Cyanobacterial bloom phenology in Saginaw Bay from MODIS and a comparative look with western Lake Erie

Harmful Algae. 2021 Mar;103:101999. doi: 10.1016/j.hal.2021.101999. Epub 2021 Feb 27.


Saginaw Bay and western Lake Erie basin (WLEB) are eutrophic catchments in the Laurentian Great Lakes that experience annual, summer-time cyanobacterial blooms. Both basins share many features including similar size, shallow depths, and equivalent-sized watersheds. They are geographically close and both basins derive a preponderance of their nutrient supply from a single river. Despite these similarities, the bloom phenology in each basin is quite different. The blooms in Saginaw Bay occur at the same time and place and at the same moderate severity level each year. The WLEB, in contrast, exhibits far greater interannual variability in the timing, location, and severity of the bloom than Saginaw Bay, consistent with greater and more variable phosphorus inputs. Saginaw Bay has bloom biomass that corresponds to relatively mild blooms in WLEB, and also has equivalent phosphorus loads. This result suggests that if inputs of P into the WLEB were reduced to similarly sized loads as Saginaw Bay the most severe blooms would be abated. Above 500 t P input, which occur in WLEB, blooms increase non-linearly indicating any reduction in P-input at the highest inputs levels currently occurring in the WLEB, would yield disproportionately large reductions in cyanobacterial bloom intensity. As the maximum phosphorus loads in Saginaw Bay lie just below this inflection point, shifts in the Saginaw Bay watershed toward greater agriculture uses and less wetlands may substantially increase the risk of more intense cyanobacterial blooms than presently occur.

Keywords: Cyanobacteria; DRP; Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus; Remote Sensing; Saginaw Bay; WLEB; Western Lake Erie basin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bays
  • Cyanobacteria*
  • Eutrophication
  • Lakes*
  • Phosphorus / analysis


  • Phosphorus