A form of encephalitis may be killing horses in the northern Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Jo Wagner explains:
A form of Encephalitis may be killing horses in the Northern Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Jo Wagner reports.
Twenty-eight horses with likely cases of “Eastern Equine Encephalitis” have died in Wisconsin in the past few weeks. A national lab has confirmed the disease in one of the horses. It is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Health officials are concerned about the possible outbreak, because mosquitoes can also transfer the disease to humans where it causes flu-like symptoms — in some cases it can even kill people. So researchers in Minnesota and Wisconsin are trapping mosquitoes to test for the virus. In the meantime, Wisconsin state veterinarian Clarence Siroky says residents in several counties are scrambling to get their horses vaccinated.
“What we’re going to see is less and less horses involved but that doesn’t mean there’s less of a problem out there.”
That’s because, while there is a vaccine for horses, there’s none for humans.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mary Jo Wagner.
After taking more than a year to consider the matter, the U.S. has now responded to a report that said a new sense of urgency is needed to restore and protect the Great Lakes. The report was issued by a binational commission overseeing U.S. and Canadian cooperation on lakes issues. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
After taking more than a year to consider the matter, the U.S. has now responded to a report that said a new sense of urgency is needed to restore and protect the Great Lakes. The report was issued by a bi-national commission, overseeing U.S. and Canadian cooperation on lakes issues. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
The International Joint Commission monitors whether the two countries are complying with a water quality agreement, when its reports were released in July of last year. The commission warned that every delay in restoring the health of the lakes carried a steep price. Despite that urgency, the U.S. response to the report was delayed, in part because of the change in administrations in the White House. Mark Elster is an analyst with the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office. He sums up the U.S. response to the I.J.C. report this way.
“I would say we generally agree with most of their recommendations.”
Yet, the U.S. response says it is unable to clean up contamination and stop invasive species quite as quickly as the I.J.C. calls for, and Elster notes the U.S. has to coordinate many of its plans with Canada.
“So, for those bi-national type recommendations, we’ll be in contact with our Canadian colleagues to see if we’re in agreement in the tenor of our responses.”
The Canadian response, similar to the U.S. response, also took a year to be issued. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
In Michigan, the Perrier Group of America is building a water bottling plant near the town of Big Rapids. It’s a project that has raised the ire of local environmental groups, and it’s raised the question of whether groundwater in Great Lakes states should be for sale. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Matt Shafer Powell has the story:
In Michigan, the Perrier Group of America is building a water bottling plant near the town of Big Rapids. It’s a project that has raised the ire of local environmental groups. And it’s raised the question of whether groundwater in Great Lakes states should be for sale. Michigan Radio’s Matt Shafer Powell reports.
Perrier hopes to pump water from the ground, bottle it and sell it.
Terry Swier is President of the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation.
Despite assurances from Perrier, she worries that a plant that pumps more than 700-thousand gallons of water a day will steal water from the area’s lakes and wetlands…
“We are not just talking about the water for the people. We’re also talking about the water for the fish, the mosquitoes, the deer, all of the environment”
But the issue has grown beyond the local impact. Within a few weeks, officials from the Michigan Attorney General’s office hope to release a report on the topic. The question is whether federal law allows Great Lakes governors to prohibit the sale of groundwater-the way they can with Great Lakes water. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Matt Shafer Powell.
The nomination of former Ohio Environmental Protection Agency director Donald Schregardus to be the assistant U.S. EPA Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance is being challenged in the Senate. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Natalie Walston reports:
The nomination of former Ohio Environmental Protection Agency director, Donald Schregardus to be the assistant U.S. EPA administrator for enforcement and compliance is being challenged in the senate. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Natalie Walston reports.
Schregardus was nominated by President Bush to fill the vacant position. But U.S. senators Charles Schumer of New York and Barbara Boxer have placed a hold on Schregardus’s nomination. Schumer says he fears the administration won’t pursue lawsuits against polluting utility companies in the Midwest. New Jersey senators Robert Toricelli and John Corzine have written a letter to Bush criticizing Schregardus’s record on air pollution issues. Schregardus was director of the Ohio EPA for eight years. He left the agency with a backlog of citizen complaints. Schregardus won’t speak with the media until after the confirmation hearings. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Natalie Walston.
