Ambitious new pollution targets needed to protect Lake Erie from massive ‘dead zone’

Ambitious new pollution targets needed to protect Lake Erie from massive ‘dead zone’

Reducing the size of the Lake Erie “dead zone” to acceptable levels will require cutting nutrient pollution nearly in half in coming decades, at a time when climate change is expected to make such reductions more difficult. That’s one of the main conclusions of a comprehensive new study that documents recent trends in Lake Erie’s health. It offers science-based guidance to policymakers seeking to reduce the size of toxic algae blooms and oxygen-starved regions called hypoxic zones, or dead zones—two related water-quality problems that have seen a resurgence in the lake since the mid-1990s.

via Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily:

Reducing the size of the Lake Erie “dead zone” to acceptable levels will require cutting nutrient pollution nearly in half in coming decades, at a time when climate change is expected to make such reductions more difficult.That’s one of the main conclusions of a comprehensive new study that documents recent trends in Lake Erie’s health. It offers science-based guidance to policymakers seeking to reduce the size of toxic algae blooms and oxygen-starved regions called hypoxic zones, or dead zones — two related water-quality problems that have seen a resurgence in the lake since the mid-1990s.The report from the multi-institution EcoFore-Lake Erie project states that a 46 percent reduction in the amount, or load, of phosphorus pollution would be needed to shrink Lake Erie’s Central Basin hypoxic zone to a size last seen in the mid-1990s — a time that coincided with the recovery of several recreational and commercial fisheries in the lake’s west and central basins.Phosphorus is a nutrient used in crop fertilizers. Excess phosphorus washes off croplands during rainstorms and flows downstream in rivers that feed the Great Lakes. Once in the lakes, phosphorus can trigger algae blooms. When the algae die and sink to the lake bottom, oxygen-consuming bacteria feed on them and create hypoxic zones in the process. Many fish shun these oxygen-starved waters, which significantly reduce the amount of suitable habitat available to the fish.The study, accepted for publication in a forthcoming edition of the Journal of Great Lakes Research, calls for Central Basin phosphorus reductions considerably higher than other recent recommendations, including a proposal issued last year by the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force aimed at avoiding Western Basin toxic algae blooms. The new report is a synthesis of the major findings from the EcoFore-Lake Erie project, created in 2005 and supported by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research.”The new target is very ambitious but is achievable if the region agrees to adopt agricultural practices that help reduce the amount of phosphorus-bearing fertilizer washing off fields,” said aquatic ecologist Donald Scavia, director of the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute and EcoFore-Lake Erie principal investigator. “We believe this EcoFore synthesis report provides important input to the U.S. and Canadian teams charged with setting new phosphorus load targets for Lake Erie.”The EcoFore recommendations are aimed at policymakers who will update the binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. …

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Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Ambitious new pollution targets needed to protect Lake Erie from massive ‘dead zone’

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