Thursday, November 21, 2013

Invasive species, climate changes can combine to wreck havoc on Great Lakes loon population

Four times in the last seven years, migrating waterfowl in the Great Lakes basin, especially common loons, have experienced massive die offs during their fall migrations. These anomalies, if unchecked, can have dangerous repercussions for the survival of Michigan loons into the next decade.

But, for better and for worse, based upon an array of environmental and climatological conditions, one can set their clock by when the die offs take place. The next step, biologists say, is finding preventative measures to deal with those conditions to preserve a species already threatened in the state. The problem is, at this point, solutions are hard to come by. Unfortunately, the loons, a symbol of northern lakes and wild places with their eerily lonely two-note call, serve as the end result sentinel of a growing environmental danger in the Great Lakes.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), there are about 30,000 common loons in the United States. During the breeding season, from early spring to late fall, about half of them reside in the Great Lakes’ states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In 2012, thousands of dead birds, mainly common loons washed up dead on Lake Michigan shorelines – from the Upper Peninsula, down to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. A large percentage of the dead loons had just entered their first year of breeding maturity. While the mortality rate in 2012 was the worst on recent record, it followed similar incidents that took place in 2006, 2007 and 2010.

The Macomb Daily
15 Nov 2013
D Gardner

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Great Lakes Restoration Grant to Protect Lake Erie from Algal Blooms

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that Ohio will receive a $500,000 federal grant from the Fiscal Year 2013 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). This grant will support both GLRI and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and will be used to implement field studies and lab experiments that will assess the quality of Lake Erie water.

“It is excellent news that Ohio is the first state to receive these federal funds so we can better protect water quality in Western Lake Erie,” Brown said. “Addressing toxic algal blooms is critical to protecting Ohio’s drinking water and the thousands of fishing, boating, and recreation jobs that depend on clean and safe waters. Still, with so much at stake, more can and should be done. That is why Congress must build on this momentum and fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for the safety and wellbeing of Ohio’s citizens.”

Specifically, the $500,000 GLRI grant will help protect Lake Erie by:
  • Tracking the movement of phosphorus and nitrogen, which is harmful to the quality of Lake Erie water;
  • Studying and analyzing Lake Erie nutrient sources that contribute to the formation Harmful Algal Blooms; and
  • Examining phosphorus loading to assess its effect on low oxygen levels, which is also harmful to the quality of Lake Erie water.
14 Nov 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Spread of Lake Erie’s toxic algae poses challenge to governments

Agencies issue call for decisive action in order to stem Lake Erie’s ‘green tide’

Lake Erie was always greener on the other side – until this year. The lake’s infamous toxic blue-green algae first made what’s become an annual summertime appearance along the southern Ontario shoreline in July this year.

It arrived on the lake a month earlier in a new spot, closing beaches in the Chatham-Kent area during some of the summer’s hottest days – and it raised a whole new set of alarm bells. A month later, when a small pocket of blue-green algae – actually a neurotoxic form of cyanobacteria – emerged in Presque Isle Bay off Erie, Pa., those alarms resounded even louder.

... “We’re very concerned,” said James Tierney, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s assistant commissioner for water. “We’ve been monitoring what’s going on.”

It is also why the International Joint Commission – an advisory body of United States and Canadian officials charged with remedying water quality concerns along the border – issued a recent report calling for the public to get involved and governments to take decisive, immediate action to stem this green tide from exploding on a lake that’s ripe for conquer.

“If the problem continues, at stake is a multibillion-dollar cost to one of our most precious resources,” said Raj Bejankiwar, an IJC Great Lakes scientist, following a recent IJC open house in Ontario. “How many people rely on drinking water systems on this lake? How many rely on the tourism industry? The beaches?”

The Buffalo News
05 Oct 2013
TJ Pignataro

Monday, August 12, 2013

Harmful algae makes Erie debut

Harry Leslie, operations manager of Presque Isle State Park, knows all about harmful 2011 algae blooms that kept swimmers out of the water and covered boats with a green slime 230 miles away in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Now, scientists have confirmed the presence of a harmful algae bloom in Presque Isle Bay, just a stone's throw away from Pennsylvania's busiest state park. And that, said Leslie, has his full attention. Algae aren't all created equal.

