Four Ways Climate Change Could Affect Your Lake

The Local Effects of Climate Change Observed Through our Community Lakes

Climate change is an enormous concept that can be hard to wrap your head around. It comes in the form of melting ice caps, stronger storms and more extreme seasonal temperatures. If you’re an avid angler, photographer, swimmer, boater or nature enthusiast, it’s likely that because of climate change you’ll bear witness to astonishing shifts in nature throughout the greater portion of your lifetime. This is especially true with respect to lakes.

2015-07-07-10-01-20Lakes are living laboratories through which we can observe the local effects of climate change in our own communities. Lake ecosystems are defined by a combination of various abiotic and biotic factors. Changes in hydrology, water chemistry, biology or physical properties of a lake can have cascading consequences that may rapidly alter the overall properties of a lake. Most of the time the results are negative and the impacts severe. Recognizing and monitoring the changes that are taking place locally brings the problems of climate change closer to home, which can help raise awareness and inspire environmentally-minded action.

Princeton Hydro has put together a list of four inter-related, climate change induced environmental impacts that can affect lakes and lake communities:

1. Higher temperatures = shifts in flora and fauna populations

The survival of many lake organisms is dependent on the existence of set temperature ranges and ample oxygen levels. The amount of dissolved oxygen (DO) present in a lake is a result of oxygen diffusion from the atmosphere and its production by algae and aquatic plants via photosynthesis. An inverse relationship exists between water temperature and DO concentrations. Due to the physical properties of water, warmer water holds less DO than cooler water.

This is not good news for many flora and fauna, such as fish that can only survive and reproduce in waters of specific temperatures and DO levels. Lower oxygen levels can reduce their ability to feed, spawn and survive. Populations of cold water fishes, such as brown trout and salmon, will be jeopardized by climate change (Kernan, 2015).

358-001-carp-from-churchvilleAlso consider the effects of changing DO levels on fishes that can tolerate these challenging conditions. They will thrive where others struggle, taking advantage of their superior fitness by expanding their area of colonization, increasing population size, and/or becoming a more dominant species in the ecosystem. A big fish in a little pond, you might say. Carp is a common example of a thermo-tolerant fish that can quickly colonize and dominate a lake’s fishery, in the process causing tremendous ecological impact (Kernan, 2010).

2. Less water availability = increased salinity

Just as fish and other aquatic organisms require specific ranges of temperature and dissolved oxygen to exist, they must also live in waters of specific salinity. Droughts are occurring worldwide in greater frequency and intensity. The lack of rain reduces inflow and higher temperatures promote increased evaporation. Diminishing inflow and dropping lake levels are affecting some lakes by concentrating dissolved minerals and increasing their salinity.

Studies of zooplankton, crustaceans and benthic insects have provided evidence of the consequences of elevated salinity levels on organismal health, reproduction and mortality (Hall and Burns, 2002; Herbst, 2013; Schallenberg et al., 2003). While salinity is not directly related to the fitness or survival rate of all aquatic organisms, an increase in salinity does tend to be stressful for many.

3. Nutrient concentrations = increased frequency of harmful algal blooms

Phosphorus is a major nutrient in determining lake health. Too little phosphorus can restrict biological growth, whereas an excess can promote unbounded proliferation of algae and aquatic plants.

before_strawbridgelake2If lake or pond water becomes anoxic at the sediment-water interface (meaning the water has very low or completely zero DO), phosphorus will be released from the sediment. Also some invasive plant species can actually “pump” phosphorus from the sediments and release this excess into the water column (termed luxurious uptake). This internally released and recycled sedimentary phosphorus can greatly influence lake productivity and increase the frequency, magnitude and duration of algae blooms. Rising water temperatures, declining DO and the proliferation of invasive plants are all outcomes of climate change and can lead to increases in a lake’s phosphorus concentrations and the subsequent growth and development of algae and aquatic plants.

Rising water temperatures significantly facilitate and support the development of cyanobacteria (bluegreen algae) blooms. These blooms are also fueled by increasing internal and external phosphorus loading. At very high densities, cyanobacteria may attain harmful algae bloom (HAB) proportions. Elevated concentrations of cyanotoxins may then be produced, and these compounds seriously impact the health of humans, pets and livestock.

rain-garden-imagePhosphorus loading in our local waterways also comes from nonpoint sources, especially stormwater runoff. Climate change is recognized to increase the frequency and magnitude of storm events. Larger storms intensify the mobilization and transport of pollutants from the watershed’s surrounding lakes, thus leading to an increase in nonpoint source loading. Additionally, larger storms cause erosion and instability of streams, again adding to the influx of more phosphorus to our lakes. Shifts in our regular behaviors with regards to fertilizer usage, gardening practices and community clean-ups, as well as the implementation of green-infrastructure stormwater management measures can help decrease storm-related phosphorus loading and lessen the occurrence of HABs.

