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Extreme Events Impacts on Water Quality in the Great Lakes: Prediction and Management of Nutrient Loading in a Changing Climate

Project Leader:
Project Investigators:
Anna M. Michalak, University of Michigan
Arun Agrawal, University of Michigan
David Allan, University of Michigan
Daniel Brown, University of Michigan
Allen Burton, University of Michigan
Joseph Depinto, Limnotech Inc
Mary Anne Evans, University of Michigan
Deborah Huntzinger, University of Michigan
Maria Lemos, University of Michigan
Michael Moore, University of Michigan
Donald Scavia, University of Michigan
Allison Steiner, University of Michigan
+7 more


This project studies water systems in a changing climate through the lens of Sustainability Science, which provides a framework where all systems can move endogenously through time with interactions.
This study will develop an analytical system for the prediction of outcomes and feedbacks among the climate, biogeochemical, and social systems controlling water quality in the Great Lakes region. The focus will be on the expected impact of climate-change-related extreme events on nutrient loading to the Great Lakes, and the development of management systems that are robust and support adaptation in this context. We will select specific analytical scenarios, such as increased drought, extremes in springtime precipitation, changes in snowmelt patterns, and rapid shifts in human water use. A 50-year retrospective analysis will identify feedbacks and parameterize models to predict future changes, and a prognostic analysis will project impacts for 100 years. We will leverage ongoing water quality monitoring and modeling efforts, and perform a gap analysis for additional physical, ecological, biogeochemical, and social data needs. The majority of additional data collection will focus on linking the physical and biogeochemical systems with issues of governance through institutions, information, and incentives, as they shape behavior and policy-making.  Overall, the project will (1) enhance understanding of the expected impacts of climate-change-induced extreme events on water quality, with the Great Lakes as a case study; and (2) create an analytical framework for integrating the human and biogeochemical controls on water quality that transcends the individual SBE, Bio, Eng, and Geo perspectives.


*This project was funded throught the University of Michigan and completed by NE CASC Fellow Alex Bryan.