Graham Sustainability Institute

Not good for Fishing, Boating or Drinking Water: HABs and Hypoxia

Friday, October 23, 2015

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) can contain severe toxic cyanobacteria (e.g., Microcystis sp., and Anabena sp.). They are a persistent problem in Lake Erie, and other fresh and saltwater systems. In the Great Lakes, HABs usually peak from August-September, and can be harmful and even fatal to aquatic life and people.

Hypoxia (low oxygen) is a problem in the central basin of Lake Erie, Green Bay in Lake Michigan, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. When the algae die, settle to the bottom, and decay, it can reduce oxygen levels to conditions dangerous to fish

Both problems are driven by excess nutrients (e.g., phosphorus) entering rivers and lakes, which is driven by land-use choices and weather patters, particularly severe storms.  Invasive mussels can also be an important factor in how the lake response to these loads.

Scientists from U-M (Graham, Engineering, CILER, and SNRE) other universities, government agencies (NOAA and USGS), and partners (e.g., LimnoTech) research these issues, monitor changed in the environment, develop models that analyze and distribute information through policy guidance and ecological forecasts.

Water resource managers use ecological forecasts about the potential severity of hypoxia and harmful algal blooms to inform decisions.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement provides a framework for identifying priorities and implementing actions to improve water quality.

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