Key actions under this strategy include:
- Enhance in-lake monitoring of algae and hypoxic conditions and research on the factors contributing to these conditions;
- Improve monitoring of phosphorus loads in tributaries and watersheds;
- Invest in research and demonstration initiatives to improve knowledge and understanding of the effectiveness of BMPs, particularly BMPs to control soluble reactive phosphorus;
- Conduct research on factors driving toxicity in harmful algal blooms, including the role of nitrogen; and
- Apply ecosystem models to improve our ability to predict future ecosystem conditions.
A top binational priority is to conduct the necessary research, monitoring and modeling necessary to assess the effectiveness of phosphorus reduction actions on improving algae and hypoxia conditions in Lake Erie and track progress towards achievement of the phosphorus reduction targets and Lake Erie Objectives. Collaboration is needed by scientists from across the basin to assess conditions, identify science gaps and identify the research needed to fill those gaps. Furthermore, research and monitoring of nuisance benthic algae (Cladophora) must be coordinated to support the development of phosphorus reduction targets in eastern Lake Erie.
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the USDA works to determine the effectiveness of various conservation practices by monitoring changes in nutrient losses from fields over time. This type of research is often referred to as "edge-of-field" monitoring since it characterizes nutrients, including phosphorus, leaving the field. The ARS participates in Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) and, as an extension of CEAP, operates an extensive network of edge-of-field monitoring sites.
The Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) is a multi-agency effort, led by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), to quantify the environmental effects of conservation practices and programs and develop the science base for managing the agricultural landscape for environmental quality.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducts edge-of-field monitoring in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) priority watersheds, including the Maumee River basin, to analyze the effects of GLRI-funded best management practices (BMPs) on sediment and nutrient losses from fields.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) conducts monitoring to track changes and identify long-term trends in nutrient and sediment loads to the Great Lakes in 26 major tributaries across the basin. Eight of these tributaries drain directly to Lake Erie, and two others drain to the St. Clair – Detroit River System.
The U.S. EPA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working on a variety of activities to monitor and asses water quality, while also working to develop tools to forecast harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.
This is a partnership among USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Department of Natural & Applied Sciences, Purdue University's Department of Agronomy, and the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Water Science Centers in New York and Wisconsin. The partners will conduct soil health assessments in conjunction with edge-of-field (EoF) water quality monitoring projects established in the GLRI Priority Watersheds. The long-term goal of the project is to document and help build understanding of the relationships between soil health conservation practices and water quality effects of those. The focus of this project is to establish:
- standardized, in-field soil health monitoring protocols for USGS EoF sites
- to create a robust baseline dataset of soil health at USGS EoF sites
- to connect field-scale soil health parameters with the water quality leaving these fields.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) continues to support edge-of-field monitoring efforts and research coming out of the Ohio State University and USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has assisted in the establishing a comprehensive/continuous water quality monitoring network specific to tracking progress toward meeting the Ohio Domestic Action Plan and Annex 4 goals.
Existing monitoring funds will be used to implement an open water monitoring system in western Lake Erie.
The estimated phosphorus loading contributions to the central Lake Erie basin from Pennsylvania tributaries – and the statistical confidence in those loading estimations – require additional focus and effort to assure accuracy.
New York State has established and implemented various programs and initiatives to research water quality issues throughout the state relating to Harmful Algal Blooms. New York State is also committed to participating in the Great Lakes Water Quality Act’s (GLWQA) Annex 4 Cladophora initiatives and research. New York will continue ongoing research efforts on algal blooms both within Lake Erie and other New York waters.
The St. Marys River Watershed Initiative is a paired watershed monitoring and soil health monitoring project.
Only a small portion (about 7 percent) of the Maumee watershed lies within Michigan’s borders. Michigan is partnering with Indiana, Ohio, the U.S. EPA, and the U.S. Geological Survey to ensure appropriate monitoring of the watershed. Though continued monitoring is needed, initial monitoring and analysis has revealed that certain parts of the Maumee watershed in Michigan have higher phosphorus concentrations than others.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is working in collaboration with other Great Lakes stakeholders interested in using wetlands for phosphorus reduction, including The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, academic institutions, and other federal agencies. Research and an engineering evaluation will inform decision-making about the potential for treatment wetlands to be a significant part of controlling phosphorus from agricultural runoff in the Great Lakes.
The Lake Erie watershed has been identified through New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Clean Water Planning Initiative as a high priority for water quality improvement, and Lake Erie is currently the focus of binational efforts under Annex 4 (Nutrients) of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) to assess and reduce nutrient loadings. The objectives of this project are:
- To collect baseline nutrient and sediment water quality data along with discharge that can be used for model development;
- To develop a watershed model that will help focus future water quality improvement efforts in the basin, and;
- Aid in loading calculation and future regional target-setting efforts for nutrient reduction.