe way discovered to remove the mussels. Some ways citizens can help reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the lakes by locating the source of the phosphorus and reduce the amount of lawn fertilizers they use or repair any possible septic field leakage. These are two things we have done to help curb the algae growth at my cottage. We recently replaced or septic tank and stopped using fertilizers on our lawn.

The algal blooms shows that we needed to attempt to prevent additional exotic species from entering the Great Lakes system as well as the need for continued research on the affects of phosphorous and Zebra Mussels and other possible mitigation techniques.

– Austin Wertheimer


4 responses

  1. Algal growth is a large problem in the Great Lakes. Any large environmental changes to the fragile community of the Great Lakes Watershed can leave the health of the water, the animals, and the vegetation in detrimental decay. The responsibility of management, observation, and protection falls on the federal, state, and local governments. The regulation needed for protection is not being met by current standards. Closely monitoring factories, cities, and waste runoff is needed to have the a better view of where the potential pollution causing algal blooms is coming from. I think that citizens should adopt measures to effectively create grow zones in between buildings and potential high run off zones. I think that in development the policy is to build buildings closer to the natural attraction of water. Rivers, lakes, and marches have buildings built right on the banks. This causes problems because there is no run off zone. Governments should also adopt new policies that confront this issue by making natural protection zones with property next to high run off areas. Punishments also need to be set up for factories and businesses with contaminated run off. Great thought provoking article. -Daniel Finegan

  2. Sasheale Brown | Reply

    I am currently taken ISPL Geology Human Environment and its all about the Red Cedar River, this situation sounds sort of like how pollution ends up in the river. For example, simply things to us like pet waste, washing your car in the driveway, fertilizers, farms, pesticides, and many others.

  3. Sean Steinberg | Reply

    I do agree with you that this is a growing problem in Michigan Lakes that are affecting not just the water, but the life in it and around it. This article is well written and I like that you wrote about something that also affects you personally, which can sometimes make for a more strongly-held opinion. Very well done.

    Sean Steinberg

  4. algeal blooms are a very large problem and can have a very large impact on the ecosystem surrounding it. It ruins the water and kills the plant and fish living in it the more we can do to control it the better things will be

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