The state of Michigan is trying a new approach to stop the spread of foreign aquatic species in the Great Lakes – using a new system to clean ships’ ballast water. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Quinn Klinefelter has more:
The state of Michigan is trying a new approach to stop the spread of foreign aquatic species in the Great Lakes – using a new system to clean ship’s ballast water. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Quinn Klinefelter has more.
A generator deep in the bowels of the Canadian freighter “Federal Yukon” spits copper ion particles at a cargo hold filled with ballast water. The particles poison any creatures living in the water…a second process cleanses the ballast before it’s drained into the Detroit River. It’s a test designed to find – and hopefully eliminate – any species carried in the water that is NOT native to the Great Lakes. Michigan Lt. Governor Dick Posthumous warned the threat from foreign species like zebra mussels is very real.
“Like an uninvited house guest…they come in uninvited…they eat all your food…and then they leave the house all messed-up.”
Posthumous says the Great Lakes Governor’s Association will meet with Canadian leaders this fall in Chicago to try and find ways to prevent the spread of foreign aquatic species. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Quinn Klinefelter.
Researchers are finding that Scottish Highland Cattle,
such as these Rockhill Red Cows, have an appetite for many types
of invasive plants. Photo courtesy of Marv & Ann Rockhill.
Cattle that love to eat thorny shrubs and nasty weeds are proving they can clean up areas infested with invasive plant species. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Jo Wagner has this report:
Cattle that love to eat thorny shrubs and nasty weeds are proving they can clean up areas infested with invasive plant species. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Jo Wagner reports.
For years, land managers have been trying to find better ways to control particularly troublesome plants. Invasive species such as multi-flora rose, prickly ash and wild parsnip used to be held in check by natural fires, or grazing by bison and elk. But ever since wildfires have been mostly controlled, and elk and bison populations have plummeted, many invasive species in the Great Lakes region have been growing out of control. So researchers have been looking for other ways to fight these invaders. At the University of Wisconsin, researchers have been testing Scottish Highland cattle on some fields containing invasive species. Consultant Martha Rosemeyer says the preliminary results look promising…
“One of the things we’ve found out by following the cattle is they really like wild parsnip when it’s young. Out of a field of grass they’ll identify and hone in on the wild parsnip and eat the whole patch of it.”
One of two farms testing the cattle’s weed eating potential is owned by Peter Rathbun. He says on one of the test plots, the parsnip was so high and thick, biologists wouldn’t go in to take samples.
“I was a little concerned, well are the cows going to go in and eat it and get sick, but they went in and ate it and they loved it.”
Rathbun has various weed and brush problems or “junk” as he calls it on 120 acres, including prickly ash, hawthorn, gooseberries and other plants that produce large thickets. He was one of the first farmers in Wisconsin to start raising the highland cattle several years ago and now has around forty animals eating weeds on half his farm. His goal is to return some o the land to its original oak savannah status. So far on his fifteen test plots with and without cattle, the results of grazing Scottish cattle are positive.
“It’s so wonderfully obvious what’s happening because here’s three strands of electric fence. On one side you can walk right through the woods…its no problem – you can see everything there. On the other side it’s dense, you don’t even want to think about walking through it. And this is only after 2 rotations.”
Rotating means moving groups of up to nine cattle around on once-acre test plots. The cattle spend two or three days on select plots each month throughout the summer. Martha Rosemeyer says researchers were interested in the breed of cattle because in Europe, they’re referred to as “eco-cows.” That’s because of their unique ability to eat plants that have inch-long thorns.
“They’ve got really tough tongues – they wrap them around these and pull – so they pull these things up like prickly ash leaves off and aren’t really bothered by thorns. They actually like thorns to rub and scratch…they’ll lean on things and scratch and they’ll break them and change the vegetation in that way too.”
Peter Rathbun says it didn’t take long for his cattle to tackle a patch of prickly ash after the gate into one test plot was opened.
“They ran over to it and started eating the actual bush. And I loved to see the reaction of some of the graduate students who’ve been working on this for a very long time. In their heart of hearts they really had some doubts whether the animals were really going to like to eat the junk.”
Once results are in by the summer of 2003, consultant Martha Rosemeyer says researchers may have a better idea of how effective the cattle will be at permanent eradication of unwanted plants.
