Climate Change in the Great Lakes, Protecting Children’s Health, and Fighting Mussels with Algae

For Friday, May 16, 2014

1 – Climate change will heighten ongoing risks to the Great Lakes, according to a new National Climate Assessment.

climate change great lakes midwest

Cover of the National Climate Assessment.

The assessment is a product of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which was established by Presidential Initiative in 1989.

The latest report says that in the Midwest, longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels will increase yields of some crops. However, those benefits will be offset by extreme weather events. In the long term, we can expect decreased agricultural productivity.

Per capita emissions of greenhouse gases in the Midwest are more than 20 percent higher than the national average. Extreme rainfall events and flooding have increased in the last 100 years. These trends are expected to continue, causing erosion, declining water quality, and negative impacts on transportation, agriculture, human health, and infrastructure.

For the Great Lakes, the effects include changes in the range and distribution of certain fish species.

What’s to be done? The report says planning for adaptation – to address and prepare for impacts – and mitigation – to reduce future climate change – is becoming more widespread. But, “current efforts are insufficient to avoid increasingly negative social, environmental, and economic consequences.”

2 – Protecting children from environmental health hazards is the goal of new Children’s Environmental Health “wiki.”

The “wiki,” an online database, was recently launched by the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health and the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor.

The Network and the Center developed the wiki as a platform for people interested in sharing research that addresses links between health problems and environmental exposures, along with related reports, policy activity and recommendations. It’s been a two-year project.

The site will be monitored by experts to assure that the information presented is based on well-referenced scientific evidence.

The wiki is organized around critical child health issues including respiratory health, asthma and cancer.

The Network and Center are inviting the research community, parents, advocates and others to join the community of people contributing to the database.

An introduction is here.

3 – Scientists at Wayne State University are researching how algae might help disrupt reproduction of zebra and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes.

Collecting quagga mussels. Credit: USFWS.

Collecting quagga mussels. Credit: USFWS.

Preliminary research indicates that algae produce chemicals that may inhibit spawning in the invasive mussels.

Researchers are trying to identify chemical cues released by algae, and determine how those could be used to develop a control strategy.

Such an ecological strategy would be a cleaner alternative to attacking the mussels with toxic chemicals.

Zebra and quagga mussels have caused widespread damage to the lakes since arriving in the 1980s in ballast tanks of oceangoing ships.

The mussels deprive fish of food, crowd out native mussels and clog water intake pipes.

- Via AP

- Mr. Great Lakes, as heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

 

Invasive Mussels Thrive, Native Mussels Endangered & a Restoration Update

The Delta College Q-90.1 FM Environment Report, heard Fridays at 9 a.m. as part of the award-winning Friday Edition segment.

The report for Feb. 17, 2012:

photo endangered freshwater mussel usfws rayed bean michigan

A Rayed Bean Mussel. Photo by USFWS

Rayed Bean and Snuffbox

You may have heard of invasive mussels in the Great Lakes, including the zebra mussel and quagga mussel.

You may not have heard that two native, freshwater mussels in the region are now considered endangered.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the two mussels, called the rayed bean and the snuffbox, as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Both freshwater mussels are currently found in rivers in the Eastern United States, including Michigan, as well as in Ontario, Canada.

But federal officials say there have been dramatic declines in populations of both freshwater mussels.

The rayed bean has been eliminated from 73 percent of its historical range. It was once found in 115 streams and lakes, and today is found in only 31 streams and Lake Erie.

The snuffbox has disappeared from 62 percent of the streams in which it was historically found, from 210 streams down to 79 streams.

Freshwater mussels require clean water. Their decline often signals a decline in the water quality of the streams and rivers they inhabit, officials say.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is now working on recovery plans for the two mussels, to coordinate efforts to conserve their habitat.

Another $300 Million Proposed

Funding for Great Lakes restoration would remain intact under a 2013 budget proposed by President Barack Obama.

The president’s budget contains $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That would maintain funds for the program at same level as in the 2012 fiscal year budget.

The Restoration Initiative pays for projects to address toxic contamination, polluted run-off, aquatic invasive species, and loss of habitat and wetlands.

During the last three years, the Initiative has provided more than $1 billion to restoration programs in Michigan and seven other states, according to the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

Awards to projects in the Saginaw Bay region during that time include two grants totaling more than $800,000.

Those include a land policy project by Michigan State University to implement land use planning, protection, and restoration strategies; and a sediment reduction project for the Sebewaing River Watershed, headed by the Michigan Deparment of Agriculture.

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