2018 Progress Report: Development of a multi-scale management tool for predicting and mitigating HABs in Ohio River watersheds

EPA Grant Number: RD839269
Title: Development of a multi-scale management tool for predicting and mitigating HABs in Ohio River watersheds
Investigators: Sullivan, Mažeika , Pintor, Lauren , Zhao, Kaiguang
Institution: The Ohio State University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2020
Project Period Covered by this Report: January 1, 2018 through December 31,2018
Project Amount: $681,343
RFA: Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Water Quality , Water and Watersheds


The overarching objective of this project is to develop a watershed classification system to diagnose and manage harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the upper Ohio River basin. The goal is a multi-scale, hierarchical tool that links climate and land-use with river physicochemical gradients and ecological condition to predict and prevent HABs. Our overarching hypothesis is that the timing and magnitude of HABs are related to variability in anthropogenic and natural factors in watersheds. Our objectives are to: (1) Determine in-stream characteristics related to distribution, duration, and intensity of HABs, (2) Determine local climate and land-use features strongly linked with HABs, (3) Assess the ability of our system to scale up to large watersheds, and (4) Develop and validate a classification system for use by communities and local and state agencies to predict and prevent HABs.

Progress Summary:

Overall, we are track relative to activities and accomplishments. Permanent project staff has been hired, and seasonal research assistants are hired as necessary. Major equipment has been purchased. There have been no major delays, and barring some minor adjustments to the protocols and timing of activities (many outlined below), our project activities have been in line with the proposal.

Building off research conducted at Ohio stream and reservoir sites sampled since 2016, Indiana and Kentucky site selection and development of sampling protocols were completed for streams and reservoirs in 2 catchments in Indiana and 1 catchment in Kentucky. In the remaining Kentucky catchment, 2 stream sites have been selected and an additional 5 stream sites will be added in 2019. We have collected field data on a suite of stream physiochemical parameters, including water chemistry, nutrients, and stream geomorphic characteristics. Continuous monitoring multiparameter water-quality sondes were deployed in three of the study lakes. Sondes were installed in buoys and programmed to collect measurements of temperature, conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen, organic matter, and chlorophyll every 30 minutes. Thus, we obtained time-series data that will assist in identifying the dynamics and drivers behind blooms. We have also conducted ecological sampling, including fish, aquatic macroinvertebrates, and algae.

To measure microcystin concentrations throughout the catchments, solid phase adsorption toxin tracking (SPATT) bags were deployed. SPATT bags will be send to an external laboratory for toxin analysis. Isotope samples measuring δ18O of phosphate in water were collected at all stream and reservoir sampling locations in 2018 and are in the process of being analyzed. Samples were also collected at Ohio sites in 2017 and are being used to explore spatial variation within and among catchments. Additional annual sampling will be used to explore temporal variation within and among catchments. Isotope samples will also be used to link phosphate to specific land-use sources within each catchment.

We have also been collecting and compiling a suite of environmental variables that are known to be related - either directly or indirectly - to hydrological regimes and water quality. The majority of the data collected are spatially explicit layers representing various environmental covariates such as weather and climate, soil parameters, land use/land cover, crop types, and topography. Additionally, we are in the process of coalescing the multi-year crop type layers from NASA"s cropland data layers to derive a spatial-explicit layer of crop rotation at a resolution of 50 meters.

Future Activities:

Site selection will be completed in spring 2019 with the addition of 5 stream sites in our second Kentucky catchment. A second year of geomorphic, physiochemical, and ecological data will be collected at all stream and reservoir sites in Indiana and Kentucky. Additional data will be collected at Ohio sites where necessary to supplement the three years of existing data. Data buoys will be deployed during the spring, summer, and autumn of the next two years. Commencement of Objectives 3 and 4 will occur in Y2 of the project. Isotopic sampling and model building will continue across all watersheds. The hydrological modeling framework will be configured and will begin to build our global model using statistical modeling (structural equation modeling) to seek predictive relationships from data, which will serve as the basis for our classification system. An initial classification system will be developed and tested to predict harmful algal bloom regime.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 3 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

catchments, cumulative effects, ecological condition, ecosystem, habitat, EPA Regions 4 and 5, Midwest, scaling, sediments, vulnerability

Relevant Websites:

Nitrogen and Phosphorus Dynamics in Agricultural, Forested, and Urban Landscapes