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Past , Present, and Future Problems, Trends, and Solutions for the Most Important Lake in the World:  Lake Erie Today’s focus— HABs and Stone Lab . Dr . Jeffrey M. Reutter Director, Ohio Sea Grant College Program. Jeffrey M. Reutter, Ph.D ., Director. 1895—F.T. Stone Laboratory

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Past, Present, and Future Problems, Trends, and Solutions for the Most Important Lake in the World:  Lake Erie Today’s focus—HABs and Stone Lab

Dr. Jeffrey M. Reutter

Director, Ohio Sea Grant College Program

jeffrey m reutter ph d director
Jeffrey M. Reutter, Ph.D., Director
  • 1895—F.T. Stone Laboratory
  • 1970—Center for Lake Erie Area Research (CLEAR)
  • 1978—Ohio Sea Grant College Program
  • 1992—Great Lakes Aquatic Ecosystem Research Consortium (GLAERC)
general sea grant
General Sea Grant
  • Part of National Sea Grant Collage Program in NOAA
  • 32 programs—every coastal state
  • Partnership of:
    • Government
    • Academia
    • Private Sector
  • Focus on 3 E’s:
    • Environment
    • Economy
    • Education
  • Accomplish through:
    • Research
    • Education
    • Outreach
sea grant and stone lab since 1978
Sea Grant and Stone Lab: Since 1978
  • 500 Sea Grant Projects
    • 500 grad and undergrad students supported
    • 250+ principal investigators at over 20 colleges and universities
  • FOSL over 1200 scholarships at Stone Lab
  • 70 REUs
what is stone lab
What is Stone Lab?
  • Oldest freshwater field station in the nation
  • Ohio’s Lake Erie Lab since 1895
  • Island campus of OSU on Gibraltar Island, Lake Erie
  • Research, education, and outreach laboratory for Ohio Sea Grant
improving science education in ohio stone laboratory story
Improving Science Education in Ohio: Stone Laboratory Story
  • Education for all ages
    • Field trips grades 4-adult
    • Intro courses open to superior HS students
    • Upper level courses for grad students
    • Teacher courses
  • Since 1990:
    • Students from
    • 111 colleges
    • 366 high schools
aquatic science workshops
Aquatic Science Workshops
  • Grades 4 -adult; 1 or 2-day
  • 8,000 people annually
  • Program includes
    • Science cruise on vessel
    • Bird/Plant/Insect hike
    • Fish Dissection in Lab
    • Limnology Lab
2012 quarters to semesters
2012: Quarters to Semesters
  • 10-week quarter to 7-week session
  • Changing from 10 weeks of courses + workshops to 8 weeks of courses and one week of workshops
  • June 10-16 (1-week, early offering)
    • Six, 1-week, 2-credit courses
  • June 17-July 21 (5 weeks)
    • 5 upper-level, 4-credit courses and all REUs
  • July 22-Aug 4 (2 weeks)
    • Nine, 1-week, 2-credit courses
  • Aug 5-11
    • Five, 2-3 day workshops
upper level courses

Stone Laboratory: Ohio State’s Island Campus

Upper Level Courses
  • One 5-week term
  • 4 credit hours/course
  • Classes M-W-F or T-R-S
  • Ecology
  • Evolution
  • Field Zoology
  • Ichthyology
  • Aquat Ecosystems—Ecology of Inland waters (Limnology)
introductory courses

Stone Laboratory: Ohio State’s Island Campus

Introductory Courses
  • 1-week Sunday through Saturday, 2 credits
  • Sport Fishing
  • Intro Aquat Bio
  • Intro Oceanography
  • Intro Local Plants
  • Intro Insect Bio
  • Ecol & Cons of Birds
1 week courses for college students teachers
Geologic Setting

