Clarifying Science Needs for Determining the Impact of Climate Change on Harmful Algal Blooms in the Southeastern United States

Project Information

Thomas Byl, USGS Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center
Jennifer Cartwright, USGS Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center
Champagne Cunningham, USGS Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center

Proposed Project Completion: March 2023

Implements Science Plan Theme: Impacts

Co-Investigator:
De’Etra Young, Tennessee State University

Overview

The southeast United States has many lakes, streams and reservoirs that serve as important drinking water sources, recreational, agricultural, and ecological uses. Unfortunately, harmful algal blooms are becoming more common in these waters, causing health issues for humans and animals. While it is clear that nutrients stimulate algae growth, it isn’t clear if there are other parameters that stimulate the development of harmful algal blooms. The scientific literature describes additional parameters that may affect algae growth, such as storm occurrence, temperature, dissolved metals, erosion of soils, length of growing season, and hydroperiod. This project will address these different parameters and examine how climate change influences these parameters. We will review existing information in the literature to organize and summarize what is known. We will also reach out to scientists and reservoir managers in the southeastern United States to learn from their experiences and articulate their concerns about harmful algae. This information will be compiled and organized into a comprehensive report that will provide water-resource managers with a clearer picture of the role that climate change and different environmental parameters play in algal blooms. It will also point out weakness in the literature and identify topics that need further study to clarify their importance. A shorter, straightforward bulletin will be written and shared with the public to raise awareness of how climate change will affect development of harmful algal blooms.