NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

The latest news and information about NOAA research in and around the Great Lakes


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Working to understand the drivers of bloom toxicity in Lake Okeechobee

IMG_0207Last week, GLERL scientist Tim Davis spent time down in Florida sampling and conducting field experiments in Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River, two major freshwater ecosystems in Florida that are currently under a state of emergency due to the presence of harmful algal blooms.

IMG_0197The sampling and research we’re doing in Lake Okeechobeeo helps us get a better understanding of the environmental drivers behind changes in bloom toxicity—a main focus of the research we’re doing within our HAB research program. The work we’re doing throughout western Lake Erie, has led the creation of an experimental Lake Erie HAB Tracker and Lake Erie Experimental HAB forecast, which are used by water treatment managers and others to make important decisions about water quality in the region. 

This collaboration with CILER (Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research), Stony Brook University and USGS, will prove beneficial to the continued research and better understanding of ecosystem health effects related to human-influenced water quality degradation, not only in the Great Lakes, but throughout all large freshwater systems. By comparing the genetic characteristics of the blooms in Florida to those that occur in Lake Erie, we hope to not only better understand toxicity, but also whether or not we can apply the same techniques of forecasting and monitoring in Lake Erie to other large bodies of freshwater around the world.

GLERL will continue to receive bloom samples for genetic testing of the Lake Okeechobee HAB for the rest of the season.  

Note: For specific information about the bloom in Florida, please visit 
the responding agencies' website: 

For sampling information please visit Florida Department of
Environmental Protection: 
https://depnewsroom.wordpress.com/algal-bloom-monitoring-an
d-response/ 

For health information please visit Florida Department of
Health:
http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/index.html

For information on water management in the region please
visit South Florida Water Management District:
http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/sfwmdmain/home%20pa
ge 

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2016 Lake Erie HABs Forecast Has Arrived

Earlier today, NOAA and partners released their forecast of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) for the summer of 2016. The official predicted bloom severity came in at a 5.5, far milder than last year’s 10.5, although still significant.

This spring has been relatively dry, sporting a 4 inch rain deficit since May 2016, and flows in the Maumee River are down. Consequently, the amount of total bioavailable phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie that could feed blooms is lower than the past three years.

This doesn’t mean the source of the nutrients – mainly agricultural runoff – has been addressed. Heavy, intense rainfall in the future could pick up excess nutrients and create severe blooms again.

There is a high uncertainty associated with this summer’s forecast (ranging from 3 to 7) because we don’t know for sure what the overwinter effect from last summer’s bloom is going to be — phosphorous and algae material could remain in the water and boost this year’s bloom.

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2016 HABs Forecast

NOAA GLERL and partners will be keeping an eye on Lake Erie all summer, and in September, we’ll be sending our Environmental Sample Processor (ESPniagara) on its first mission to monitor algal toxins in real-time near the Toledo water intake.

For more information, check out our new and improved HABs and Hypoxia homepage.