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      Record-setting algal bloom in Lake Erie caused by agricultural and meteorological trends consistent with expected future conditions.

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

      analysis, Water Pollutants, Chemical, Water Movements, Temperature, Rain, Phosphorus, Models, Biological, microbiology, Lakes, Great Lakes Region, physiology, Eutrophication, methods, Conservation of Natural Resources, Climate Change, Agriculture, Wind

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          Abstract

          In 2011, Lake Erie experienced the largest harmful algal bloom in its recorded history, with a peak intensity over three times greater than any previously observed bloom. Here we show that long-term trends in agricultural practices are consistent with increasing phosphorus loading to the western basin of the lake, and that these trends, coupled with meteorological conditions in spring 2011, produced record-breaking nutrient loads. An extended period of weak lake circulation then led to abnormally long residence times that incubated the bloom, and warm and quiescent conditions after bloom onset allowed algae to remain near the top of the water column and prevented flushing of nutrients from the system. We further find that all of these factors are consistent with expected future conditions. If a scientifically guided management plan to mitigate these impacts is not implemented, we can therefore expect this bloom to be a harbinger of future blooms in Lake Erie.

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          Most cited references 27

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          Low nitrogen to phosphorus ratios favor dominance by blue-green algae in lake phytoplankton.

           Darcey Smith (1983)
          An analysis of growing season data from 17 lakes throughout the world suggests that the relative proportion of blue-green algae (Cyanophyta) in the epilimnetic phytoplankton is dependent on the epilimnetic ratio of total nitrogen to total phosphorus. Blue-green algae tended to be rare when this ratio exceeded 29 to 1 by weight, suggesting that modification of this ratio by control of nutrient additions may provide a means by which lake water quality can be managed.
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            Summer heatwaves promote blooms of harmful cyanobacteria

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              Northern Hemisphere atmospheric stilling partly attributed to an increase in surface roughness

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                23576718
                3631662
                10.1073/pnas.1216006110

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