Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Algae growing under Lake Erie ice spur dead zones

Clarkson University biologist Michael Twiss and other Great Lakes scientists have discovered there is a lot going on under the ice.

“When I was working up in Canada, I won a grant to use the coast guard vessel to study for a week,” Twiss said. “I wanted to use it as late in the season as possible, which was November. We found a lot of interesting stuff. “

Among the things he discovered is a high concentration of algae in Lake Erie during the winter. That’s unlike spring when there are almost no algae present.

Environment Canada and Canadian Coast Guard personnel recover a sediment trap from an icebreaker on an ice-covered Lake Erie in February 2010. Sediment traps are placed on the bottom of a lake to measure the how much algae sink to the bottom. In this case, algae are thriving in winter below ice. Photo by Michael Twiss, Clarkson University

And it is an important discovery because algae growth has been linked to the creation of Lake Erie dead zones devoid of oxygen.

...“The amount of algae in the winter shows that we have to study Lake Erie during the winter time in order to understand it in the summertime,” Twiss said. “It’s hard because there isn’t any data to compare it to and it takes a while to create a hypothesis. There is almost no data from the lake in the winter time.”

The information is especially important for efforts to shrink the dead zone.

Great Lakes Echo -
24 Jan 2012
A Kasben