4. Cumulative effects = invasive species

A lake ecosystem stressed by agents such as disturbance or eutrophication can be even more susceptible to invasive species colonization, a concept coined “invasibility” (Kernan, 2015).

For example, imagine that cold water fish species A has experienced a 50% population decrease as a result of warming water temperatures over ten years. Consequently, the fish’s main prey, species B, has also undergone rapid changes in its population structure. Inversely, it has boomed without its major predator to keep it in check. Following this pattern, the next species level down – species B’s prey, species C – has decreased in population due to intense predation by species B, and so on. Although the ecosystem can potentially achieve equilibrium, it remains in a very unstable and ecologically stressful state for a prolonged period of time. This leads to major changes in the biotic assemblage of the lake and trickle-down changes that affect its recreational use, water quality and aesthetics.

• • •

Although your favorite lake may not experience all or some of these challenges, it is crucial to be aware of the many ways that climate change impacts the Earth. We can’t foresee exactly how much will change, but we can prepare ourselves to adapt to and aid our planet. How to start? Get directly involved in the management of your lake and pond. Decrease nutrient loading and conserve water. Act locally, but think globally. Get out and spread enthusiasm for appreciating and protecting lake ecosystems. Also, check out these tips for improving your lake’s water quality.


References

  1. Hall, Catherine J., and Carolyn W. Burns. “Mortality and Growth Responses of Daphnia Carinata to Increases in Temperature and Salinity.” Freshwater Biology 47.3 (2002): 451-58. Wiley. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  1. Herbst, David B. “Defining Salinity Limits on the Survival and Growth of Benthic Insects for the Conservation Management of Saline Walker Lake, Nevada, USA.” Journal of Insect Conservation 17.5 (2013): 877-83. 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  1. Kernan, M. “Climate Change and the Impact of Invasive Species on Aquatic Ecosystems.” Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management (2015): 321-33. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  1. Kernan, M. R., R. W. Battarbee, and Brian Moss. “Interaction of Climate Change and Eutrophication.” Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems. 1st ed. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 119-51. ResearchGate. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  1. Schallenberg, Marc, Catherine J. Hall, and Carolyn W. Burns. “Consequences of Climate-induced Salinity Increases on Zooplankton Abundance and Diversity in Coastal Lakes”Marine Ecology Progress Series 251 (2003): 181-89. Inter-Research Science Center. Inter-Research. Web. 17

Enjoy Your Labor Day Adventures Responsibly

Princeton Hydro Offers
Seven Tips for Environmentally-Friendly Outdoor Fun

 

Labor Day is right around the corner! Many people will soon be packing up the car with fishing gear, and heading to their favorite lake for a fun-filled weekend.

As biologists, scientists and outdoor enthusiasts, all of us at Princeton Hydro fully enjoy getting outside and having fun in nature. We also take our responsibility to care for and respect our natural surroundings very seriously. We play hard and work hard to protect our natural resources for generations to come.

These seven tips will help you enjoy your Labor Day fishing, boating and outdoor adventures with minimal environmental impact:

  • Before you go, know your local fishing regulations. These laws protect fish and other aquatic species to ensure that the joys of fishing can be shared by everyone well into the future.
  • Reduce the spread of invasive species by thoroughly washing your gear and watercraft before and after your trip. Invasives come in many forms – plants, fungi and animals – and even those of microscopic size can cause major damage.
  • Stay on designated paths to avoid disrupting sensitive and protected areas, like wetlands, shorelines, stream banks and meadows. Disturbing and damaging these sensitive areas can jeopardize the health of the many important species living there.
  • Exercise catch and release best practices. Always keep the health of the fish at the forefront of your activities by using the right gear and employing proper techniques. Get that info by clicking here
  • Use artificial lures or bait that is native to the area you’re fishing in. Live bait that is non-native can introduce invasive species to water sources and cause serious damage to the surrounding environment.
  • Plan ahead and map your trip. Contact the office of land management to learn about permit requirements, area closures and other restrictions. Use this interactive map to find great fishing spots in your area, the fish species you can expect to find at each spot, nearby gear shops, and more!

Armed with these seven tips, you can now enjoy your weekend while feeling rest assured that you’re doing your part to protect the outdoor spaces and wild places we all love to recreate in! Go here to learn about some of the work Princeton Hydro does to restore and protect our natural resources.

