|Paerl to lead drinking water project in China|
|September 27, 2012|
Hans Paerl, PhD, has been awarded two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, totaling $2.5 million, to lead an international team of researchers working to resolve the ecosystem balance in Lake Taihu, located in the southern part of China's Yangtze River delta. The scientists' work could help safeguard America's water supply.
Lake Taihu was once a pristine lake supplying drinking water to more than 12 million people. Now the lake has become overrun with toxic blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, which can damage the human liver, intestines and nervous system.
Paerl, an aquatic ecologist, is professor of environmental sciences and engineering at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, N.C.
"China provides a unique opportunity to test ideas and management efforts in highly polluted and nutrient-enriched lakes that we predict we will see in North America in the coming decades," said Jennifer DeBruyn, PhD, one of Paerl's collaborators and assistant professor of biosystems engineering and soil science in the University of Tennessee's Institute of Agriculture.
Paerl agrees. "Taihu serves as a 'looking glass,'" he said, "enabling researchers and managers to develop proactive nutrient management strategies aimed at protecting our dwindling freshwater supplies and ensuring sustainability of large lake systems worldwide."
Paerl's research team includes collaborators from five American universities and four Chinese academic institutions. Their goal is to create mathematical models, based on quantitative data generated by state-of-the-art molecular biological techniques, of the ways ecosystems function. They will examine organisms that could be contributing to the algae blooms, including examining their nutrient requirements and thresholds, to obtain a comprehensive picture of how the blooms are created and ultimately controlled.
In the end, they aim to have a science-based strategy to guide Chinese provincial and central government officials in bringing and maintaining Lake Taihu below the toxic algae threshold, a strategy transferable to similar lakes around the world.
The Lake Taihu project is designed to develop stronger academic collaborations with China and to promote a global philosophy for dealing with challenges to drinking water supplies and the sustainability of freshwater ecosystems.
|Last updated September 27, 2012|