Tuesday, June 18, 2013

EPA Sponsoring Webcast Series to Raise Awareness about Harmful Algal Blooms and Nutrient Pollution

On June 25, 2013, EPA's Watershed Academy will sponsor a free webcast on harmful algal blooms (HABs) and their Impacts in freshwater and marine ecosystems,the first in a series of webinars about this worsening environmental problem and public health threat. Jennifer Graham with the United States Geological Survey and Quay Dortch with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will start the series with an introduction to HABs, their causes, and their impacts, and EPA HAB expert Mario Sengco will moderate. This webcast series is a part of a broader outreach effort this summer that will aim to focus public attention on HABs, which can sicken people and pets, devastate aquatic ecosystems, and harm the economy. To register, visit www.epa.gov/watershedwebcasts
Source: Water Headlines 

EPA Report Details How Development Can Impact Public Health, Environment

EPA has released its most comprehensive review to date on how the built environment - the way we build our cities and towns - directly affects our environment and public health. The publication, Our Built and Natural Environments: A Technical Review of the Interactions among Land Use, Transportation, and Environmental Quality, provides evidence that certain kinds of land use and transportation strategies -- where and how we build our communities -- can reduce the environmental and human health impacts of development. According to the report, environmental impacts linked to building and development patterns include at least 850,000 acres of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds and 50,000 miles of rivers, and streams that are thought to be impaired by stormwater runoff. For more information about the report and an upcoming webinar, visit: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/built.htm

Download the report, The second edition of Our Built and Natural Environments (PDF) (148 pp, 4.3MB). To order a hard copy of the report, email nscep@bps-lmit.com or call 800-490-9198 and request EPA 231-K-13-001.

Join a webinar on Our Built and Natural Environments Wednesday, July 24, 2:00 - 3:00 Eastern. _____________________________________
Source: Water Headlines

Friday, June 14, 2013

Adirondack Invasive Species Awareness Week

July 7th – 13th is Adirondack Invasive Species Awareness Week.

Check out the line-up of events online at http://www.adkinvasives.com/InvasiveSpeciesAwarenessWeek.html

If you have an activity planned, contact Billy Martin at wmartin@tnc.org by Friday, June 21st.
Source: Hilary Smith
Director, Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program
The Nature Conservancy – Adirondack Chapter
PO Box 65
Keene Valley, NY 12943
518-576-2082 (tel)
518-576-4203 (fax)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lake Managers Get New Tool To Combat Algae

Northwest Public Radio

By Tom Banse

Nothing spoils a summer swim in your favorite lake like an algae bloom. These become more common as the weather warms up. Earlier this week, aquatic biologists treated a lake near Seattle with a new product to prevent toxic blooms.

Most every summer until last summer, Lake Lorene would turn pea soup green.

"I was really disappointed come July, August when I noticed all the algae, and ultimately the blue-green algae and the stench associated with that," Greg Darcey says. "Then the toxicity, the (warning) signs. It was ugly.”

Darcey serves on the Twin Lakes Homeowner's Association board. Last year, the homeowners group gambled on a new approach to restore water quality at the lake in suburban Federal Way, Wash.

“It’s night and day. No blue-green algae this year," Darcey says. "Clarity was amazing. We had people fishing again, which we didn’t before, and you could actually start enjoying the lake.”

Darcey and his neighbors are the first in the Northwest to hire a company to apply a new algae treatment. The problem here is similar to so many other built up lakes. Stormwater, goose poop, fertilizer runoff, all carry phosphorus into the lake. That dissolved phosphorus is the key nutrient for algae growth. Left unchecked, blue-green algae can turn toxic. It can make people sick and kill pets and livestock.

Earlier this week, aquatic biologists treated the lake with a new product to prevent toxic blooms. A three man crew in a small work boat crisscrossed the lake and a brownish plume spreads out behind the boat's stern.

AquaTechnex aquatic biologist Adam Kleven explained that the crew injected the eight acre lake with a follow up dose of the new mineral treatment, called Phoslock. He says the slurry is a combination of the element lanthanum and powdered clay.

