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Characterizing the Link between Algal Bloom Biomass and Methane Production in Ohio Reservoirs

With Ohio WRC funding, Dr. Ishi Buffam and his team study the relationship between algal growth and methane production in Southwest Ohio Reservoirs. To do this, Dr. Buffam's team are looking at co-variation in algae and methane production spatially within a single reservoir, and also among reservoirs ranging from low-nutrient to high-nutrient watersheds. Nutrient pollution produces problematic algae blooms in surface waters. One of the negative consequences of these blooms is that when these algae die off and decompose, they provide food for methane-producing microbes in reservoir bottom sediments. This process increases in-lake production and emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG). This link between algal decomposition and methane production occurs in the lab, but its importance in reservoirs is unknown. This research will provide needed information on GHG-related co-benefits of nutrient reduction, and will help determine factors controlling methane production and emissions from reservoirs, so that methane emissions can be efficiently reduced, without negatively impacting the Ohio economy. The information generated will be communicated directly to the Army Corps of Engineers who manage reservoirs in the region. The research also has a broader relevance since reservoirs are estimated to be responsible for 5-20% of annual human-derived emissions of methane. If you'd like to find out more about other Ohio WRC research projects, visit: https://wrc.osu.edu/past.