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Lake Erie algae blooms – Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio 2021-09-13 16:30:05 –

Columbus, Ohio (WCMH) – Occurs annually along the northern coastline of Ohio. Large amounts of algae turn the normal indigo color of Lake Erie into a coarse green color as if there was an oil spill in the pea soup.

While some are just annoying and some paralyze threats to health, wildlife and tourism, experts say algae outbreaks occur as climate change brings warm temperatures and strong storms to Ohio. I expect it to increase.

How blue-green algae are formed

Lake Erie has blue-green algae every summer. It occurs especially in the shallow west where rivers meet lakes in Toledo, Port Clinton and Sandusky.

Eighty-five percent of the land in the western basin of Lake Erie is used for agriculture, and the water that flows from the land to the lake, especially during the spring rains, absorbs chemicals such as phosphorus and nitrogen used to fertilize the fields.

When these nutrients in the farm effluent reach Lake Erie, the microorganisms already in the lake are called blue-green algae (formally “”Cyanobacteria“) Eat them. The more nutrients in the effluent, the more cyanobacteria can bloom in the sunlight.

This August 3, 2014 photo shows a sample glass of Lake Erie water near a crib in the city of Toledo on Lake Erie, about 2.5 miles off the coast of Curtis, Ohio. (AP Photo / Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

During the blue-green algae, cyanobacteria settle in the green mud just below the surface of the lake. When they die, their decomposition steals oxygen from the water. It kills fish, damages recreation and the economy, and pollutes drinking water.

Some flowers get worse and cyanobacteria become toxic. In August 2014, Toledo stopped watering for nearly three days, and flowers produced large amounts of toxins that prevented more than 400,000 people from drinking clean drinking water. Microcystin..

Toledo Water Crisis 2014
Woodward High School volleyball coach Megan Anllo will carry a water bag to a nearby car in Toledo, Ohio on Sunday, August 3, 2014. (AP Photo / Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Warm water is a better breeding ground

“Cyanobacteria are smart” Hans Pearl, Professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences, University of North Carolina. “They have been around for over two billion years, and obviously they are not only what we are doing here (Lake Erie), but also other things, including climate change. I am using it. “

Researchers, including Bowling Green State University, and Paerl, who studies the flowering of western Lake Erie, gave a virtual presentation to more than 1,000 participants on Wednesday. meeting Organized annually by The Ohio State University.

He explained the one-to-two punches that could grow flowers, supported by climate change: rising temperatures and the intensity of storms.

Blue-green algae “like hot weather,” said Pearl, saying Lake Erie (the shallowest and therefore warmest Great Lakes) is particularly vulnerable. However, the water temperature of the lake is rising. That is, the ice is formed later and melts faster, giving the flowers more time to grow.

“Flowers seem to start early and last long,” Pearl said. “And it’s clearly associated with climate change, or at least warming, so the western part of Lake Erie has seen an increase of 1-2 days per year since 2002.”

This also means that, as happened in Toledo in 2014, there is an increased risk of toxic flowers that keep anglers and charter boats away from the lake and forcibly shut off water supplies.

Warm lake water also increases stratification, thermal separation into lake layers, allowing algae that breed in warm water to remain on the warmer surface of the lake.

More rain means more spills

The higher the water temperature, the longer the cyanobacteria grow, so other effects of climate change can lead to more nutrients blooming. It is an increase in rainfall.

Temperatures have risen in Ohio, allowing local weather patterns to retain more water.The average spring temperature recorded at Toledo Express Airport rise 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit Since 1970 Climate Central, And the average summer temperature has risen 3.4 degrees..

This summer (June-August) was the second warmest year of record management for 149 years, and 2020 was also the second warmest year. In terms of rainfall, four of Toledo’s eight rainiest years have been since 2006.

“The storms are becoming more intense, more widespread, and more frequent,” Paerl said, implying that more storms are forming in the Atlantic Ocean and tend to intensify before hurricanes land. ..

NBC4 Reported last week How strong the hurricane is after the hurricane Aida wreckage caused floods around Columbus means more rain in Ohio. The system did not reach the western half of Ohio, but it is easy to imagine the wreckage of future intensified hurricanes that will hit its flowering areas with rainfall and floods.

“Obviously, more rain leads to more nutrient influx,” Paerl said.

State program to tackle the problem

Institutional initiatives initiated by the DeWine administration are already working to control algae outbreaks, targeting the farm spills that are causing the problem.

“We are trying to reduce the overall loss of nutrients from arable land by focusing on three areas,” says Terry Mesher. H2Ohio Program Manager, Ohio Agricultural Department.

The main area of ​​ODA is nutritional management, contracting fertilizers and their amounts with farmers and applying biosolids from commercial fertilizers, livestock manure, and / or wastewater facilities that are basically rich in phosphorus and nitrogen. Determine the best way to do it.

Mescher also includes considering when to fertilize, such as “late summer, early autumn months, when overall spills are unlikely.” For example, studies have shown that instead of spraying fertilizer nutrients, placing them directly on the ground can “significantly reduce phosphorus loss.”

ODA is also working on the management of soil erosion. This includes encouraging corn and soybean farmers to plant cover crops in winter, such as wheat, rather than bare land. Water management that improves the drainage of fields.

The ODA will work with farmers to implement the program, while the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will restore and strengthen wetlands to buffer runoffs, and the Ohio EPA will improve water infrastructure.

“Overwhelming” interest from farmers

The local soil and water conservation area handles the practices of H2Ohio applications and discussions with farmers, who sign a three-year contract with ODA to implement those practices. After the farmer postpones the closing of the transaction, the district confirms the land and ODA pays the farmer.

The ag division will promise $ 125 million to farmers in the first 14 counties of the program in northwestern Ohio, and up to $ 78 million to farmers in Ohio. 10 counties added In July.

Expansion of H2Ohio 10 counties
(Screenshot from H2Ohio Fiscal Year 2021 Report)

“In the first year, more than 1,800 producers signed contracts to implement these H2Ohio practices,” said Mescher, which includes 1,600 nutritional management plans on 900,000 acres of arable land. Add applications from 10 new counties to maximize H2Ohio acreage 1.1 million acres..

“Interest in the program overwhelmed ODA expectations,” said Mescher. It was only 150-200,000 acres.

Climate connection

H2Ohio has not focused on how climate change increases runoff and algae outbreaks, a spokesman said, but Mescher linked the program’s efforts to a more rainy fountain.

“In general, flower size is largely controlled by the load of nutrients that flow into Lake Erie from March to early July,” he said.

For example, in 2011, near-record spring rainfall in northwestern Ohio (second recorded at Toledo Express Airport) resulted in record blue-green algae with peak intensities more than three times higher than any previous bloom. Did.

“We have more wet springs and more rainfall, so there is more heavy rainfall in spring,” said Mesher, “it tends to increase the load.”

H2Ohio is funding until 2023, as the latest state budget is only that high. However, Mescher hopes that “version 2.0” will be available between 2024 and 2026.

“We are now starting these discussions,” he said.



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