Funded with a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan State University (MSU) researchers say the implications of their work to curb harmful algal blooms (HABs) will resonate globally. Climate change is predicted to increase temperatures and the severity of rains, floods and droughts. More severe rains and floods will carry nutrients to lakes. Along with higher summer temperatures and droughts, risk of HABs should increase.
This is a perfect storm for HABs, said Jan Stevenson, who co-directs MSU's Center for Water Sciences. Our overarching goal is to improve our ability to manage watersheds with the knowledge that higher levels of protection will be necessary without any change to land use because climate change alone will increase risks of HABs.
Managing HABs has been challenging due to the difficulty of identifying the relationship between what triggers and feeds them. Past studies show that warm water, low turbulence and high levels of phosphorus fuel excessive HAB growth. Agricultural runoff and the overuse of suburban lawn chemicals also contribute to the problem.