Steven Mauro, dean of the Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences at Gannon University, said typical mats of green algae teem with bacteria. But most of it, he said, isn't harmful to humans.

As the name suggests, an HAB, or harmful algae bloom, is different. The algae -- characterized by its blue-green color that can look like paint on the surface of the water -- is capable of producing a toxin known as microcystin, which can lead to illness or death for humans or animals.

Mauro said scientists have known for some time that the potential for an algae bloom was lurking unseen in the waters near Erie.

Mauro, who received a research grant from Pennsylvania Sea Grant to study the algae, said he was not surprised by recent confirmation by the state Department of Environmental Protection that a small-scale HAB find had been made in the waters of the bay. Tests to confirm its presence had indicated blooms would likely develop.

Evidence of the bloom could be seen Tuesday near Perry's Landing and near the head of the bay along the eastern edge of Presque Isle State Park.

More rain and a particular combination of weather factors could prompt the bloom to spread, but Mauro isn't overly worried, noting that the algae thrives in the slower-moving waters of the bay.

Erie Times-News
08 Aug 2013
J Martin

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Carbon acidification could cause problems for Great Lakes wildlife

Available data from the Environmental Protection Agency suggests the Great Lakes could be soaking up carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which could change the pH levels in the water and have a negative impact on wildlife.

Galen McKinley, ocean sciences professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said while data is currently limited, computer projections suggest the Great Lakes’ waters are becoming more acidic due to human carbon emissions. She said a similar process is happening in the open oceans.

...The biological impact of a lower pH level is unknown for the Great Lakes specifically, but McKinley said based on the data from the oceans, some species, such as algae, would thrive, while others, such as mussels, would suffer. While that would help with eliminating invasive mussels, McKinley believes the native species will suffer too.

Planet Tech News
25 Jul 2013
A Muller

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Study of gene expression in common blue-green algae reveals what makes it bloom, toxic

Blue-green algae blooms formed by Microcystis.
Credit: Scott Kishbaugh
If your local pond, lake, or watering hole is looking bright green this summer, chances are it has blue-green algae and it may be dangerous to you or your pets. A newly published study has used a novel approach to better understand why these algae form blooms and what makes them toxic.

Matthew Harke and Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, used global gene expression analysis of the most common blue-green algae, Microcystis, to uncover how it uses different types of nutrients to form blooms and what regulates the production of its toxin, microcystin. The study, entitled "Global transcriptional responses of the toxic cyanobacterium, Microcystis aeruginosa, to nitrogen stress, phosphorus stress, and growth on organic matter," published in the July 23rd edition of the journal PLoS ONE, is the first to use this approach with this algae.

"Toxic blue-green algae blooms are a common phenomenon in freshwater lakes and ponds, particularly during summer and early fall," says Dr. Gobler. "These algae can create various toxins that can harm humans, pets, and aquatic life."

24 Jul 2013
S Kishbaugh

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Under cover of darkness, researchers capture, track loons in Minn.

How do you sneak up on a loon? That's the question this night as wildlife scientists slide a boat into South Turtle Lake, a few miles east of Fergus Falls.

The biologists want to know why so many of the iconic birds die of botulism poisoning on the Great Lakes every fall. They want to learn more about environmental toxins loons face on their long annual migration. But first they have to catch them.

...Scooping the adult into a fishing net, U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist Kevin Kenow sees it's the male of this loon family, wearing the leg band researchers put on a year ago. He snags the small, brown-colored chick but can't find the female. He decides to head back to shore and get data from the male and chick so they can be released.

South Turtle Lake is one stop on a three-week tour of lakes across Minnesota and Wisconsin. The states boast the greatest concentration of nesting loons in the U.S....Using a tiny needle, Kenow draws a blood sample. He also clips off a wing feather. The blood and the feather can tell scientists if this loon was exposed to residue from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 or mercury and other contaminants.

On Lake Michigan, the data revealed loons feed farther off shore than previously thought, with the birds diving repeatedly to depths of about 150 feet.

That means they're feeding on fish near the lake bottom, which might make them susceptible to toxic botulism that grows in the algae there.

Minnesota Public Radio
15 Jul 2013
D Gunderson

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mysterious substance in Lake Michigan baffles beachgoers, scientists as source remains unknown

A strange substance discovered last month just off the southern shore of Lake Michigan has beachgoers and scientists alike wondering how it found itself in the water.

