Farming is essential to the food supply and economy within Ohio. However, agricultural practices are reaping negative effects on aquatic ecosystems with an excess of phosphorus pollution. Agricultural practices such as; feeding operations, grazing, plowing and fertilizer are responsible for 85% of the phosphorus pollution found within Lake Erie.
The biggest risk associated with the Lake Erie ecosystem and phosphorus pollution is the formation of deadly algal blooms. Algal blooms are known to create dead zones (areas in the water in which there is no oxygen present) because algae consumes all the oxygen in the water, releasing carbon dioxide. Due to the lack of oxygen, very few fish and wildlife species can survive in dead zones. Algae also prevents light from reaching vegetation at the bottom of the lake, blocking photosynthesis and consequently damaging food sources and nursing grounds for aquatic species.
In order to limit the amount of agricultural runoff and number of algae blooms, farming practices must be adjusted. A few techniques that are known to cause less phosphorus pollution are crop rotation, no till agriculture and nutrient/fertilizer management practices. Although new agricultural practices can help, the best way to prevent further growth of algal blooms is through greater education on the risks and causes of blooms.
Agricultural Runoff, Tox Town
Algal Blooms in the Great Lakes, The University of British Columbia (Picture 2)
Damaging Consequences of Agricultural Runoff, Greentumble
Agricultural Runoff Diagram (Picture 3)