Following a study of 235 lakes made by NASA and the National Science Foundation, it appears that Lake Erie is under the threat of massive blooms of toxic algae. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident, with the entire fresh water supply, as well the natural environments near the lakes in question, suffering as well.
The study revolves around analyzing water temperatures and on-location geographic and biologic readings through the use of satellites provided by NASA. Their findings are extremely dire to say the least, with lakes suffering from an increase of 0.34 degrees Celsius over the last few years.
Even though at first glance this might seem as a rather low amount, its effects are insurmountable. Just a slight increase will disrupt the natural balance of the ecosystem, leading to massive algae blooms that suck up oxygen in high amounts. Because of climate change, it is expected that next year, an increase of 20% in algae population will exist, eventually leading to a shortage in the fresh water supply.
This doesn’t disrupt only the ecosystem. The industrial market which focuses on hydro-electrical plants, as well as fish markets, will more than likely suffer as well. Add to this the possibility of some species of fish or other water reliant animals, paving the way for massive disruptions in food chains and the animal kingdom, and this crisis will reach unprecedented levels.
The high amount of methane released by these algae is also a dire problem as well. Methane is more influential than ordinary CO2 emissions by a staggering 2500%. In the next year, methane emissions are expected to rise by 4%, with an added 5% increase in toxic algae as well.
What is extremely unfortunate is the fact that after these increases have occurred, it is almost impossible for their population to regain a normal balance. Fortunately, this might be partially quelled if the agreements made at this year’s COP21 conference regarding the effects of climate change are immediately applied.
Concerning Lake Erie, the main part of this algae bloom is the use of phosphorous-based fertilizers in its Western Basin region. Even if most farmers have agreed to lessen the production of phosphorous runoffs, the growing population of dairy cows circumvents this measure. Manure coming from these farms affects the lake region by 18%, increasing the algae population gradually alongside it.
The increase phosphorous levels in the waters near dairy cow farms was 0.1 milligram per liter in all of the farms in question, with 80% having 1.0 milligrams per liter. Even in the 0.1 case, the marine ecosystem is influenced greatly, leading to fish extinction at a heightened rate. What is even more worrying is the fact that these levels are increasing each month, in almost all the regions analyzed.
Because Lake Erie is under the threat of massive blooms of toxic algae, as well as almost every other lake in the US, steps towards quelling this problem have to be made. The first step towards solving this lake issue is disrupting the source of pollution by providing farmers with funds in order to construct waste-housing facilities, stopping the manure and phosphorous runoffs from reaching water in the first place.