Because of its size and geometry, the central basin of Lake Erie, one of North America's Great Lakes, is subject to periods in the late summer when dissolved oxygen concentrations are low (hypoxia). An apparent increase in the occurrence of these eutrophic conditions and ‘dead zones’ in recent years has led to increased public concern. The International Field Years for Lake Erie (IFYLE) project of the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL, a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) laboratory), was established in 2005 in response to this increase.
This project is investigating the causes and consequences of hypoxia in the lake. As part of the effort, scientists from the United States and Canada conducted an extensive field study in 2005 to gather more information on the duration and extent of the hypoxic zone and its effects on the biota in the lake. This article gives a brief history and description of the problem and presents initial results from the field study.