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USACE Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom Research and Development Initiatives
Delivering scalable technologies to reduce the frequency and effects of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) to our Nation’s water resources through research, technology development and demonstration
Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) are defined generally as an overgrowth of algae that harms the environment and economy, often giving the water a brown or green soupy appearance (Figure 1). HABs are particularly impactful to the USACE, which manages vast freshwater resources and waterways that provide a variety of services including flood risk reduction, recreation, fish and wildlife management, as well as potable water supply. This website provides an overview of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research Development Center’s (USACE-ERDC) approach to deliver scalable HAB prevention, early detection and management technologies intended to reduce HAB event frequency, severity and duration throughout our Nation’s water resources. A table of all currently-funded projects is provided below, along with program points of contact. If you would like to learn more about ongoing projects or if you are interested in teaming with USACE-ERDC to develop/demonstrate scalable HAB prevention, detection and/or management technologies, please do reach out!
14 Sep 23
New Start Project “CyAN-S2”. CyAN-S2, which stands for Cyanobacteria Assessment Network – Sentinel 2, is an interagency collaboration project that targets development of a national chlorophyll-a product capable of 10 to 60 meter spatial resolution. Cyan-S2 would enable satellite HAB monitoring for > 270,000 lakes and reservoirs and potentially avoid an estimated $42M/year in HAB-associated costs. Checkout the CyAN-S2 factsheet to learn more!
One FY21-start project led by The Ohio State University (left) will explore energy-efficient ultrasound for HAB prevention/control at reservoir scale; pairing ultrasound with hydrogen peroxide treatment has potential to increase effectiveness of both technologies. Preventative treatment of overwintering HAB-causing cyanobacteria cells in sediment (right) will be explored in another FY21-start project led by USACE-ERDC.
The R package, waterquality, developed by ERDC in partnership with the University of Cincinnati, was evaluated for same-day processing of multispectral satellite imagery, revealing relative chlorophyll concentrations along the northern Gulf of Mexico, pre- and post-hurricane Barry in July 2019 (left), while zoomed-in panels (right) reveal shoreline concentrations and changes post-hurricane. A new FY21 project, led by ERDC’s Dr. Richard Johansen, will build upon this work to develop generalizable algorithms so USACE Districts and other end-users can rapidly analyze and interpret satellite imagery for HAB assessment.
The Harmful Algal Bloom Interception, Transformation and Treatment System, HABITATS for short, is a FY19-start, ERDC-led project that was successfully demonstrated in both Florida and New York in FY20. Additional field demonstrations are planned for FY21. (Acronym DAF: dissolved air floatation)
The Harmful Algal Bloom Interception, Transformation and Treatment System, HABITATS for short, is a FY19-start ERDC-led project that was successfully demonstrated in both Florida and New York in FY20. Additional field demonstrations are planned for FY21. (Acronym DAF: dissolved air floatation)
USACE has been directed to develop and demonstrate technologies that will reduce HAB impacts across the Nation. The 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) authorized USACE to implement a 5-year technology demonstration program focused on scalable technologies for HAB detection, prevention and management intended to reduce HAB frequency and effects on our Nation’s water resources. Funding to support implementation of the authorized 5-year program was first received in Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) and was executed under the Aquatic Nuisance Control Research Program (ANCRP). A significant portion of research dollars appropriated in FY19, FY20 and FY21 for USACE’s ANCRP were identified specifically for HAB research.
WRDA 2020 authorized USACE to carry out a demonstration program to determine the causes of HABs, and to implement measures to prevent, detect, and manage them. The 2020 WRDA authorization requires close coordination with, and maximal use of existing data generated by, federal and state partners working to combat HABs. WRDA 2020 identified the Great Lakes, New York, Florida, New Jersey, and Louisiana as geographical focus areas for demonstrations. Federal reservoirs located in the North Platte River Basin (Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska) and the Upper Missouri River Basin (Montana) were identified as additional USACE focus areas.
USACE HAB Prevention, Detection and Management Focus Areas:
USACE is implementing a 5-year technology demonstration program focused on developing scalable technologies to minimize HAB frequency and effects across scales (e.g. small lakes to river reaches), ecoregions (e.g. subtropical FL to temperate OH and NY), and system types (e.g. reservoirs, riverine, lakes). The purpose of USACE-ERDC’s Aquatic Nuisance Control Research Program (ANCRP) is to conduct interdisciplinary research related to the prevention, control, and management of aquatic nuisance species that impact Corps projects and public facilities. HABs and the cyanobacteria that form them are indeed an aquatic nuisance species; thus, executing the HAB R&D program under the ANCRP was a natural fit! HAB prevention, detection and management focus areas are defined below.
HAB Prevention: Many environmental factors influence HAB formation, duration, and intensity. High-density septic discharge and fertilizer-containing agricultural runoff increase surface water nutrient concentrations (e.g. nitrogen, phosphorous), which promote algae growth and HAB formation. Cessation of nutrient inputs and effective legacy nutrient management are recognized long-term HAB prevention strategies. Our state and federal agency partners (e.g. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, others) have excellent ongoing nutrient reduction-focused research programs. USACE-ERDC’s research in the HAB prevention focus area emphasizes novel preventative treatments as opposed to nutrient reduction because other federal agencies are authorized to focus on water quality and it is only implicitly included under the USACE Civil Works mission. For example, ERDC researchers are investigating preventative treatment of HAB-causing algal cells that overwinter in sediment.
HAB Detection: Rapid HAB detection capability is critical for effective risk management. HAB detection includes identification and quantification of cyanobacteria species and their toxins present in freshwater samples. Current methodologies for both species and toxin analysis are costly and/or have long analysis times, which delays critical risk management decision making. Cyanobacteria species likely respond differently to treatment, which underscores the importance of rapid and species-specific analysis to inform swift selection and application of appropriate treatment. ERDC’s research in the HAB detection focus area emphasizes both cyanobacteria and toxin identification and quantitation using innovative technologies. For example, Bowling Green State University is developing a rapid assay and handheld device capable of quantifying seven prevalent cyanobacteria in a single water sample at the same time.
HAB Management: Developing and demonstrating cost-effective HAB management technologies, which can be rapidly deployed and are both scalable and applicable nationwide to reduce risks that large HAB events pose, is a key research focus area. Management technologies include chemical-, physical-, and biological-based means to remove, destroy, or neutralize cyanobacteria cells and the toxins they produce. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. A governing principle of the Corps’ approach to delivering scalable HAB management technologies is ensuring each research project produces performance data relevant to multiple ecoregions to guide optimal technology use for maximum HAB risk reduction. Chemical approaches such as algicides reduce the abundance of cyanobacteria cells but not always their toxins. Physical approaches involve using floating booms or skimmers to physically remove HAB biomass from a water body or may include addition of flocculants to sink cyanobacterial cells out productive water column depths. Biological approaches (e.g. examples here) vary widely in their mechanism and maturity level. The Corps’ has emphasized the HAB management focus area through developing and demonstrating chemical-, physical-, and biological technologies across scales and ecosystems. Ongoing HAB management-focused research project titles are included in the table linked below.
HAB Research Project Titles by Performing Agency
Most projects listed below have factsheets, please click to learn more!
ERDC-led research project titles by research focus area