Wednesday, August 24, 2005

High Temperatures at Lake Erie

Lake Erie has been 3-4 degrees above normal for the last three weeks. In the past, high temperatures have been associated with high mortality rates among migratory birds that stop at the lake to feed:

Warm water is one of the factors in the development of type E botulism, a form of food poisoning that has killed tens of thousands of fish and migratory birds along Lake Erie since 2000.

While Biss said there have been no reports of bird deaths along Lake Erie so far this year, a number of dead birds have turned up on the eastern end of Lake Ontario. The DEC has confirmed the presence of type E botulism in those birds.

Although scientists still don't fully understand the process, they believe the birds get the botulism from eating fish who get it from decaying organic material on the lake bottom. Heated water speeds that decay.

Since 2000, tens of thousands of migratory birds such as loons and mergansers have been found dead on the Lake Erie shoreline, victims of botulism poisoning.

The worst year was 2002, when, based on DEC counts of bird carcasses retrieved from geographic grids along the shoreline, 17,000 birds are estimated to have died.