When you think about inland lakes you usually don’t picture crystal clear, pristine, beautiful water that reminds you of the ocean on a calm day. The Great Lakes many times confuse people for being an ocean, they’re huge for one, they have ravenous energy that is commonly underestimated and their color day in and day out is beyond stunning. The Great Lakes is home to an abundance of life in and out of the water, all who rely on the lakes to be healthy and able to sustain life. Although there are a couple living creatures that have invaded their way into the ecosystem and are wreaking havoc on these fragile waters.
We spoke about algae and their relationship to coral reefs, being beneficial and providing nutrients. This algae grows naturally and is apart of the ecosystem, working to maintain it and keep things healthy. All creatures benefit from what algae gives to the cycle of the ecosystem in the ocean. But in the Great Lakes algae is a threat. It has taken over Lake Erie, every spring as the water begins to thaw and warm back up the blooms follow closely behind.
Between the months of July and October, when the water is at its peek warmest, it creates favorable conditions for Cyanobacterial, most commonly known as blue-green algae, to form and take over. With that it brings great concern for water quality, the main one being that this algae causes toxins that are strong enough to poison animals and humans alike. These taste and odor compounds are extremely concerning in the Great Lakes as it is a major resource for drinking, recreating and tourism. If coming in contact with Cyanobacterial toxins (cyanotoxins), it can be detrimental and hazardous. These toxins have been exposed in human and animal illness as well as death in over fifty countries worldwide. Human toxicoses from cyanotoxins have most commonly occurred after exposure through drinking water along with just swimming, surfing, or coming in contact with the effected water.
Just as we learned before in my post about pollution, runoff can be extremely damaging to our ecosystems. The main cause of these blue-green algae blooms is just that, runoff pollution. This occurs when there is any type of rainfall, heavy or light, that washes out fertilizer and manure from large farm fields into streams or ponds that connect to larger lakes such as Lake Erie. Not only is agricultural runoff a main factor but also urban runoff, soaps and detergents used on our clothes and bodies and lastly lawn fertilizers.
All of our Great Lakes are at risk of these blooms, not just the one. Especially as the water temperate rises, and we continue to use harmful chemicals in nature creating toxic pollution. What we can do to help is be conscious of what we put down our drains, use on our lawns and gardens and even what we put on our bodies. Reducing runoff as well as deterring runoff from entering the lakes through street drains and gutters is essential. Understanding different agricultural practices that have negative effects on the wellbeing of the Great Lakes is also important. Knowing that you’re buying produce and products that will not harm such delicate waters is something that should become normal in our everyday lives. Using natural products that don’t have harmful chemicals such as an extreme or large amount of phosphates is an easy start. Biodegradable and chemical free products for your lawn, garden, dishes, hair, body and any other cleaning supplies has become more and more easily accessible. This goes not just for the friends living in the Great Lakes region but also who live worldwide. Those same chemicals are extremely harmful to our oceans and all that reside in the salty seas.
Little changes in our everyday lives will have a large effect on our waters in the long run. While we all rely so heavily on clean healthy water, we must not only care for it, but love it. And with that comes respect.