Climate Change and Nutrient Loading in the Western Lake Erie Basin: Warming Can Counteract a Wetter Future

Margaret M. Kalcic, Rebecca Logsdon Muenich, Samantha Basile, Allison L. Steiner, Christine Kirchhoff, Donald Scavia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


In the past 20 years, Lake Erie has experienced a resurgence of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia driven by increased nutrient loading from its agriculturally dominated watersheds. The increase in phosphorus loading, specifically the dissolved reactive portion, has been attributed to a combination of changing climate and agricultural management. While many management practices and strategies have been identified to reduce phosphorus loads, the impacts of future climate remain uncertain. This is particularly the case for the Great Lakes region because many global climate models do not accurately represent the land-lake interactions that govern regional climate. For this study, we used midcentury (2046-2065) climate projections from one global model and four regional dynamically downscaled models as drivers for the Soil and Water Assessment Tool configured for the Maumee River watershed, the source of almost 50% of Lake Erie's Western Basin phosphorus load. Our findings suggest that future warming may lead to less nutrient runoff due to increased evapotranspiration and decreased snowfall, despite projected moderate increases in intensity and overall amount of precipitation. Results highlight the benefits of considering multiple environmental drivers in determining the fate of nutrients in the environment and demonstrate a need to improve approaches for climate change assessment using watershed models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7543-7550
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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