SciTech

How healthy are lakes these days?

Lake Scientist is an online journal covering lake science and research that serves as an interactive resource for scientists, students and others interested in freshwater lakes. Daniel Kelly edits the Lake Scientist blog ( www.lakescientist.com).

Q. What are the top issues facing U.S. lakes?

A. One of the biggest issues affecting U.S. lakes, and probably one of the most well-known, is the rise of harmful algal blooms. One of these was seen in Lake Erie this August, and it’s not just the Great Lakes that are at risk. Lakes are routinely on the receiving end of phosphorus pollution from farming activities around the country. But there are steps that can be taken, and I think most scientists and farmers understand the need and want to work together to minimize those sources of runoff.

Q. In the world of science funding, how does lake research stack up against other scientific work, such as ocean science? Does lake research win the same amount of dollars?

A. Compared to oceanic research, funding for monitoring and studying lakes is less. As an example, funding for NOAA’s National Ocean Service is about $200 million more per year than that for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the most extensive lake science effort underway right now. And we’ve seen regular decreases in the GLRI’s funding in recent years.

Q. What are some of the newest discoveries about our world’s lakes?

A. There has been a lot of interesting work in Antarctica recently, where scientists have confirmed the presence of organisms in sub-glacial lakes that survive completely without sunlight. As climate changes progress, researchers are also looking more at what will happen when new lakes form due to glacier melt and the effects this will have on those living nearby.

Q. What do you wish the public understood about freshwater lakes?

A. Freshwater lakes are valuable resources that we should be doing more to protect. The Great Lakes alone hold 20 percent of the world’s freshwater, and they are an incredible environmental and economic asset. But there are millions of freshwater lakes worldwide that are just as valuable for those who depend on them for drinking water or just a swim every now and then. We need to do more to monitor and better manage our freshwater lakes so that they can be there for our needs and those of generations to come.

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