Climate change projected to significantly increase harmful algal blooms in US freshwaters
MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE (August 15, 2017) – Harmful algal blooms known to pose risks to human and environmental health in large freshwater reservoirs and lakes are projected to increase because of climate change, according to a team of researchers led by a Tufts University scientist.
The team developed a modeling framework that predicts that the largest increase in cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (CyanoHABs) would occur in the Northeast region of the United States, but the biggest economic harm would be felt by recreation areas in the Southeast.
The research, which is published in print today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, is part of larger, ongoing efforts among scientists to quantify and monetize the degree to which climate change will impact and damage various U.S. sectors.
"Our study shows that higher water temperature, changes in rainfall, and increased nutrient inputs will combine to cause more frequent occurrence of harmful algal blooms in the future," he added.
Throughout their 3.5 billion-year-old evolutionary history, these organisms have proven resilient and adaptable to a wide range of climates.
It is among the few studies to combine climate projections with a hydrologic/water quality network model of U.S. lakes and reservoirs.
Finally, these water flows and reservoir states are entered into a water quality model to simulate a number of water quality characteristics, including cyanobacteria concentrations, in each of the nation’s waterbodies.
The end result is a framework that can predict the combined impact of climate, population growth, and other factors on future water quality for different U.S. regions.
The research was supported by the U.S. EPA and the U.S. National Science Foundation, and access to the reservoir datasets from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Environmental Science & Technology.