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“Respect nature and it will provide you with abundance.”

–compassionkindness.com

Princeton Hydro’s Conservation Spotlight

AMERICAN LITTORAL SOCIETY: SAVING BARNEGAT BAY

This Conservation Spotlight explores and celebrates
the American Littoral Society’s efforts to save Barnegat Bay

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Barnegat Bay stretches 42-miles, primarily along the inner-coast of Ocean County, New Jersey. The “Bay” is nationally recognized as a unique estuarine ecosystem with a variety of different habitats that many species depend on for survival. Due to numerous factors, but especially the development of its watershed and resulting high levels of nitrogen loading from stormwater runoff, the Bay has suffered serious ecological decline.

In an effort to save the Bay, the American Littoral Society developed a multi-faceted Clean Water Project plan, which focuses heavily on one of the Bay’s key issues: eutrophication due to excessive nitrogen loading. In partnership with Princeton Hydro, the Ocean County Soil District and others, American Littoral Society began work to decrease the volume of stormwater runoff and associated pollutants flowing into and damaging the Bay.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 11.58.17 AMIn 2013, American Littoral Society, with assistance provided by Princeton Hydro, successfully secured $1,000,000 in 319(h) implementation funding through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. American Littoral Society then developed an innovative basin ranking matrix. The matrix, created by Princeton Hydro, provides a non-biased, quantitative means of identifying and ranking stormwater management projects having the greatest potential to decrease pollutant loading to the Bay.

With funding secured and a prioritization methodology in place, American Littoral Society then began its work to retrofit antiquated, inefficient stormwater basins throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed. The goal was to reduce runoff through upgraded stormwater management systems emphasizing the application of green infrastructure techniques.

American Littoral Society and Princeton Hydro along with key partners implemented a variety of green infrastructure projects to treat stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social and economic benefits to Barnegat Bay. Completed projects include:

  • 2 Years After Planting was Completed: Laurel Commons, Carnation Basin RetrofitConversion of standard, grassed detention basins into naturalized bio-retention basins, as exemplified by the Laurel Commons Carnation Circle Basin, which now serves as a paradigm for the cost-effective retrofitting of aged, traditional detention basins
  • At Toms River High School North, the installation of tree boxes,
  • At the Toms River Board of Education offices, the replacement of conventional paving with permeable pavement,
  • At multiple sites, the construction of rain gardens,
  • At Toms River High School North, the construction/installation of stormwater management Manufactured Treatment Devices (MTDs)
  • At the Toms River Community Medical Center (RWJ Barnabas Health), the construction of a bio-retention/infiltration basin

Education and outreach have also been key factors in improving the condition of the Bay, including training seminars for engineers, planners and code officials on basin conversion and management of green infrastructure; educational materials and signage; and public involvement in volunteer clean-ups, lawn fertilizer usage reduction, and rain garden and basin planting.  

Through its work with key partners, like Princeton Hydro, and countless volunteers, the American Littoral Society has made notable progress in Barnegat Bay, but much more needs to be done to restore and protect this unique ecosystem. Join the cause to help save Barnegat Bay; contact the American Littoral Society to find out how you can make a difference. 

For a detailed review of each project and an in-depth look at the incredible work being done to save Barnegat Bay, go here and download our brochure.

About the American Littoral Society: The American Littoral Society, founded in 1961, promotes the study and conservation of marine life and habitat, protects the coast from harm, and empowers others to do the same.

How to Improve Water Quality in Your Community

Simple steps lead to big leaps in protecting water quality!
Clean water is essential to the health of communities everywhere! Here are eight things you can do to protect water resources in your community and beyond:
  • Stop mowing near streams and pondsMowing near streams and ponds eliminates the natural protective buffer that tall grasses, shrubs and trees provide. Natural buffers protect against erosion, filter stormwater runoff, reduce harmful pollutant loads and provide habitat for mosquito-eating amphibians, fish, birds and beneficial insects.
  • Reduce lawn fertilizer usage: One of the best ways to support the health of local water resources is to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Not only are they costly, but, when over-applied or if applied right before a rainstorm, the chemicals runoff directly into our local waterways. Before applying, always remember to test your soil, read product labels and check the forecast. Also consider natural alternatives like composting!
  • Host a “Test Your Well” event: Well testing is a great way to promote groundwater protection, help people understand their role in safeguarding drinking water quality, and provide education around the proper disposal of oil, chemicals, pesticides and medicines. Learn how to host an event in your community!
  • Design and construct a rain garden: You’ve heard this one from us before, but, what can we say, we love rain gardens, and rightfully so! They’re cost effective, easy to build and do wonders in reducing erosion, promoting ground water recharge, minimizing flooding and removing pollutants from stormwater runoff. Read all about them!
  • Test and treat your ponds and lakes: Testing your pond/lake water is an important part of preventing problems like harmful weed and algae growth. Princeton Hydro professionals can provide a comprehensive analysis and an array of eco-friendly approaches to control nuisance species and promote the continual health of your pond/lake. Learn more!
  • Reduce erosion and exposed soil on your property: If you notice erosion occurring on your property, planting native plants can really help! Their roots stabilize the soil, reduce erosion and prevent sediment loading in your waterways, which has a huge impact on the water quality of downstream ponds, lakes and reservoirs!
  • Develop a stewardship plan for your community: Bring your community together to help preserve its natural resources. Princeton Hydro’s team of natural resource scientists can help you get the ball rolling by preparing stewardship plans focused on controlling invasive species and protecting the long-term health of open spaces, forests habitats, wetlands and water-quality in your community.
Contact us to discuss how Princeton Hydro can help you protect your local water resources and keep your community healthy for future generations! 
“Water is life, and clean water means health.”
Audrey Hepburn

