Posted by: Vicki Burns | November 6, 2015

Positive News for Baltic Sea – Beacon of Hope for Lake Winnipeg’s Blue-Green Algae Problem

In recent weeks there has been much news about Lake Winnipeg and the challenge of zebra mussels invading the lake and moving northward each day. Unfortunately some of the news spelled doom for the lake due to the effects that zebra mussels are assumed to produce. That is a topic for another day but I want to send the message that all is not lost and we must not give up on efforts to reduce the blue-green algae, some of which is toxic, that fouls the lake each year. The dynamics of the lake’s aquatic system will change but the whole lake need not die.

 Blue-Green Algae Victoria Beach, photo credit - G.McCullough

Blue-Green Algae Victoria Beach, photo credit – G.McCullough

Researchers are now saying that the Baltic Sea is showing signs of recovery and the reason I’m connecting that to possibilities for Lake Winnipeg, is that the Baltic suffers from toxic blue-green algae and zebra mussels. The Baltic Sea began to have serious problems with blue-green algae blooms more than half a century ago, in the 1950s, related to greater quantities of phosphorus and nitrogen running off the land into the water. In the 1980s there were great efforts made to improve wastewater treatment and to decrease inputs from agriculture so that the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen getting into the water was reduced substantially. Those efforts are really paying off now.
We need to make the same thing happen for Lake Winnipeg. The appearance of zebra mussels in the lake should not be an excuse to decrease any efforts or investments in cutting down on the amount of phosphorus getting into the lake. Recently we’ve learned that zebra mussels eat a great deal of algae but they don’t like the blue-green algae so spit it out. Unfortunately that means the blue-greens will have an additional advantage. However it only emphasizes even more the need to take action faster to improve our wastewater treatment and to decrease agricultural run-off.
I am currently awaiting information from Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship regarding the establishment of measurable targets for phosphorus inputs from the tributaries and rivers in Manitoba that are part of the Lake Winnipeg watershed. If we are serious about making progress surely we must establish concrete, measurable targets and then report openly about them each year. If not, are we just paying lip service to saving Lake Winnipeg?

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Responses

  1. Interesting info Vicki. Will the difference between a freshwater Lake versus a Salt water area..make any difference? Good work on your part. thanks. Mo Tipples

    • I know that there will be differences between saltwater and freshwater but the problems are caused by excess nutrients and zebra mussels in both areas. We know that decreasing nutrients, particularly phosphorus in freshwater lakes , makes a positive difference and the situation in the Baltic demonstrates that.


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