Enhancing manager and stakeholder awareness of and responses to changing climatic conditions and their impacts on Lake Erie

Project Final Report

Guidance Document

Project website –  Following years of improvement in the 1980s and 1990s, bottom water hypoxia and harmful algal blooms (HABs) have returned to Lake Erie in recent years with significant potential impacts on coastal habitats, food web interactions and fisheries. Hypoxia and HABs are strongly impacted by phosphorous loading from agricultural non-point sources in the watershed, which in turn are driven by the interaction among precipitation timing, intensity, and form (rain vs. snow) and the prevalent agricultural practices. Models relating nutrient loading to central basin hypoxia have been developed through the NOAA-funded ECOFOR project examining controls and consequences of central basin hypoxia (D. Scavia) and further developed through an NSF-funded Water Sustainability and Climate (WSC) project (D. Scavia and A. Steiner) that combines longer-term, climate scenario capacities with watershed, lake, and social science modeling of the causes and consequences of Lake Erie HABs.

With this background and existing modeling capacity, with NOAA funding, we 1) engaged the Lake Erie coastal management community in a discussion of their information needs, access, and integration capacity and their decision making context; 2) built on models developed in ECOFOR and WSC that link climate change projections and land use practices with nutrient loading to Lake Erie, and implement these models in a scenario mode driven by the management community’s unmet information needs and decision contexts; 3) in collaboration with the management community, used this scenario analysis to facilitate an evaluation of user defined adaptation options; 4) investigated the management community’s uptake of climate information relative to their information needs, integration capacity, and their decision context; and 5) publicized results and management community recommendations for adaptation through white papers, online fact sheets, social media, and peer-reviewed publications, where appropriate.