“What this product does is drift through the water column, binding with the phosphorus and permanently locking it down in towards the sediment," Kleven says.

Nigel Traill of Phoslock Water Solutions says the treatment was invented in Australia in the mid-1990's. His company exported it first to Europe, found success there, and now is coming to North America.

"Phoslock is a more natural product with less negative effects on the ecosystem than aluminum sulfate (a current, cheaper way to tie up phosphorus)," Traill says. "So in that respect, the U.S. provides good possibilities, I think, for Phoslock."

Traill's company points to a list of studies that show their product doesn't hurt fish or contaminate drinking water.

It is expensive, which could limit sales. Terry McNabb of Bellingham runs the lake management company AquaTechnex. McNabb gave a price range of $1,900 to $4,000 per surface acre treated. The two Phoslock injections at Lake Lorene cost the homeowners association there around $40,000, which includes some ancillary permitting and monitoring fees.

McNabb calls Phoslock an "important expansion" of the tools available to control algae.

"I think people are in the learning curve," McNabb says. "They want to see examples. The database is building. So I kind of see this in the next few years as really being a tool that is more widely used and widely understood and maybe even gets to be the 'go to' thing for solving this problem."

McNabb says the new lake treatment is cleared for use in California and Idaho. He's still waiting to hear from Oregon.

Washington’s Department of Ecology is keeping Phoslock on an experimental permit. It’s watching for any negative effects. An agency spokesperson says the state would rather people living around lakes take measures to contain sources of phosphorus on land. That way they wouldn't have to put any chemicals in the water in the first place.
Source: Northwest Public Radio

The unexpected consequences of fighting Eurasian Watermilfoil

Lake on the Brink: The unexpected consequences of fighting Eurasian Watermilfoil, preventing fish from successfully reproducing?

By Eric Engbretson

In 2012, Greg Matzke, a fisheries biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, made a startling discovery on Florence County’s Lake Ellwood. During a comprehensive fish survey which included spring, summer and fall netting and electrofishing surveys, Matzke discovered that all of the lake’s largemouth bass were older than 5 years of age, with approximately 91% of the largemouth bass population being at least seven years old. The absence of younger fish indicated a recruitment failure for a number of years. Such failures in largemouth bass recruitment over multiple years are unprecedented in the state of Wisconsin.
“The current largemouth bass population is in serious trouble,” Matzke reported. “It appears that natural reproduction of largemouth bass has not occurred since 2007. As these older/larger fish move through the population, a significant reduction in largemouth bass abundance will take place, with the potential for the complete loss of this species of fish unless the current situation changes.”

Matzke next began looking at the lake’s panfish population. What he found was stunning. Overall, the lake’s panfish abundance had fallen an estimated 75% in just the last 10 years, with bluegill and rock bass abundance down an estimated 65% and 89% respectively, showing that these populations also appear to be collapsing. Intense sampling throughout 2012 found only a single black crappie under six years of age, showing another alarming recruitment failure in several consecutive years. When Matzke analyzed the ages of Lake Ellwood’s northern pike population, the results were even more disappointing: There were no pike under the age of eight!

Matzke stared at the data he had collected. His department had never seen a mystery like the absolute and complete recruitment failures of native northern pike, black crappie, and largemouth bass (along with significant reductions in recruitment of other panfish populations). He shared his findings with other fisheries professionals across the state and they all said the same thing. They had never seen a collapse like this in their careers. Matzke and his team scrambled to collect more data and tried to find a cause that could have brought the fish to the brink of extirpation in Lake Ellwood. Surveys from 2002 had shown normal abundance, size structure, growth, and recruitment in all of these species. What had happened in the last ten years that was preventing fish from successfully reproducing? The only thriving species of game fish in the lake were smallmouth bass. Their abundance and size structure had grown in the last decade and recruitment was high. This suggested that the problem was targeting specific species of fish. Because Lake Ellwood’s smallmouth bass were doing so well while the other species were collapsing, the focus turned to the lake’s historically sparse but important aquatic plant community. All the species showing recruitment failures are highly dependent on aquatic vegetation for spawning as well as cover and food for their young. Matzke observed that smallmouth bass seem to be different. “The fact that this species was not affected by the reduction in plant life,” he said, “is not a major surprise since as a species smallmouth bass are less dependent on aquatic vegetation.”