Spider Biology

Field Ecology



Local Flora

Climate ChangeEducation Workshop

Climate & Sustainability

Larval Fish ID

Stone Laboratory: Ohio State’s Island Campus

1-week Courses for College Students & Teachers
  • Algal identification
  • NOAA Science Literacy
  • Dealing with Cyanobacteria, Algal Toxins and Taste and Odor Compounds
  • Outdoor Photography
  • Lake Erie Sport Fishing
  • Fish-Sampling Techniques
scholarships and employment
Scholarships and Employment
  • Approx. 40% of students receive a scholarship and/or work
  • 229 students at Lab in 2011
  • 69 students and $69,000 for scholarships and REUs in 2011
  • 2005-11 = 70 REUs and 501 scholarships valued at $447,000
opportunities to visit stone lab
Opportunities to Visit Stone Lab
  • AVC: Wednesday through Saturday
  • South Bass Island Lighthouse: Mondays and Tuesdays
  • Gibraltar Island
    • Wednesdays 11:00-1:00
    • Thursday evening Guest Lecture Series
    • Winter Program, 24 Jan 2012 (Columbus)
    • Work Weekend, 20-22 April
    • State Science Day, St. John’s Arena, 5 May
    • Open House Saturday, 8 September
    • Buckeye Island Hop, 28-30 September
lake erie one of the most important lakes in the world
Lake Erie: One of the Most Important Lakes in the World

Dead lake image of 60s and 70s.

Poster child for pollution problems in this country.

But, most heavily utilized of any of the Great Lakes.

Shared by 4 states and 2 countries.

Best example of ecosystem recovery in world.

great lakes land use
Great Lakes Land Use

Image: Ohio Sea Grant

because of land use lake erie gets
Because of Land Use, Lake Erie Gets:

More sediment

More nutrients (fertilizers and sewage)

More pesticides

(The above 3 items are exacerbated by storms, which will be more frequent and severe due to climate change.)

And Lake Erie is still biologically the most productive of the Great Lakes—And always will be!!

50 2 rule
50:2 Rule

(Not exact, but instructive)

Lake Superior: 50% of the water and 2% of the fish

Lake Erie: 2% of the water and 50% of the fish

80 10 10 rule
80:10:10 Rule

80% of water from upper lakes

10% from Lake Erie tributaries

10% direct precipitation

lake erie stats
Lake Erie Stats

Drinking water for 11 million people

Over 20 power plants

Power production is greatest water use

300 marinas in Ohio alone

Walleye Capital of the World

40% of all Great Lakes charter boats

Ohio’s charter boat industry in largest in North America

$1.5 billion sport fishery

One of top 10 sport fishing locations in the world

The most valuable freshwater commercial fishery in the world

Coastal county tourism value is over $10 billion

historical trends the lake erie ecosystem
Historical Trends:The Lake Erie Ecosystem

1969—Cuyahoga River burns

Getting worse annually to 1970

Stable 1970-75

Improving 1975-1995

1995+ Getting worse

Photo: Ohio Sea Grant

lake erie s biggest problems issues
Lake Erie’s Biggest Problems/Issues


Phosphorus and nutrient loading

Harmful algal blooms

Aquatic invasive species

Dead Zone

Climate Change—Makes the others worse

what brought about the rebirth
What brought about the rebirth?

Phosphorus reductions from point sources (29,000 metric tons to 11,000—approx a 2/3 reduction);and agriculture helped!

why are we targeting phosphorus
Why are we targeting phosphorus?

Normally limiting nutrient in freshwater systems

P reduction is best strategy ecologically and economically

Reducing both P and N would help

phosphorus sources
Phosphorus Sources
  • 1960s and 70s—primarily point sources (2/3)
  • Today loading is coming primarily from agriculture (2/3) but other sources include:
    • Sewage treatment plants and CSOs
    • Lawn fertilizer runoff
    • Water treatment plants
    • Septic tanks
are we sure phosphorus reductions will solve the problem
Are we sure phosphorus reductions will solve the problem?

It worked in the 70s and 80s and turned Lake Erie into the “Walleye Capital of the World”

Approximately a 2/3 reduction in total P loading (29,000 tons to 11,000)

impacts of increased phosphorus concentrations
Impacts of Increased Phosphorus Concentrations
  • HABs—If P concentrations are high (regardless of the source, Ag, sewage, etc.) and water is warm, we will have a HAB (nitrogen concentration will likely determine which of the 6-7 species bloom)
  • Nuisance Algae Blooms
    • Cladophora—Whole lake problem. An attached form.
  • Dead Zone in Central Basin
what are harmful algal blooms and why are we concerned
What are Harmful Algal Blooms and Why are We Concerned?

