You are on page 1of 2

International Field Years on Lake Erie

NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research


Laboratory (GLERL) in collaboration with researchers
from the U.S. and Canada have initiated one of the
largest, most comprehensive Lake Erie research
field programs ever conducted. The project, the

(IFYLE)
International Field Years on Lake Erie (IFYLE),
began in May 2005, with a focus on hypoxia
and harmful algal blooms.
Introduction field sampling can be performed to test hypotheses over
Water quality and ecosystem health issues persist within the entire Lake. Second, a wealth of historical monitoring
the Great Lakes and are of concern to the user community, and research data has been compiled for this system, which
managers, and researchers. These include, but are not limited can be used immediately for model parameterization/
to, harmful algal blooms (HABs), reduced oxygen availability calibration, validation, and ecological scenario testing. Third,

-
---- -
(hypoxia/anoxia), and exotic species, all of which have the several predictive physical models exist for Lake Erie (e.g.,
potential to negatively influence food web dynamics, native watershed-hydrology and hydrodynamics models). Finally,
biodiversity, and biological production (e.g., fisheries yield). a large research and policy infrastructure (e.g., Lake Erie
Millennium Network, Lake Erie Lakewide Management Plan,
One of NOAA’s long-term goals is to provide enhanced and Lake Erie Committee) already exists, which will facilitate
ecosystem forecasts to predict patterns of biological, NOAA’s effort to develop truly integrative, multidisciplinary
physical, and chemical variables in response to natural and programs aimed at conducting the needed research for
human-induced changes to the system (e.g., extreme natural ecosystem forecasting.
events, climate change, land and resource use, pollution,
invasive species, fisheries impacts), across a variety of What are IFYLE’s Key Goals?
spatial and temporal scales. These forecasts will benefit
coastal communities, including the Great Lakes, by providing The science priorities are based upon years of planning
the foundation for (1) improved decision-making for resource by NOAA GLERL and Great Lakes scientists throughout the
stewardship, (2) mitigation of potentially hazardous human region. The general goals of this research are to examine
activities, (3) reduced impacts of natural hazards, (4) the causes and consequences of low-oxygen events and
enhanced communication between scientists and managers, harmful algal bloom formations (HABs) in Lake Erie. The
and (5) more effective prioritization of science. ultimate application of this research is to increase our
understanding of anoxia and HABs, which can then be
A Focus on Lake Erie used to develop forecast tools that can aid decision-
making processes. More specifically, IFYLE program goals
The Lake Erie ecosystem faces wide and varied threats to its
are to:
health and integrity, including harmful algal blooms (HABs)
in the west basin, recurring low oxygen episodes (“dead 1. Quantify the spatial extent of hypoxia across the lake,
zones”) in the central basin, and invasive species. Each of and gather information that can help forecast its
these threats has the potential to disrupt normal food web timing, duration, and extent;
and ecosystem processes, and in turn, jeopardize the ability
2. Assess the ecological consequences of hypoxia to the
of Lake Erie to provide valued ecosystem services (e.g.,
Lake Erie food web, including phytoplankton, bacteria,
recreational and commercial fish production, safe drinking
microzooplankton, mesozooplankton, and fish;
water, and clean, bacteria-free beaches).
3. Identify factors that control the timing, extent, and
Four attributes make Lake Erie ideal for piloting the
duration of HAB (including toxin) formation in Lake
development of an ecosystem-forecasting framework. First,
Erie, as well as enhance our ability to use remote
although Lake Erie is large, it is small relative to coastal
sensing as a tool to rapidly map HAB distributions in
marine systems and the other Great Lakes, so cost-effective,
the lake.
NOAA, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory ✦ 4840 S. State Rd. ✦ Ann Arbor, MI ✦ 734-741-2235 ✦ January 2009
Research & Results
The IFYLE program field sampling occurrs from May to
September using a number of research vessels and more
than a dozen observational buoys. Sampling focuses
on physical processes and the entire food web, from
microbes and phytoplankton on up to the highest fish
predators. Understanding how hypoxia can influence fish
Dissolved oxygen concentrations (mg/l) in Lake Erie during
and zooplankton is difficult, however, with the advent of September. Sampling stations are denoted with black dots. Note
new technologies, such as a Plankton Survey System (PSS) the large area of bottom hypoxia (i.e., dissolved oxygen levels < 4
and fish acoustics, we now have the tools needed to shed mg/l) in the central basin, which can be stressful to fish.
insight into this arena.
Early September Transect B - Night Early September Transect B - Day

Water Temperature (oC)