The Smoking Gun

Eurasian Water Milfoil was discovered in Lake Ellwood in 2002. Herbicide treatments began in 2003 and increased every year. By 2007 recruitment of northern pike, largemouth bass and black crappie had come to an end. “When I started to analyze the data it was strikingly obvious to me that there are some problems associated with the herbicide”, said Matzke. When he graphed the fish abundance (by year class) over the last decade and overlaid it with a graph showing yearly herbicide treatments, he found what he believed was a critical connection. Fish numbers fell as the amount of herbicide increased. Interestingly, in the year following a relatively low application of herbicide, young bluegill (and black crappie to a much smaller degree) began to appear again, but their numbers are still very low and they will likely disappear before they reach age 2.

Year class strength, indexed using age estimation to determine number of individuals of each year class captured during a 2012 comprehensive survey, for northern pike, black crappie, largemouth bass and bluegill plotted against the number of pounds of 2,4-D (not acid equivalent) used to treat aquatic plants in Lake Ellwood, Florence County, 2003-2012.
“We still wonder which stage of reproduction has failed in these species”, says Matzke. “Aquatic vegetation plays a major role in spawning site selection and in the survival of eggs and fry. Plants are also the source of primary production providing food and habitat for young fish and prey items, including invertebrates and minnows. It seems likely that one or all of these important phases of reproduction are dwindling in Lake Ellwood.”

On April 17, 2013 Matzke met with the Lake Ellwood Association to reveal his data and conclusions. He told the group, “The main cause for failed northern pike, largemouth bass and black crappie recruitment (along with the massive reduction in panfish abundance) appears to be the loss of aquatic vegetation.” The 2-4-D herbicide used on Eurasian watermilfoil had been successful in reducing the abundance of this invasive species significantly. Conversely, other native plants were also harmed by years of chemical treatment. Matzke said he has no reason to believe the chemicals have directly caused a failure in reproduction of any species of fish in Lake Ellwood. However, Matzke does believe that the chemicals have indirectly caused recruitment failure by eliminating too many of the aquatic plants young fish need in order to survive. Matzke has called for a change in the way the Lake Ellwood Association has been managing the lakes aquatic plants. He recommended that further chemical treatments for milfoil be stopped.

“First and foremost,” says Matzke, “we need to promote and strengthen aquatic vegetation in Lake Ellwood.” 

He stresses the role of aquatic vegetation in spawning and concludes that the loss of vegetation (including the invasive milfoil) has almost certainly wiped out a great deal of forage for young fish.

It seems that milfoil treatments controlled the invasive plant but also jeopardized the health of the lakes fishery. Today the lake contains a dwindling and rapidly aging population of largemouth bass, black crappie, northern pike, and bluegill. Matzke hopes the plants will come back in time for the remaining old fish to produce at least one year class before they die. If that doesn’t happen, many fish populations will likely be extirpated from Lake Ellwood. New fish can be stocked, of course, but the lake would lose the unique genetic lineage of the fish that have lived there for thousands of years.

The Future

Could chemical herbicide treatments for Eurasian watermilfoil be reducing fish recruitment in other lakes? None of the other lakes that have been receiving chemical treatments have had their fish populations surveyed this intensely. Large scale recruitment problems due to loss of important plant cover could be taking place throughout the region where the invasive plant is now being fought. There is no way to know if this is happening, and frankly, up until now, there has been no reason to find out. Fisheries experts around the state are only now learning of Matzke’s findings on Lake Ellwood. In the future, they will likely start paying more attention to fish recruitment on lakes treated for Eurasian watermilfoil which would allow the Department of Natural Resources to determine whether this crisis is an isolated instance or a more widespread problem.

In the meantime, it’s a race against time for Lake Ellwood’s native fish. The question remains: Will the plants come back in time to save these fish populations?
Source: StructureSpot