“Certainly if you knock down a plant by taking off it’s above ground vegetation a number of times, it weakens the plant and it eventually will die. That’s what we’re hoping will happen but we’re not sure we need to test this and see the results…it’s speculation at this point.”
By comparison, Rosemeyer says on Department of Natural Resources land, a few test pilots were grazed and burned earlier this year to compare the weed control with the Highland cattle. It turned out that combination was too destructive and the burning was discontinued.
Meanwhile, not only do these animals eat through the bad stuff, but they also provide great hamburgers. Rathbun sells the meat as a low fat, very tasty source of protein.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mary Jo Wagner.
Researchers are developing models to try to
determine what the effects of global warming will be on the
Great Lakes region. Photo by Jerry Bielicki.
Researchers are trying to determine how global warming might affect this region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Researchers are trying to determine how global warming might affect this region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Using two different sophisticated computer climate models, researchers are asking questions such as what happens to the water levels in the Great Lakes. Both models predict they drop even farther, causing shipping problems. They predict crops will produce more, and they predict some trees will die off. Peter Sousounis is one of the researchers studying the models. He says the region needs to consider what appears to be happening.
“I’m concerned that we won’t be prepared, we will not have done our homework. I think as a society we can certainly adapt, if we are given enough time. And if we don’t adapt, life might adjust to a new mean state all around.”
While nearly all climatologists believe the earth is warming, not everyone agrees whether the changes will be harmful. Sousounis agrees more research needs to be done to try to determine what the effects might be. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Researchers are developing models to try to
determine what the effects of global warming will be on the
Great Lakes region. Photo by Jerry Bielicki.
Some scientists in the Great Lakes basin are looking at how global warming might be affecting the region, both today and long into the future. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has the story:
Some scientists in the great lakes basin are looking at how global warming
Might be affecting the region, both today and long into the future. The
Great lakes radio consortium’s Lester graham reports.
Many researchers in a number of different fields are coming to the same basic conclusion: the earth is warming and it’s affecting the Great Lakes. So far, the effects have been difficult to track, unlike watching the day-to-day changes in the weather. Measuring climate change requires measurements over many decades, or better yet over centuries. There are only a few places where weather measurements have been taken over that long of a period. But, where they have, researchers are finding weather is becoming more chaotic and indications are that the long-term climate is warming.
Many climatologists believe that warming is due at least in part to greenhouse gases, that is, pollution in the upper atmosphere trapping more of the sun’s heat, much in the same way a greenhouse works.
Taylor Jarnigan is a research ecologist with the U-S Environmental Protection agency who’s been looking at one aspect of climate change. He’s been studying whether increasing amounts of lake effect snow from Lake Superior over the past century, especially the past 50 years, is evidence of a change in the temperature of the lake. Preliminary study suggests that the lake’s surface temperature is warming, and that causes more snow when cold air passes over it. But he says the amount of snow has varied widely from year to year.
“Some of this variability is certainly due –in my opinion– to an increasing volatile climate system itself. El niño and la niña are becoming more intense, so you have an increasing oscillation between, say, an usually warm summer followed by an unusually cold winter which tends to produce an unusually large amount of snow.”
The surface temperature of the lake has only been monitored for a few decades, while snowfall depths have been recorded for much longer. Jarnigan says, since there seems to be a direct correlation between the surface temperature of the lake and snowfall, he can calculate the temperature of the lake going back more than a century, and finds that Lake Superior is getting warmer.
When researchers find direct measurements that have been taken for more than a century, they feel fortunate. For example, John Magnuson with the University of Wisconsin has been reviewing the conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That’s the international organization established by the United Nations to study global warming. As a part of that review, Magnuson has been looking over shipping and harbor records that date back 150 years or more to see if there’s evidence of global warming. One thing he’s learned is that lakes and streams aren’t iced over for as long as they once were.
“And in the last hundred-and-fifty years we’ve seen significant changes in lakes around the entire– lakes and streams around the entire northern hemisphere. The date of freezing on the average and the date of break up is changing by about six days per century.”
And Magnuson says that six day change on both ends of the freeze-thaw cycle mean that there’s nearly two weeks less ice coverage than a century ago.
