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Lake Buoys May Provide Correct Information For Policy Makers

The introduction of buoys to collect information about harmful algal blooms could be a true game-changer in the fight against algal blooms.

Bowling Green State University is one of 11 organizations collaborating on national research of toxic algal blooms the university’s Lake Erie Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health, founded with a $5.2 million federal grant, is researching harmful algal blooms that pose a threat to the health of humans and wildlife. The university’s team is partnering with the Chautauqua Lake Partnership to place two of its buoys in Chautauqua Lake as an offshoot of Bowling Green’s work on Lake Erie.

To see how important Bowling Green’s involvement in Chautauqua Lake could be, look no further than what it has already accomplished on Lake Erie. Bowling Green’s work has resulted in the creation of a framework to determine lake-specific criteria so that a waterbody can be designated as impaired by cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms on an annual basis as long as long-term monitoring data and satellite imagery are available. The scientists published an article in the journal Harmful Algae in 2018 showing how their the use of remote sensing buoys, like those that will be used on Chautauqua Lake, allows scientists to estimate the harmful algal bloom for an entire lake, allowing better understanding of a bloom’s location and projected movement. The models developed then allow scientists to arrive at a target phosphorus reduction to reduce algal blooms.

This information can give local policy makers a better understanding of where the majority of phosphorus is coming from can better focus state and local tax dollars to dealing with the root causes of Chautauqua Lake’s phosphorus problem rather than wasting money nibbling around the edges of the problem with beautification projects that are masked as nutrient reduction projects. Being able to pinpoint particular problem areas may lower the pricetag on expensive projects by narrowing their scope or guide policy makers to work in specific areas when considering applications for state funding. And, having information about local phosphorus hot spots can help drive the yearly in-lake maintenance plan rather than guessing where problems may be the worst.

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