Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Outsized nutrient contributions from small tributaries to a Great Lake

October 26, 2020

Excessive nutrient inputs from tributary streams and rivers contribute to harmful algal blooms and coastal ecosystem degradation worldwide. However, the role that small tributaries play in coastal nutrient dynamics remains unknown because most monitoring and regulatory efforts focus only on the largest tributaries. We combined a 6-d sampling effort with discharge modeling to characterize nutrient inputs from nearly all watersheds draining to the world’s fifth largest lake. We found that streams are particularly likely to promote eutrophication in coastal ecosystems because they deliver water with higher concentrations of nutrients that are readily available to algae. Thus, our findings indicate that efforts to control nutrient loading could be enhanced by looking beyond the largest tributaries to include smaller streams.

Publication Year 2020
Title Outsized nutrient contributions from small tributaries to a Great Lake
DOI 10.1073/pnas.2001376117
Authors Robert J Mooney, Emily H. Stanley, William C. Rosenthal, Peter C. Esselman, Anthony D Kendall, Peter B. McIntyre
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Index ID 70216168
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center