That seems to bolster research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Ecological Research Laboratory. Studies there indicate that over the last several years Great Lakes ice coverage on average is not as far ranging and doesn’t last as long as it did historically.
There’s no certain way to tell what might happen to the Great Lakes if the apparent warming trend continues.
But there are some ways to speculate. There are at least two computer models that try to estimate how much warmer the climate in the Great Lakes region might become by the year 2090. Based on those models, researchers have tried to figure out what that might mean for the area. Peter Sousounis was working at the University of Michigan at the time of that research. He says using either computer model it looks as though crops would produce more. Soybean yields could double. But other predictions are not as beneficial. It looks as though Great Lakes water levels would drop, probably about three feet more than they’ve already dropped, causing some problems for shipping. The study also found algae production would decrease by 10 to 20 percent. That’s important because algae provide the base for the Great Lakes’ food chain. Pine trees might also be all but eliminated from the region, and Sousounis says dangerously high ozone days might occur twice as often.
“Our findings indicate there are some potentially serious consequences in terms of reduced lake levels impacting shipping across the region, some serious economic impacts that if we don’t learn how to deal with these, there are going to be some serious changes in our lifestyles.”
Critics say the models can’t represent all of the variability in nature, so it’s difficult to be sure about any of the predictions. An adjustment here or there can lead to all kinds of alternative scenarios. Sousounis concedes more work needs to be done and more variables plugged into the models, but he’s convinced change will come; the degree of change is the only question.
These days, very few scientists argue against the studies that suggest the earth is warming. John Magnuson with the University of Wisconsin says a few DO argue that the change might merely be natural climate variability – that is, Mother Nature taking an interesting twist– and not necessarily a warm-up caused by manmade greenhouse gases.
“The skeptics, or the more cautious people, what they do when they look at that range of variation over the last thousand years, what they see is there is a signal in the warming that’s coming above the historic variation of climate. And, the climatologists of the world collectively feel there’s very strong evidence that warming is occurring, that greenhouse gases are a very significant part of that warming.”
Magnuson says most mainstream scientists agree climate change is happening, and even dramatic reductions in greenhouse gases won’t prevent some continued global warming over this century. But most say reducing pollution would slow the rise in temperatures and curtail the warming sooner. Only time will tell how that warming will change the Great Lakes region, and all of the researchers we talked to say in the meantime we’ll likely see more chaotic roller coaster type weather patterns as never before in recorded history.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The Department of Agriculture is expanding its use of alternative fuels generated by farms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The Department of Agriculture is expanding its use of alternative fuels generated by farms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
The USDA is increasing the use of bio-diesel and ethanol. Bio-diesel is a fuel that can be made by refining natural oils such as animal fat, spent cooking oil or soy bean oil. Ethanol is a blend of gasoline and alcohol, usually derived from corn. USDA agencies such as the Forest Service will increase the use of the fuels in fleet vehicles, including cars, tractors, and even boats at agency offices across the nation. Donald Comis is a spokesperson for the Department of Ag.
“It’s a deliberate strategy of the whole federal government to have demonstration areas all over the country so that you won’t have to travel far to see a vehicle or operation like your own.”
While the USDA is promoting bio-diesel and ethanol, some environmental groups say the taxpayer subsidized fuels use too much energy to produce and only survive because of politics. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
A foreign wasp from Europe has made its way to several Great Lakes states this summer. The European Paper Wasp was first detected on the Eastern seaboard in 1980. But as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gina Carrier reports, it’s now being sighted in greater numbers in the Midwest:
A foreign wasp from Europe has made its way to several Great Lakes states this summer. The European Paper Wasp was first detected on the Eastern seaboard in 1980. Now it is being sited in greater numbers in the Midwest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gina Carrier reports.
The European Paper Wasp looks very similar to our native yellow jacket. But it’s not as aggressive and can actually help Midwest gardeners because it likes to feed on certain pesky caterpillars. Tom Ellis is an entomologist at Michigan State University. He says the European paper wasp can be found in central and southeastern Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio and the Chicago area.
“The things that it became accustom to and fed on the eastern seaboard are pretty much similar if not the same to what we have in Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes states certainly.”
He says it’s unknown whether the wasp will continue to move westward. There’s no effort to stop its spread because Ellis says the wasp isn’t destroying crops or foliage. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Gina Carrier.