The re-eutrophication of Lake Erie: Harmful algal blooms and hypoxia

Susan B. Watson, Carol Miller, George Arhonditsis, Gregory L. Boyer, Wayne Carmichael, Murray N. Charlton, Remegio Confesor, David C. Depew, Tomas O. Höök, Stuart A. Ludsin, Gerald Matisoff, Shawn P. McElmurry, Michael W. Murray, R. Peter Richards, Yerubandi R. Rao, Morgan M. Steffen, Steven W. Wilhelm

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

328 Scopus citations


Lake Erie supplies drinking water to more than 11 million consumers, processes millions of gallons of wastewater, provides important species habitat and supports a substantial industrial sector, with >$50 billion annual income to tourism, recreational boating, shipping, fisheries, and other industries. These and other key ecosystem services are currently threatened by an excess supply of nutrients, manifested in particular by increases in the magnitude and extent of harmful planktonic and benthic algal blooms (HABs) and hypoxia. Widespread concern for this important international waterbody has been manifested in a strong focus of scientific and public material on the subject, and commitments for Canada-US remedial actions in recent agreements among Federal, Provincial and State agencies. This review provides a retrospective synthesis of past and current nutrient inputs, impairments by planktonic and benthic HABs and hypoxia, modelling and Best Management Practices in the Lake Erie basin. The results demonstrate that phosphorus reduction is of primary importance, but the effects of climate, nitrogen and other factors should also be considered in the context of adaptive management. Actions to reduce nutrient levels by targeted Best Management Practices will likely need to be tailored for soil types, topography, and farming practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-66
Number of pages23
JournalHarmful Algae
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cladophora
  • Climate change
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Internal loading
  • Microcystis
  • Nutrient management models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science


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