MADISON As the federal government builds on its $1 billion investment to clean up and restore the Great Lakes, an international research consortium has developed innovative new maps of both environmental threats and benefits to help guide cost-effective approaches to environmental remediation of the world's largest fresh water resource.
Writing this week (Dec. 17, 2012) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), a group led by researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison reports on an expansive and detailed effort to map and cross-compare environmental stresses and the ecological services provided by the five lakes, which together encompass more than 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water.
"This study provides a benchmark for understanding restoration in the Great Lakes," says Peter McIntyre, an assistant professor at UW-Madison and one of the report's senior authors. "Until now, restoration has usually been dominated by a piecemeal approach, but our team's synthesis of all major classes of environmental problems provides a more comprehensive perspective."
The Great Lakes basin, home to more than 30 million people, provides drinking water and recreation for millions of people in both the United States and Canada. In addition, the lakes support a host of environmental services ranging from fishing to boating, beach combing to birding, with economic values estimated in the tens of billions of dollars annually.
The lakes are under severe environmental stress from decades of urban, industrial and agricultural runoff pollution, as well as a continuing onslaught of invasive species, climate change and other problems.
"Despite clear societal dependence on the Great Lakes, their condition continues to be degraded by numerous environmental stressors likely to have adverse impacts on species and ecosystems," says David Allan, lead author of the rep
|Contact: Peter McIntyre|
University of Wisconsin-Madison