As threats of algal blooms and species of foreign Asian carp invasions in the Great Lakes and nearby rivers are on the rise, so are the concerns of their effects on the ecosystem.
Christine Mayer, professor of ecology in the University of Toledo Department of Environmental Sciences, spoke Oct. 19 at the UT Lake Erie Center about these concerns in her lecture titled, “Swimming Upstream: The Importance of Western Lake Erie’s Rivers to Fish Populations.”
Her lecture highlighted the value of healthy rivers for fish in the Great Lakes and focused specifically on the Maumee, Sandusky and Detroit Rivers, according to a UT press release.
According to the press release, as concerns about algal blooms increase, fish deaths and invasive Asian carp spawning are being closely watched in Lake Erie Tributaries.
Occurrences of the capture of some Asian carp species, such as the silver carp, have been reported as close as the Illinois Waterway below T.J. O’ Brien Lock and Dam, approximately nine miles away from Lake Michigan, on June 22, 2017, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
According to a U.S. News Report, Asian carp being this close to Lake Erie signals a threat to the lake – where the Asian grass carp has been spotted – and to the fish in the lake and its tributaries.
“There wouldn’t be as much an issue if they ate the algae present in our nearby lakes and rivers,” said Timothy Fisher, professor of geology and department chair in UT’s Department of Environmental Sciences. “Grass carp feed on aquatic vegetation essential for habitats and spawning grounds of native fish.”
Grass carp eggs were discovered in the Maumee River, according to Fisher.
The fertilizer runoff from farmlands is the main cause of algal blooms in the Great Lakes and nearby rivers. Farmers are aware of this problem, but only some are doing everything they can to decrease the amount of runoff going into rivers and the lake, Fisher said.
“Buffer strips that trap sediment before it runs off into the lakes and rivers offer a tremendous amount of help in reducing the runoff, as well as underground tiles placed in the fields to collect groundwater drainage,” Fisher said.
According to the City of Toledo’s website, under the division of water treatment, the water quality laboratories at the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant are responsible for the collection and analysis of samples of water, which will ensure that the water being distributed meets or exceeds the criteria of the Safe Drinking Water Act for local citizens.
The Collins Park Water Treatment Plant has quadrupled the treatment capacity for algal blooms, said Janet Schroeder, manager of the City of Toledo’s Department of Utilities.
“Everything will be ruined if we don’t see a positive effect from the measures we’re taking to treat the algal blooms invading our lakes and rivers, from the beaches to the vegetation to the fish,” said Thomas Bridgeman, professor of limnology in the Department of Environmental Sciences at UT. “I personally fear that Lake Erie itself will become a dead lake.”