Apr 22, 2019 | Updated: 08:21 AM EDT

Scientists Use Satellite Data To Have The Breakthrough About Lake Erie Toxic Algal Blooms

May 17, 2017 04:00 AM EDT

Algae from Lake Erie washes ashore at Maumee Bay State Park August 4, 2014 in Oregon, Ohio.
(Photo : Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Two scientists from Carnegie have produced not just one but two studies that could be the key to solving the ongoing toxic algal bloom problems of Lake Erie. For their studies, they used satellite data in order to study the case and create new advances in order to understand the blooms and its implication for the restoration of the lake.

In an article published in Phys.org, Carnegie scientists Jeff Ho and Anna Michalak used the satellite data from NASA's Landsat 5 instrument and generated new estimates of historical algal blooms in Lake Erie. Now, they have 32 historical algal blooms to study for from 14. It has doubled the number of years that was previously available for scientists.

In their study published in Science Direct titled "Using A Landsat To Extend The Historical Record Of Lacustrine Phytoplankton Blooms: A Lake Erie Case Study," Ho and Michalak explored the new historical record for the Lake Erie case study that the decadal-scale cumulative phosphorus loading has helped in predicting bloom size. This is an addition to the effects from the same-year phosphorous nutrient loading reductions.

Their second study titled "Phytoplankton Blooms In Lake Erie Impacted By Both Long-Term And Springtime Phosphorus Loading," the scientists found out that harmful freshwater algal blooms have resulted from too many amounts of phosphorus added to the water. This came from the fertilizer's runoff.

The excess phosphorus found in Lake Erie helps the growth of aquatic plants and phytoplankton like the Microcytsis. This organism produces toxins that could impose great harm on human liver and skin.

"The water quality in the western portion of Lake Erie has been declining for two decades," Ho said. He added that there are already 11 million people using Lake Erie as their source of drinking water.

"The path ahead for Lake Erie is clear -- we have to reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing into the lake. And we will need to be patient to give the lake time to recover," Michalak said. This problem was already brought up on the bi-national International Joint Commission in 2016.

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