The recent resurgence of hypoxia and harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, driven substantially by phosphorus loads from agriculture, have led the United States and Canada to begin developing plans to meet new phosphorus load targets. To provide insight into which agricultural management options could help reach these targets, we tested alternative agricultural-land-use and land-management scenarios on phosphorus loads to Lake Erie. These scenarios highlight certain constraints on phosphorus load reductions from changes in the Maumee River Watershed (MRW), which contributes roughly half of the phosphorus load to the lake's western basin. We evaluate the effects on phosphorus loads under nutrient management strategies, reduction of fertilizer applications, employing vegetative buffers, and implementing widespread cover crops and alternative cropping changes. Results indicate that even if fertilizer application ceased, it may take years to see desired decreases in phosphorus loads, especially if we experience greater spring precipitation or snowmelt. Scenarios also indicate that widespread conversions to perennial crops that may be used for biofuel production are capable of substantially reducing phosphorus loads. This work demonstrates that a combination of legacy phosphorus, land management, land use, and climate should all be considered when seeking phosphorus-loading solutions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry