Coordinated Modeling Can Improve Management of Lake Erie, According to International Joint Commission’s Science Advisory Board – Research Coordination Committee


According to a new report from the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) Great Lakes Research Coordination Committee (RCC), computer models used in an adaptive management framework can help assess outcomes of actions aimed at reducing nutrient runoff that feeds harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. The RCC report, Use of Modeling Approaches to Affect Nutrient Management Through Adaptive Management, concludes that improved coordination across models and agencies, achieved through an “adaptive management framework,” can better inform decisions that help protect Lake Erie.

“Tracking progress in reducing nutrient loads to Lake Erie requires modeling to understand the effectiveness of management actions under changing conditions,” said the RCC’s US Co-Chair and Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Ms. Deborah Lee. “Government agencies can use computer models in an ‘adaptive management’ approach to guide changes to on-the-ground efforts, based on these changing conditions,” she said. Adaptive management is the systematic process of assessing the effectiveness of actions and making a corresponding adjustment to future actions.

“This report advises government agencies on how to bridge technical and knowledge gaps by coordinating computer modeling with adaptive management in order to manage Lake Erie’s nutrient pollution,” said the RCC’s Canadian Co-Chair and Division Manager at the Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Mr. Gavin Christie.

The Canadian and US governments have set a binational goal for Lake Erie to reduce nutrient (phosphorus) pollution by 40 percent. To meet this goal, governments are taking actions to reduce nutrient loading. For example, governments encourage landowners who fertilize lands around Lake Erie to select from a variety of “Best Management Practices” (BMPs) that help to keep nutrients out of the waterways. Government management agencies use a variety of computer models that calculate the estimated impact of BMPs and other actions at different spatial and time scales. The new RCC report also summarizes the state-of-the-science on watershed- and lakewide-scale computer modeling to determine if and when actions might achieve the 40 percent reduction goal.

The IJC was established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help Canada and the United States prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters the two countries share. The IJC’s responsibilities include reporting on progress made under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes and connecting waters. The Science Advisory Board – Research Coordination Committee is one of the key advisory groups to the IJC on Great Lakes water quality issues.



Sally Cole-Misch, Public Affairs Officer,, 519-257-6733
Allison Voglesong Zejnati, Communication Contractor,, 519-257-6730
Dr. Lizhu Wang, Biological Scientist, RCC Secretary,, 519-257-6712