Enhanced Water Quality Monitoring in Sturgeon Bay
Phosphorus—The building block of the aquatic food web
Phosphorus is a key component in the photosynthesis of plants. These plants then get eaten by tiny organisms called phytoplankton and zooplankton that in turn get eaten by aquatic insects, which get eaten by fish. This process continues all the way up to the top predators, such as eagles and bears, making phosphorus a building block for a healthy aquatic food web.
With the introduction of invasive zebra mussels and quagga mussels—effective phosphorus removers—some areas of Georgian Bay are experiencing low levels of phosphorus. The balance of phosphorus in a lake or embayment is key to its health.
Phosphorus is created naturally by the erosion of rock, but exacerbated by human activities such as soil erosion from development, failing septic systems, the use of detergents, human and animal waste, as well as runoff from farmland or fertilised lawns and gardens.
Why Monitor Total Phosphorus?
Total Phosphorus is the nutrient that controls the growth of algae. High levels of phosphorus can lead to eutrophication, a process that results in the excessive growth of plants and algae. When these plants die and decompose, oxygen levels drop dramatically leading to the die-off of fish, invertebrates and other aquatic animals. Algal blooms make water less attractive for swimming and boating, and can make the water smell and taste foul. Dangerous toxins can be produced by blue-green cyanobacteria that can affect humans and wildlife. Excess phosphorus has been measured on Georgian Bay in locations typically characterized by embayments with limited water exchange (with G Bay).