Lakes in the Landscape: Values, Visions, Actions

Lakes in the Landscape

Values, Visions, Actions 

Two weeks ago I spent three days at the North American Lake Management Society’s (NALMS) annual international symposium, this year held in Madison, Wisconsin.  North American limnology (study of lakes) was born in the late 1800’s here at Madison.

Some 600 attendees from all over the US, Canada, and other places gathered to learn from each other about protecting lakes and reservoirs.  This was my third NALMS convention and I came away with new insights about lakes and their protection gleaned from dozens of breakout sessions.

I gave my own talk the first day about the paradox that we say we love our lakes yet we not only allow but participate in their deterioration.  (More about what I presented on my next blog post.)

Here is some of what I learned from Dr. Steve Carpenter, a top notch lakes scientist and Director of the Center for Limnology at UW-Madison:

He is deeply concerned about excess phosphorous entering our lakes and reservoirs.  Inputs to fresh water are huge.  He went on to say that this flood of phosphorous “degrades water quality and promotes toxic blue-green algae in fresh waters throughout the world.”  He considers phosphorous one of the most destructive problems facing lakes today.

Excess phosphorous in lakes stimulates growth of all kinds of algae and also the aquatic invaders Eurasian water milfoil and curly leaf pondweed.  It also stimulates explosive growth of blue-green algae.  Some populations emerged along the south shore of Lake Superior this past summer, another indication that blue-green populations seem to be on the rise.  Some species are toxic to dogs and other animal life and can cause liver damage in humans if ingested.

Here is what troubles me: many lake lovers are nearly exclusively focused on aquatic invasive species threats, giving short shrift to phosphorous reduction.  I am reminded of snowball fights as kids.  You’d make two snowballs.  Then throw one skyward, drawing the opponents’ attention above while throwing the second hurtling at him.  We best not lose sight of phosphorous and blue-greens in our focus on AIS.

Darby Nelson

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