The Research Behind the Restoration

As lakes across the United States experience more frequent and aggressive outbreaks of golden algae, it has become imperative that lake management organizations learn to mitigate this harmful algae. SAMLARC has partnered with science and engineering professionals to determine the primary causes of golden algae and responsible methods of deterring harmful algal blooms within the Lago Santa Margarita. This partnership includes the Lake Ad Hoc Committee (including a veteran water quality engineer and NOAA fisheries biologist), architectural engineering firm Woodard & Curran, and leading algal ecology scholar Dr. David Caron.

Dr. Caron is the University of Southern California Associates Captain Allan Hancock Chair in Marine Science, a Professor of Biological Sciences, and head researcher of the USC Caron Protistan Aquatic Microbial Ecology Lab. In 2017, SAMLARC, the Lake Mission Viejo Association, and the Woodbridge Village Association commissioned an on-site study by Dr. Caron to determine possible ways to manage golden algae blooms. He examined each lake’s nutrient levels in comparison to known golden algae environments and compiled recommendations for each lake to reduce the chances of further outbreaks.

Of the three lakes, the Lago Santa Margarita demonstrated the highest concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus: essential nutrients for algal growth. Additionally, the Lake contained relatively high levels of salinity due to surface water evaporation. The combination of these factors creates a “tipping point,” which means the Lake environment fosters harmful algal blooms.