Water Quality at Blue Plains

 

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Success Story

Understanding Hypoxia in Lake Erie

One of the goals of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is the “restoration of year-round aerobic conditions in the bottom waters of the central basin of Lake Erie.” Although the phosphorus load controls implemented in the Great Lakes in the 1970s were successful in addressing most eutrophication problems, oxygen conditions in the central basin of Lake Erie are worse today than they were in the mid-1980s. LimnoTech’s modeling expertise is helping stakeholders to understand the contribution of various physical, chemical, and biological factors to hypoxia (low oxygen) to make informed decisions regarding its management.

Problem

Led by a large team of scientists from the University of Michigan, LimnoTech has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and several other universities to address the problem of hypoxia in the central basin of Lake Erie. The overall goal of this five-year project, sponsored by the NOAA, is to forecast how anthropogenic (land use, invasive species) and natural (climatic variability) stresses influence hypoxia formation in Lake Erie and its ecological impacts, with an emphasis on fish production potential.

Approach

A linked set of models will be developed to forecast changes in nutrient loads, responses of central basin hypoxia to those changes, and potential ecological responses to changes in hypoxia. These forecasts will be conducted within a framework that integrates key uncertainties in forecasted scenarios, over space and time.

Result

The results of this research project will provide information on the relative contribution of physical factors, nutrient loading, and invasive species activity, especially zebra and quagga mussels. The ecological forecasts produced will inform Lake Erie water quality and fisheries managers on the potential to reduce hypoxia and its impacts through actions like altering land use, implementing phosphorus load controlling best management practices, and/or altering fishery exploitation.