0 30 30
0
23
23 25
-5 -5 22 25

Depth (m)
23 20
PSS Winch -10 -10
20
2210
15 11819
76 15
-15 22 -15 115143
201
1291
111 78
22
2120
19 10 1
10
1634 15 1817
16
1514
13
12 12
22
19 21
18
1720
-20 12 11 -20 16 15
14
5 11 13
12 11 5
11 11
-25 0 -25 0
41.7 41.8 41.9 42.0 42.1 41.7 41.8 41.9 42.0 42.1
0 1000 0 1000
0.40.20.1 10
PSS Measures 400.0600.0 800.0 00.0 .0
00
-5 -5 200.0 .01
- Zooplankton Depth (m) 10 80

PAR (umol m-2s-1)


100 800..00 .0 0 100
Splitbeam Acoustics 406.00.0 60 40.
- Temperature -10 -10 20.0 .0
- Fish Biomass PSS 20
- Dissolved O2 10 10.0
86.0
.0 10
- Light levels PSS Tow Path -15 -15 4.0
2.0 180.0.0
1.0
0.8
0.6
0.4 6 .0
- Chlorophyll a 1 0.2
0.1 1
-20 -20 4.0
.8
2.0 1.000.6 0.4 0.20.1
-25 0.1 -25 0.1
41.7 41.8 41.9 42.0 42.1 18 41.7 41.8 41.9 42.0 42.1
0 9.0 0 18

We use these new technologies to determine how -5 15


-5 15
Depth (m)

9.0

DO (mg l-1)
9.0 12 12
the distribution of phytoplankton, zooplankton, -10

1.8
8
7.8.4
8.4
9
-10 8.4
7.8
7.2
6.6
6.0
5.4
4.8
4.2
3.6
3.0
8.4 9
-15 66.0.67.2 -15 2.4
and fish varies vertically and horizontally in -20
44.2 .85.4
3.03.6
2.4
7.8
7.2
6.6
6.0
5.4
4.8
4.2
3.0
3.6
2.4
6

3 -20
1.8
6.6
7.8
7.2
6.0
5.4
4.8
4.2
3.6
6

3.0 3

relation to oxygen concentrations. Measurements -25


41.7 41.8 41.9 42.0 42.1
0 -25
41.7 41.8 41.9 42.0 42.1
0

Fish Biomass (dB) Zooplankton (mg wet wt l-1)


taken during both the day and night in the hypoxic 0
1.2 1.4
6.0

5.0
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8
6.0

5.0
-5 1.0 -5
zone in the central basin of Lake Erie revealed that 1.2
Depth (m)

0.8 1.0 1.0


8
4.0 1.0 0. 4.0
-10 1.2 -10 1.0

fish like smelt and perch were found in a small -15


0.6 3.0
-15 0.8
3.0

1.2
1.4
0.6 0.6 0.8 1.2
2.0 1.00.8 1.6 2.0
1.0
area in the bottom waters (see arrows on figure at -20 0.4 0.8
0.6 -20
0.4 1.0 0.8 0.6 1.0
-25 0.0 -25 0.0
right) of highest dissolved oxygen concentration, 0
41.7 41.8 41.9 42.0 42.1
0
41.7 41.8 41.9 42.0 42.1

but not in adjacent areas where dissolved oxygen -5 -5


Depth (m)

-10 -10

was less than 2.4 mg/L. This compression of fish -15 -15

into a limited area depletes their food resources -20 -20

-25
and possibly makes them more vulnerable to
-25
41.7 41.8 41.9 42.0 42.1 41.7 41.8 41.9 42.0 42.1

predation by big fish like walleyes if they too move 0 10 20 30


Distance (km)
40 50 60 0 10 20 30
Distance (km)
40 50 60

into the same area. Vanderploeg et al. (in review).

Who is Involved?
The IFYLE program has become the largest international, multidisciplinary research effort of its kind in Lake Erie’s history,
involving scientists from NOAA, 17 different universities, and private institutions spread across 7 states and 4 countries.
Vessel support comes primarily from NOAA Ship Support, US EPA-Great Lakes National Program Office, and NOAA-GLERL,
whereas funds for external researchers were provided by the National Sea Grant College Program and the Ohio, Pennsylvania,
and New York Sea Grant College programs. Environment Canada deployed several moorings to collect physical data, while
the US Army Corps of Engineers provided dock space for vessels. In addition, the project has been offered in-kind support
(e.g., historical data, technical assistance, vessel support)
from all of the state and provincial fishery management For more information about the IFYLE program:
agencies on the lake, including the Ohio Department of Natural
Resources, the New York State Department of Environmental http://www.glerl.noaa.gov/ifyle
Conservation, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Or contact: doran.mason@noaa.gov
the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and the Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources.