Lake Erie Algae Blooms Deserve System-wide Solutions
Changing land use and changing patterns of precipitation are increasing nutrient delivery to Lake Erie. Strategic and large-scale solutions to help farmers decrease the amount of nutrients and sediment entering waterways are critical.
Karen Chapman, Great lakes Regional Director of the Environmental Defense Fund and Carrie Vollmer-Sanders, Western Lake Erie Basin Project Director at the Nature Conservancy led a session entitled “It’s the Hydrology, Stupid.”
The focus of the session was agricultural impacts to Lake Erie, challenges faced by farmers, and how to work together with multiple partners and using multiple conservation practices to develop large-scale solutions.
The importance of farming is only rising as the population grows and more countries gain wealth and choose to eat meat, which requires more land to grow the feed. There is also a cultural value to farming, as Vollmer-Sanders described. Her family farms in the western Lake Erie watershed, in Ohio.
Yet, the challenges faced by farmers are only increasing. Vollmer-Sanders described talking to a farmer, who said he does not remember seeing this much rain in the past. Not only is he witnessing the change, he is having to deal with it. You just cannot farm the crops during heavy rains and floods.
As they explained, we have think about multiple practices for the multiple problems effecting Lake Erie. It is not just about reducing nitrogen applications, but looking at how the fertilizers are applied, at the soil, and at the waterways. System wide problem need system wide solutions.