Open lake phosphorus forcing of cladophora growth: Modeling the dual challenge in great lakes trophic state management

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Stimulated by excess levels of phosphorus, the attached, filamentous green alga Cladophora grows to nuisance proportions in Lake Michigan, one of the Laurentian Great Lakes. While near-shore waters impacted by local sources of the nutrient continue to support nuisance conditions, offshore waters have undergone oligotrophication in response to reductions in phosphorus loading and benthification of phosphorus cycling by invasive dreissenid mussels. A concept termed the Dual Challenge recognizes that implementation of more stringent phosphorus‐loading objectives (to control Cladophora in the nearshore) stands in conflict with a foreseen need to mitigate oligo-trophication in the offshore (to sustain a healthy fishery). Attention to this nearshore–offshore dynamic calls into play the role of cross‐margin phosphorus transport in mediating both endmembers of the conflict. We applied a biophysical model simulating soluble reactive (SRP) and particulate (PP) phosphorus, mussel biokinetics, and cross‐margin mass transport in addressing the Dual Chal-lenge. Pre‐ and post‐dreissenid monitoring results suggest that a reduction in offshore PP levels (food web nutrition) in excess of 40% (2.4 to 1.4 mgP.m−3) has driven oligotrophication and attendant food web dysfunction. Yet, in the absence of local sources, model‐predicted nearshore SRP levels remain at or below those required to prevent nuisance growth. These findings indicate that there is a margin of ~1 mgP.m−3 over which offshore PP levels could be increased (to the benefit of the food web and the fishery) without hindering efforts to reduce nuisance algal growth through local source control.

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Water (Switzerland)