urges U-M to take key role in preserving Great Lakes Researchers
at symposium rasie warnings about invasion, diversion
Ann Arbor News
University of Michigan has slipped from its once preeminent
position in Great Lakes research, U-M President Mary Sue
Coleman said Tuesday, and it's a research gap she wants
to rectify because much of Michigan's and the region's
economy is dependent on the health of the lakes
"I can't imagine a
more pressing ecological imperative," she told a symposium
that drew researchers from around the country.
The purpose of the
Great Lakes Symposium was to refocus some of U-M's research
energy back onto the Great Lakes, which contain one-fifth
of the world's fresh water.
"Even though we are
meeting today in Ann Arbor and are essentially landlocked,
we are surrounded by the Great Lakes in a broader sense,"
Presenters from U-M,
Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes agencies and other universities
agreed. Topics focused on whether the Great Lakes are
a disappearing act, the problems of algae and unfishable
species, and how increasing sedimentation harms the lakes.
The symposium was sponsored by the School of Natural Resources
and the Environment, the Office of the Vice President
for Research and Michigan Sea Grant.
Findings - some alarming
- that researchers presented in papers for the symposium
The lakes' water
diversion issues could be further complicated by global
warming-induced evaporation at the rate of 10,000 cubic
feet per second. Imagine the Huron River at flood stage,
double it in volume and you still have less than what
would evaporate from lake surfaces. And "future growth
in consumptive use is potentially significant," said
Steven Wright, a U-M engineering professor who co-authored
a paper on diversion and consumptive use with SNRE professor
Jonathan Bulkley, citing more use of water in beverages
and canned goods in the region. Add that to climate
change, and it's possible the lakes will be hugely affected
without policy changes, he said.
in the Great Lakes are coming in faster than ever and
becoming established more quickly, according to research
presented by SNRE professor David Jude. "The whole thing
is happening a lot faster," he said. That means quicker
alteration of the food web, the ecology of the lakes
and faster, less predictable effects on native species,
such as introduction of disease and competing species.
And with 7 million tons of ballast water dumped in the
lakes every year by ships, invasions will be difficult
to predict and the damage hard to fix, Jude said.
Development in the
Great Lakes basin changes the type of nutrients and
pollution that wind up in rivers and streams, and eventually
the lakes. That has a profound effect on lake ecosystems,
said David Allan, an SNRE professor who presented a
paper on nutrient loads in the lakes. Excess nutrients
cause algae blooms and other impacts that can choke
out other life. Overloads of phosphorus "killed" Lake
Erie in the 1960s and 1970s, until policy changes reduced
the amount of phosphorus being dumped into the waterways.
Those were just a few
areas in which everyone agreed more research is needed.
Those are concerns U-M leaders say they'll be at the forefront
as of now.
Of the research and
work to be done, said Fawwaz Ulaby, U-M vice president
for research, "It is incumbent upon the University of
Michigan to take a lead role."
The symposium is wrapping
up today with the second annual Wege Lecture at 4:30 p.m.
in the Michigan Union ballroom.
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