Linking watersheds, lakes, and climate change: a multi-model approach in reducing nutrient exports and algal blooms

Algal blooms recurring in the western side of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes in northern America, and hypoxia in the central basin has had a detrimental impact on tourism and travel in the region. Information on future recurrences of algal blooms is needed to support decision-making to reduce future losses in the $10 billion/year Lake Erie tourism and travel industries.


Issue to be addressed

The recurrence of algal blooms, particularly in the western basin of Lake Erie basin, and hypoxia in the central basin is mainly attributed to the increase in dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) loads to Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes in northern America. This increase in DRP is mainly attributed to the agricultural practices in the Lake Erie watersheds. Local Climate Change Indicators (CIIs) for Western Lake Erie (Ohio) will be produced, that can be used by stakeholders around the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) for climate adaptation in the tourism industry. Primary (derived from climate data) and secondary (calculated from impact models CIIs will be produced locally for the WLEB.  Among the CIIs are: 1) Daily temperature and precipitation, 2) stream discharge, 2) nutrient and sediment concentrations and loads, and 3) extent of algal blooms in Western Lake Erie. The CIIs will be developed across a range of land management practices and climate scenarios. 

Decision support to client

The final results will be provided for use in developing contingency management plans in anticipation of the climate change effects on water quality and quantity at Lake Erie. Further, the results will help to better inform and prepare the stakeholders (e.g. farmers, government (local, state, federal) agencies, policymakers) against the predicted effects of climate change.

Temporal and spatial scale

Decadal projections of the selected CIIs will be provided, continuously discussed with the client and stakeholders. Currently, efforts are underway to reduce nutrient loads by 40% compared to those in 2008.  Management and mitigation practices are usually implemented at the field (~10 hectares) to watershed level (>90 km2).

Knowledge brokering

We have presented the objectives to the client and asked for ranking of the CIIs according to their needs (see table 1). We plan to communicate with the client regularly and provide updates and results from the study through in-person and online meetings.


Poster displayed at the Kick–Off meeting, 7/8 September 2017, Norrköping, Sweden