Earth Day lessons 2013.04.24

Written by David Green.

earth.mapsp.earth.kayKay Holubik, a resource technician with the Lenawee Conversation District office, had an Earth Day question Monday for Morenci sixth grade students.

Could anyone think of any problems associated with Lake Erie?

“It’s dirty,” a few students were quick to answer.

Another came up with the problem that’s made the news often in recent years: algal blooms.

An excess of nutrients—chiefly from farm fields, but with additional phosphorus from lawn fertilizer and malfunctioning sewer systems—is causing enormous growth in algae. It’s so extensive, Holubik said, that it can be seen from space.

It’s not the first time that Lake Erie has faced environmental challenges. In the 1970s, its plight even made the Dr. Suess book, “The Lorax.”

Lake Erie is the 12th largest body of fresh water in the world, she said, and it’s the most biologically productive of all the Great Lakes. About half of all the wildlife associated with the Great Lakes is found in Lake Erie.

Algae is a natural part of the lakes, but excess nutrients lead to an explosion in the population of the organisms. That, in turn, produces a toxin that kills fish and birds which adversely effects fishing and tourism. Water treatment costs also rise.

Holubik, along with colleague Makena Schultz, explained her agency’s role in helping keep soil in place.

The Conservation District emphasizes the use of field residue and cover crops rather than leaving soil bare. Filter strips along the edges of fields help keep soil in place rather than washing into streams.

Nutrient management emphasizes the proper use of fertilizer such as manure to prevent an excess from washing off. Proper storage of chemicals will help keep groundwater clean.

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