Officials first heard of an "oily substance" during the middle of June after swimmers at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore reported the material on their bodies, said Dan Goldblatt, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

The Chicago Tribune reports the substance included D-gluconic acid, which is used to clean metals, and tricalcium orthophosphate, an additive found in food and fertilizers.

... Luckily for swimmers and wildlife, there's no indication the substance is toxic, Goldblatt said. No one has reported any injuries or illnesses.

08 Jul 2013
A Krietz

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2013 Lake Erie algal bloom will be significant: NOAA

Satellite image of 2011 bloom, the most severe in decades.
(Photo Credit: MERIS/NASA; processed by NOAA/NOS/NCCOS )
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its research partners predict that the 2013 western Lake Erie harmful algal bloom (HAB) season will have a significant bloom of Cyanobacteria, a toxic blue-green algae, this summer. The predicted bloom is expected to be larger than last year, but considerably less than the record-setting 2011 bloom.

Bloom impacts will vary across the lake’s western basin. This marks the second time NOAA has issued an annual outlook for western Lake Erie.

“This annual forecast and NOAA’s weekly bulletins provide the most advanced ecological information possible to Great Lakes businesses and resource managers so they can save time and money on the things they do that drive recreational activities and the economy,” said Holly Bamford, Ph.D., NOAA’s assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service.

Fish Info & Services
08 Jul 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

Great Lakes Restoration Success Stories Map

Over the last several years, the federal government has made Great Lakes restoration a national priority. Restoration projects are producing results in communities across the region.

This map provides a sample of successful projects that are helping the environment and economy. Additional stories will be added as projects are completed. Of course, much work remains to restore the Great Lakes, which is why public officials need to maintain support for programs that protect our lakes, drinking water, jobs, public health and way of life.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Caring for Lake Erie

Derek Gee/Buffalo News
Walking the beaches of Lake Erie this summer will bring the usual. Fresh air. Exercise. Good memories. Even sunburn.

What it won’t bring – thankfully – are some of the sights and smells of 10 or 20 years ago.

That’s when botulism left thousands of birds massacred along the shore.

It was when trash was at a high tide.

And it was when some native fish and wildlife – which had long since disappeared under decades of pollution – remained far away from home.

Problems remain with Lake Erie.

Sewage overflows and stormwater runoff. Pharmaceuticals. Invasive creatures. Lake levels. Fertilizer and algae. Dead zones.

But the efforts of concerned people are making a difference in cleaning up the water and the shore.

Botulism has subsided.

There’s less trash.

And with the emergence of some once-endangered fish and wildlife in Buffalo Niagara – from the bald eagle to the prehistoric lake sturgeon – hope has sprung.

The scenes from the front lines of Lake Erie’s botulism outbreak a decade ago were reminiscent of a battlefield.

Waterfowl carnage was everywhere.

Loons, ducks, geese and gulls washed ashore by the thousands along beaches between Erie, Pa., and Buffalo.

Buffalo News 
30 May 2013
TJ Pignataro

Friday, May 31, 2013

Scioto among six rivers in algae fight

An Ohio Environmental Protection Agency plan to stem pollutants that help toxic algae thrive in lakes and waterways will focus on six major streams, including the Scioto River in central Ohio.

The Scioto and the Great Miami River have nothing to do with the poisonous blooms of blue-green algae that grow each summer in Lake Erie and in Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio. But they do contribute to a vast “dead zone” that appears each summer in the Gulf of Mexico.

Efforts to shrink the zone, which often exceeds 6,000 square miles, could include cutting manure and fertilizer runoff from central Ohio farms and putting new limits on pollutants released by sewage-treatment plants.

... Toxic algae grow thick in water polluted with phosphorus and nitrogen from sewage, manure and fertilizers. They produce liver and nerve toxins that can sicken people and have killed pets and wildlife. Dead and decomposing algae rob water of oxygen, creating dead zones in the Gulf and Lake Erie where very little can live.

The Columbus Dispatch
28 May 2013
S Hunt
Location: Ohio, USA


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

River institute studying spiking algae levels

The St. Lawrence River Institute has received a grant of $24,970 from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment - Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund. The funding will support a project this summer called “AlgaeAlert” that will involve homeowners and volunteers in the area of Lake St. Francis. This project will track occurrences and causes of excess algae in waterways between Cornwall and the Quebec border.

