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Nature & Environment More Massive Algal Blooms Likely for Lake Erie: Algae's Serious Consequences

More Massive Algal Blooms Likely for Lake Erie: Algae's Serious Consequences

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First Posted: May 07, 2013 08:21 AM EDT
Lake Erie
Algae can have serious consequences for Lake Erie. Now, it turns out that these blooms may becoming more frequent--a bad situation for one of the Great Lakes. (Photo : NASA Earth Observatory)

Algae can have serious consequences for Lake Erie. They can choke fish and hamper boat movement. In fact, toxic algal blooms two years ago were so thick that some anglers said that their boats slowed down as they drove through the green slime. Now, it turns out that these blooms may becoming more frequent--a bad situation for one of the Great Lakes.

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Harmful algal blooms are made of blue-green algae, which can drastically impact wildlife. The bloom thrives in nutrient rich waters where it can spread out across vast swathes of the lake. Yet when the algae dies, oxygen is leached out of the water. This, in turn, causes dead zones where little to no life can survive. Since the algae contains a toxin that can cause gastrointestinal illness, liver problems and headaches, swimmers are also at risk if they come in contact with the bloom, according to The News Messenger.  

Unfortunately, it looks like these blooms are likely to continue into the future. Climate change is causing increased heavy rains and dry summers in the area, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Heavy rains wash fertilizers and other nutrients into the lake, which then help feed the algae. Since the Lake Erie Basin has the most agricultural land in the Great Lakes region, it's due to suffer some serious consequences with these rain events.

That said, there are ways to counteract the onslaught of nutrients. Officials are encouraging farmers to use different fertilizer types at times when it's less likely to be washed away. In addition, farmers could implement voluntary measures such as planting cover crops and adding buffer strips to prevent runoff.

It's not only the farmers that can help. Wetlands can also play a crucial role in regulating the amount of nutrients that make it into Lake Erie. Currently, there's an ongoing project that aims to restore 2,500 acres of wetlands along the western side of the lake, according to the Associated Press. As runoff drains toward the lake, these wetlands can act as a natural filter to keep many of the nutrients from actually entering the lake.

As heavy rains continue, these initiatives are crucial for preventing massive algal blooms. If they're not implemented, though, we could see a lot more problems for Lake Erie.

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