Extending the forecast model: Predicting Western Lake Erie harmful algal blooms at multiple spatial scales

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Michigan Tech Research Institute


Lake Erie is a classic case of development, recovery from, and return to eutrophication, hypoxia, and harmful algal blooms. Forecast models are used annually to predict bloom intensity for the whole Western Lake Erie Basin, but do not necessarily reflect nearshore conditions or regional variations, which are important for local stakeholders. In this study we: 1) developed relationships between observed whole basin and nearshore bloom sizes, and 2) updated and extended a Bayesian seasonal bloom forecast model to provide new regional predictions. The western basin was subdivided into 5 km near-shore regions, and bloom start date, size, and intensity were quantified with MODIS-derived images of chlorophyll concentrations for July–October 2002–2016 for each subdivision and for the entire basin. While bloom severity within each subdivision is temporally and spatially unique, it increased over the study period in each subdivision. The models for the 5 km subdivisions explained between 83 and 95% of variability between regional sizes and whole bloom size for US subdivisions and 51% for the Canadian subdivision. By linking predictive basin-wide models to regional regression estimates, we are now able to better predict potential bloom impacts at scales and in specific areas that are vital to the economic well-being of the region and allow for better management responses.

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© 2019 International Association for Great Lakes Research. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jglr.2019.03.004

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Journal of Great Lakes Research