... “We need people who live along the St. Lawrence waterfront to help us gather data and provide observations about algae in Lake St. Francis and its tributaries,” said Dr. Andy Bramburger, an algae specialist with the river institute. “From our past work, we know that excess algae in the water can be a big problem, especially when it’s one or more species collectively called cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, which have the potential to affect human and animal health.”

Cornwall Seaway News
18 May 2013


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Project aims to restore western Lake Erie wetlands

A project restoring 2,500 acres into wetlands along western Lake Erie is a small but important step toward creating a new home for wildlife and cleaning water runoff from farm fields that feeds harmful algae, conservation organizations say.

Restoring the wetlands east of Toledo is one of several projects aimed at creating marshland along Lake Erie through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

... It would take well over 100,000 acres of wetlands to fix the water quality problems facing Lake Erie. "But every little bit counts," he added.  Knights said that while wetlands certainly act as a natural filter, the biggest way to improve the water is working with farmers to reduce the amount of fertilizer that ends up in Lake Erie.
05 May 2013
J Seewer

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lake Erie could be headed for a record-breaking algae bloom

Scientists at the International Joint Commission are sounding the alarm over a potentially “massive” blue-green algae crop in Lake Erie.

Although the algae is a vital part of the food chain in the Great Lakes, scientist Raj Bejankiwar says an excess can threaten other forms of marine life and adversely affect the hospitality industry.

“It’s not good for human health and it’s not good for tourism,” Bejankiwar said.

... Based on weather patterns and other data, Bejankiwar says Lake Erie can expect an algae bloom equal to or greater than the one that occurred in 2011.

“It will depend on what happens during the spring, but the loads between March 1 and April 15 are already the same or exceeding the same period in 2011,” he said. “That’s very discomforting, because 2011 was the worst algae bloom on record.”

Metro News
30 Apr 2013
L Simcoe


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Harmful Algae Blooms Plague Lake Erie Again

... Lake Erie suffered from toxic algae blooms in the 1970s, but with a major effort to reduce phosphorus loading, the blooms disappeared for nearly two decades. By the mid 1990s, conditions began to deteriorate again. When I sailed across the lake in late summer 2004, an algae bloom stretched from the Erie Islands to the western shore.

A recent forensic-like study of the 2011 bloom, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, gives new insight about possible causes of these extreme events.

The National Science Foundation awarded a five-year grant to a team of researchers to study the effects of climate-change induced extreme events on water quality and ecology in the Great Lakes system. “It was a coincidence that the project began in January 2011, and this perfect case study popped up out of nowhere,” a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science and principal investigator for the study, Anna M. Michalak explained to me.

Using a holistic approach, the team brought together high-tech tools and sophisticated statistical analysis to assess whether the record-setting algal bloom in Lake Erie was driven by an unfortunate combination of circumstances or is a sign of things to come. They concluded that trends in agricultural practices, increased intensity of precipitation, weak lake circulation, and quiescent conditions conspired to yield the massive bloom.

National Geographic 
24 Apr 2013
L Borre

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Huge algae blooms a worry on Lake Erie

The warming climate and modern farming practices are creating ideal conditions for gigantic algae formations on Lake Erie — like the record bloom in 2011 — to become the norm, says a new study. That would be potentially disastrous to the area’s multibillion-dollar tourist economy.

It was the largest algae bloom in Lake Erie’s recorded history: a scummy, toxic blob that oozed across nearly one-fifth of the lake’s surface during summer and fall 2011. It sucked oxygen from the water, clogged boat motors and washed ashore in rotting masses that turned beachgoers’ stomachs.
It was also likely an omen of things to come, experts said in a study released Monday.

...According to the report, which was compiled by more than two dozen scientists, the 2011 runaway bloom was fueled by phosphorus-laden fertilizers swept from corn and soybean fields during heavy rainstorms. Weak currents and calm winds prevented churning and flushing that could have cut its rampant growth.

The Seattle Times
06 Apr 2013
J Flesher
Location: Lake Erie

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scientists seeks solutions to Lake Erie algae

Toxic algae blooms on Lake Erie may form more often unless farms and cities do a better job of controlling runoff of nutrients that feed them, a scientist said Tuesday as specialists developed proposals for confronting the threat.

