I have introduced a bill to the Vermont House of Representatives that would require a pilot project to see if increasing the population of aquatic insects would help to lessen the excess nutrients flowing into Lake Champlain.
I learned of this possibility during a workshop about the role of large wood in rivers and streams. Large logs collect smaller branches and twigs. Aquatic insects feed on the biologic film of algae, fungi, and bacteria that form on the surfaces of all the organic material, large and small, and sometimes on the material itself. Insects take up nitrogen and phosphorus from the water flow to use in their bodies temporarily before eventually excreting it. But some insects are eaten by other aquatic creatures, which means the nutrients continue to be sequestered for a longer period. Some insects are eaten by terrestrial creatures, in which case the nutrients may end up out of the water on land.
If you have billions and billions of insects doing this continually, you might end up with a lower level of phosphorus and nitrogen going into the lake.
So the large wood in the streams can provide habitat for insects who could remove some excess nutrients. In addition the large wood helps to collect excess sediment -- gravel and dirt -- to which nitrogen and phosphorus tend to be attached.
The link below will take you to the bill. The first parts are definitions and regulations. Go to Section 4 p. 5 for the bug stuff. "Benthic Macroinvertebrates" is one of my favorate phrases, perhaps second only to "fluvial geomorphology".
This approach is no solution to the problems of the lake, but along with wooded buffer zones and controlling stormwater runoff, why not see if bugs can help us? Why not give it a shot?
I am hoping that the House Fish & Wildlife Committee may take some testimony about this but I wouldn't expect them to actually order a pilot project.
-- Cynthia Browning for BKWA & also Vermont state representative for Arlington, Manchester, Sandgate, and Sunderland.