Research links HABs to climate change

The elements that combine to result in the blue-green algal blooms which sometimes cause toxic conditions have been in the Finger Lakes for many years, and finding ways to minimize their impact is a priority for landowners, municipalities, conservation organizations, and lake enthusiasts. While researchers study the chemistry, government officials revise regulations, and lake organizations mobilize volunteers to observe changes and develop watershed specific plans, nature will have an even greater impact on potential blooms in the future.

“There’s something weird going on in the water resources… and we have to get a handle on it,” said Keynote Speaker Jim Tierney, deputy commissioner for water resources in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Aug. 9. Tierney was speaking to about 150 people who attended the Finger Lakes Harmful Algal Bloom Symposium at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

“As fast as we work on this, climate change can take it away,” he said, adding that he learned that researchers expect to see a 5 percent increase in phosphorus in Chesapeake Bay by 2025 attributed to climate change alone.

Tierney urged the group to work toward reducing the phosphorus that find its way into lake water, where it boosts the development of the blue-green algae that can result in harmful toxins. He cautioned that while more governmental controls can be put on wastewater treatment facilities, that effort will be defeated by the impact of stormwater runoff from high impact rain events.

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