About 40 experts met for two days in Windsor, Ontario, to compare research findings about the lake's struggles with algae and work on a report for government policymakers. The gathering was convened by the International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian agency that advises both nations on issues affecting shared waterways.

Blue-green algae is native to Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Great Lakes and the smallest by volume. But the lake has been plagued by increasingly large masses of the substance over the past decade. An outbreak in 2011 spread across huge sections of the central and western basins.

The blooms produce toxins and suck oxygen from the water, creating "dead zones" where little if anything can live. Dogs have died after swimming in the lake and licking themselves, said Jeff Reutter, director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, who attended the Windsor session. Water contaminated with blue-green algae has been fatal to people in some places, though not in North America, he said.

Wall Street Journal -
26 Feb 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie

Algae blooms, like this one in 2011, are threatening Lake Erie.
Brenda Culler/ODNR Coastal Management
... Lake Erie is sick. A thick and growing coat of toxic algae appears each summer, so vast that in 2011 it covered a sixth of its waters, contributing to an expanding dead zone on its bottom, reducing fish populations, fouling beaches and crippling a tourism industry that generates more than $10 billion in revenue annually.

The spring rains reliably predict how serious the summer algae bloom will be: the more frequent and heavy the downpours, the worse the outbreak. And this year the National Weather Service says there is a higher probability than elsewhere of above-normal spring rains along the lake’s west end, where the algae first appear. The private forecaster Accuweather predicts a wetter than usual March and April throughout the region.

... But while the sewage and pollutants are vastly reduced, the blooms have returned, bigger than ever.

New York Times
14 Mar 2013
M Wines

Monday, March 18, 2013

Conference stresses different roles for keepers of lake’s health

When your name says “waterkeeper” and your area of interest is the 12th largest lake in the world, you need a pretty big tent to bring all of the parties with a vested interest together.

The Lake Erie Waterkeeper organization will do just that on March 21 when it opens its annual forum for an in-depth look at the persistent threat posed by invasive species, the impact of agricultural practices and algae blooms on the lake, and examinations of fluctuating water levels and climate change, how crucial the lake is to tourism, and the status of fish populations in the lake.

Those are all part of the complex web of factors that play a role in determining Lake Erie’s health report card and in laying out strategies for the future.

“We are trying to get more of a macro look at the lake,” said Sandy Bihn, executive director of the Lake Erie Waterkeeper organization, about the lineup of experts that will take the podium at the group’s annual conference next week.

Blade Outdoors
12 Mar 2013
M Markey


Friday, March 15, 2013

Invasive species may be key to understanding death of hundreds of loons

Three dead loons were among the hundreds found by Damon McCormick,
a wildlife biologist with Common Coast Research and Conservation
in Houghton, Mich., who surveyed a seven-mile stretch of beach last October
near the eastern Upper Peninsula town of Gulliver.
(Photo courtesy of Damon McCormick, Common Coast Research and Conservation)
Spring is in the air, with daylight savings taking effect on Sunday, and loons will begin their migration back to the north woods in less than a month.

Loons, of course, are a cultural and natural icon, not only in Minnesota but across the Great Lakes states. But last fall, nearly 900 loons died while migrating south across Lake Michigan, probably more. And it's likely at least some were from Minnesota.

Scientists are not sure what killed the loons, but they suspect that invasive species may be to blame.

In October, Lynette Grimes was hiking toward Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, outside Traverse City, Mich. The 52-year-old from the nearby town of Benzonia has walked the beaches there for years. But she wasn't prepared for what she saw.

"The beach was just pockmarked with birds everywhere you looked," Grimes said. "This one little peninsula had over 100 dead birds."

... The scientists offered an idea about what might have happened: Invasive zebra and quagga mussels filter the water so it's incredibly clear, allowing an algae called cladophora to grow in huge amounts. Big storms churn up the algae, which settles to the lake bottom and rots. That creates an environment without any oxygen, an ideal home for bacteria that produces a deadly toxin called Type E botulism. That botulism is ingested by invertebrates, tiny worms and freshwater shrimp. And then it works its way up the food chain. They are eaten by fish, including the invasive round goby, which are then eaten by diving birds like loons.

