Microscopic Monsters Are Real Battle of Lake Erie

May 17, 2016 Posted by: Kathie Holbrook

 View of Memorial with the lake and islands in fore and background

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial stands like a sentinel watching over the site of the War of 1812's Battle of Lake Erie.Today, the Monument towers over an ongoing environmental battle of non-native or alien invasive aquatic species. Invasive species are one of the major factors contributing to the cause of instability and ecosystem change around the world.The monument also towers over a harbor that brings in 35,000 boats and a 25 acre Park that brings in about 150,000 visitors per summer.

View of Put-in-Bay with Harmful Algal Bloom

This provides an interpretive opportunity to get the word out about combating invasive species. One invasive species is the zebra mussel.This controversial mollusk hitchhiked on ocean-going ships from the Caspian and Black Seas to the Great Lakes, Mississippi River and California.Zebra mussel's crime is that it: crowds out native mussels, devours food that native species need and clogs pipes at power and water treatment plants.The zebra mussel and another similar invasive called the quagga mussel produce wastes that increase toxic mycrocystis algae blooms. Mycrosystis is the aggressive beast of water algae and has gained the most attention from Great Lakes scientists in the last two decades. Mycrosystis tops the list of offenders in the battle against invasive species in Lake Erie.This beast is not a true algae but is actually classified as a cyanobacteria that mimics blue-green algae by photosynthesizing.

This microscopic toxic monster is the blue-green villain behind Lake Erie's history of water woes. During the summer of 2014, the City of Toledo, Ohio and other areas surrounding the Western Basin of Lake Erie ordered "No Drinking or Bathing Use" from treated water systems because of high levels of the toxin produced by microcystis. Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and warms up faster than the others. Mycrosystis grows best in warm water with lots of nutrients. Communities surrounding Lake Erie provide plenty of nutrients in nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer and sewage run-off.

Temporary sign closing beach due to Harmful Algal Bloom


The very potent toxic produced by microcystis is microcystin and reduces the effectiveness of the immune system, causes skin rashes, stomach aches, nausea, dizziness and kidney and liver damage. Even after the blue-green mycrocystis dies, it is a problem.It releases toxins and uses up oxygen as it decomposes. This contributes to the growing dead zones that have no oxygen at the depths of Lake Erie.

The staff at Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial is working diligently to get the word out to our visitors that Lake Erie is not just at risk but has been compromised. GLRI posters and DVDs, talks, children's programs, special events and activities, rack cards and a hands-on exhibit all help to get the word out about solutions to the invasive species problems.Microcystis is one that will not be disappearing in the near future.

Check back on the next blog to see what citizens can do to stop the tiny microscopic monsters and help keep our Great Lakes great.

Park Ranger on a beach

Ranger Kathie A. Holbrook

Great lakes Restoration Initiative Ranger at Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

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Last updated: August 26, 2016

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