Preventing Zika Virus & Other Mosquito-Borne Diseases

The start of mosquito season is right around the corner. Princeton Hydro offers simple solutions to reduce mosquito exposure and eliminate mosquito breeding.

Concerns about Zika virus (transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito) arose in Brazil last May and have since quickly escalated. With cases confirmed in over 20 countries across Central and South America, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the virus an international public health emergency. WHO reported that Zika could infect as many as 4 million people by the end of 2016. Additionally, West Nile virus remains a concern throughout the U.S. along with other mosquito-borne illnesses that affect humans, pets and livestock.

With spring rains and warmer temperatures on the horizon, mosquitos of all types will soon be buzzing. As predicted by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, by June we can expect mosquitos carrying the Zika virus to arrive in the Mid-Atlantic States. There are many simple measures that public and private pond and land owners can take in advance of mosquito season to reduce mosquito breeding and lessen the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses without resorting to the use of chemicals.

Here are three simple mosquito-prevention tips for ponds:

  • Eliminate stagnant water by installing a sub-surface aeration system. This will keep the pond thoroughly mixed and properly circulated. Subsurface aeration systems are the most cost-effective and energy-efficient way to maintain proper pond circulation and mixing. DSC02027Agitating the water’s surface interferes with the female mosquito’s ability to lay eggs and the success of mosquito larvae.
  • Along the shoreline of the pond, maintain or create an aquascaped edge dominated by native, non-invasive vegetation. As opposed to a sterile lawn edge, an aquascaped edge provides habitat for mosquito-eating amphibians, fish, birds, and beneficial insects.
  • Prevent grass clippings and lawn fertilizer from entering the pond. Doing so decreases the chance of an algae bloom which could create the still water conditions that favor mosquito breeding.

Additionally, you may want to consider hiring a certified professional to assess your pond and develop a customized management plan. Having your pond inspected by an expert helps you stay informed about your pond’s ecological status and implement measures to prevent/remedy conditions that could create mosquito breeding habitat and promote mosquito related problems.

But that’s not all!

Here are seven things you can do around your home or business property to prevent mosquito breeding:

  • Stagnant water is the perfect habitat for mosquito breeding. IMG_0695Check your property for areas where water easily collects: empty flower pots, buckets, old tires, tire ruts, low spots in lawns and trash cans.
  • Clear clogged rain gutters and storm drains, and keep them free of debris.
  • Regularly change the water in bird baths and pet dishes.
  • Store canoes and small boats upside-down.
  • Check tarps and grill covers for pooled water, and shake them out after a rain storm.
  • Repair leaky outside faucets, pipes and hoses to prevent puddles from forming.

Simply put, if you want to limit mosquito breeding in your pond or on your property, take the time to implement long-term management measures that integrate natural solutions, thereby creating an inhospitable environment for mosquitos. As noted above, this can be accomplished without resorting to chemicals! In addition to keeping your pond properly circulated, employ preventative practices that eliminate potential mosquito-breeding areas around your property, and regularly inspect areas to help quickly identify and resolve developing mosquito populations.

Princeton Hydro offers a full complement of services, including detailed water quality analysis, adaptive management plans and field services covering all areas of pond maintenance. Our team of certified lake and pond managers, wetland scientists, and water resource engineers can provide you with the expertise needed to diagnose the cause of pond problems and develop solutions that are environmentally sound and cost-effective. Contact Princeton Hydro to discuss how we can help you!

Read an interesting article about the origins of Zika here.