Minnesota Public Radio -
11 Mar 2013
D Kraker
Location: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan, USA


Friday, February 15, 2013

Marsh restoration brings long-missing birds, plants home again

The least bittern is making a comeback
following the removal of an invasive grass.
Photo: Mike Dee Photography
The restoration of a southeast Michigan marsh has already returned rare plants and birds to a Lake St. Clair park.

On tap: Yet more work to divert stormwater and reduce beach closings at the Lake St. Clair Metropark.

Among the birds returning after a nearly decade-long hiatus is the common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus). A dark, duck-like bird with a flamboyant splash of red on its beak, the moorhen is threatened in Michigan.

“This park was always a good stronghold nesting area for moorhens, but over the last eight to 10 years, they declined so horribly that I didn’t even see adults, let alone a nest with babies,” said Julie Champion, eastern district interpretive manager for the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, which includes Lake St. Clair Metropark.

“This past year we had a pair of moorhens and they were calling,” Champion said. “We’re pretty sure that they were a nesting pair because we saw an immature.”

The secretive marsh birds called least bitterns (Ixobrychus exilis), which are threatened, and the songbirds called marsh wrens (Cistothorus palustris), which are species of special concern, are increasing. And other species, such as sora (Porzana carolina) and Virginia rails (Rallus limicola), are also coming back.

Great Lakes Echo -
14 Feb 2013
L Mertz 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Millions of research dollars go to Ohio scientists studying algae

Photo credit: Eamon Queeney | Dispatch
The fertilizers, manure and sewage that rains wash into Lake Erie each summer help grow a “bloom” of toxic algae that pose a dire threat to wildlife, fishing and tourism.

But where there are problems, there also are opportunities. For scientists, Lake Erie’s problems are opening doors for research and millions of dollars in government grants to help support it.

One example is Sridhar Viamajala and Sasidhar Varanasi, two University of Toledo biochemists who are looking for ways to turn algae into fuel. They want to take the sewage and manure-tainted water that toxic algae feast upon, divert it from fields and streams and use it to help grow algae that can be refined into biodiesel fuel.

“It motivates us,” Viamajala said of Lake Erie’s problems. “This is our community, and we feel motivated by the issues that are happening here.”

The U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation are funding the project with two grants that total $4 million.

The Columbus Dispatch -
05 Feb 2013
S Hunt

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thousands of dead loons on northern Michigan shorelines might be linked to invasive species

The rapidly changing ecology of the Great Lakes Basin, brought on in large part by non-native, invasive species, is causing devastation among Michigan's waterfowl, especially common loons.

The common loon, a beloved, iconic bird known for its eerily lonely, two-note call and its beautiful markings, suffered devastating losses along Lake Michigan’s northern shoreline this fall. Thousands of dead birds, mainly loons, washed ashore — from the Upper Peninsula down to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. A large percentage of the dead loons had just entered their first year of breeding maturity.

The reason for the die-off, which follows similar incidents in 2006 and 2007, isn’t fully understood. But it is suspected that it is driven by the food chain linking the loon to invasive species, specifically, the quagga mussel, the zebra mussel and the round goby.

... While the end result is a more aesthetically pleasing water column, the clearer water has allowed the sun’s rays to penetrate deeper, causing larger and larger algae mats to flourish on the bottom. As the algae mat builds upon itself and dies, it becomes anaerobic — depleted of oxygen — and type-E botulism bacteria develops.

The Oakland Press - [includes video]
07 Jan 2012
D Gardner

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New app available to view Lake Superior shoreline

The Superior Watershed Partnership has a new app available for apple users, and it might even make a great Christmas gift.

Great Lakes Shore Viewer has high quality photography of the Great Lakes coastline. The app started off as a land use planning tool, but officials found many people from the community were using it as well. The app has GSI maps which allows you to view a shoreline's topography, soil types, coastal dunes, and more.

It's become a popular tool for tourism, habitat protection agencies, or just planning an outdoor excursion.

"People can use this to plan sort of the distance they might make on a given day or suitable place to pull in to get out of the storm, be a great asset for people planning kayaking trips are even just boaters that want to be able to relate to the shoreline," said John Becker of the Superior Watershed Partnership.

It is free and available at the app store. The SWP is planning to come out with a Android version soon.

Lake News -
25 Dec 2012