6-7 species of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)


Capable of producing 4 toxins, e.g., microcystin

Require high levels of P and warm water (above 60F)

Some are nitrogen fixers

Can cause human and animal illness and death

microcystin concentrations
Microcystin Concentrations

1 ppb WHO drinking water limit

20 ppb WHO swimming limit

60 ppb highest level for Lake Erie till this year

84 ppb highest level for Grand Lake St. Marys till last year

2000+ Grand Lake St. Marys 2010

1200 Lake Erie Maumee Bay area 2011

are habs only a lake erie and ohio problem
Are HABs only a Lake Erie and Ohio Problem?

Global problem

Serious problem in US and Canada

Common species in Lake Erie is Microcystis sp.

Dominant form in Grand Lake St. Marysin 2010 was Aphanizomenon sp., the same species that bloomed in Lake Erie in the 60s and 70s



River Flow

Sandusky Bay

Photo: NOAA Satellite Image


Maumee Bay, Ohio

Photo: Ohio Department of Natural Resources

nutrient loading
Nutrient Loading

Majority of loading occurs during storm events

90% of loading occurs 10% of time

Therefore, record rainfall in 2011 made the problem worse.

microcystis stone lab 8 10 10
Microcystis, Stone Lab, 8/10/10

Photos: Jeff Reutter


August 11 2011

1330 cfs

Photo: NOAA Satellite Image


Put-in-Bay, 20 Sept 2011

Photo: Jeff Reutter


October 9, 2011

Photo: NOAA Satellite Image

microcystis near marblehead
Microcystis near Marblehead

October 9, 2011

Photo: Richard Kraus, United States Geological Survey

target load reduction
Target Load Reduction

To solve the harmful algal bloom problem (HAB) and reduce the size and duration of the dead zone in the Central Basin of Lake Erie, the overall annual load of soluble reactive or dissolved phosphorus to Lake Erie should be reduced by ½ - 2/3.

possible agriculture action areas
Possible Agriculture Action Areas
  • Eliminate fall and winter application of fertilizer and manure.
  • Eliminate broadcast application.
  • Incorporate the fertilizer and manure into the soil.
  • Soil testing of all fields
  • Do not apply nutrients at levels above agronomic needs recommended by OSU.
  • Do not apply fertilizer when rain is forecast.
  • Place a moratorium on the addition of more tiles to remove water from agricultural fields. It appears that over 50% of the dissolved phosphorus leaving fields is going through the tiles—POINT SOURCES
  • Consider reducing the size of farms falling under CAFO regulations so more of the unregulated operations are regulated.
  • Improve recommendations made by soil testing laboratories regarding amount of P to be added.
what other levers can we turn
What other levers can we turn?

Lawn Care Recommendations

  • Encourage Scott's and all lawn care fertilizer sellers and their applicators to meet the zero P goal set by Scott's on 1 January 2012 rather than 1 January 2013.

Sewage Treatment Plant Recommendations

  • Cut allowable discharge levels of P in half.
  • Expedite actions to eliminate CSOs.
  • Fix Detroit Sewage Treatment Plant.

Water Treatment Plant Recommendations

  • Water treatment plant operators should stop using ortho-P as a corrosion reduction strategy.

Septic Tanks

  • Assure that all septic tanks are working properly.
expected time for recovery
Expected Time for Recovery

Because Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes by volume, the retention time for water in the Lake is very short compared to the other 4 lakes—Western Basin retention time is 20-50 days. Therefore, if reduced loading targets are reached, recovery will be almost immediate.

Currently, trends are all in the wrong direction.

for more information dr jeff reutter director
For more information:Dr. Jeff Reutter, Director

Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab

Ohio State Univ.

1314 Kinnear Rd.

Col, OH 43212


Stone Laboratory

Ohio State Univ.

Box 119

Put-in-Bay, OH 43456