The new report was produced by a consortium of scientists from nine U.S. and Canadian universities as well as from key government agencies and private conservation organizations. It provides an overall index of the environmental stresses affecting the lakes and, critically, summarizes the information in high-resolution maps of the intensity of environmental problems. The analysis accounts for the impact level of each stressor, which was estimated by surveying 161 scientists and resource managers from across the Great Lakes region.
The study highlights where in the lakes environmental problems are most acute. Areas with the highest levels of cumulative stress, drawn from a list of 34 environmental stressors, include large swathes of Lakes Erie and Ontario, and portions of Lakes Michigan and Huron, including Green Bay, Saginaw Bay and virtually all of the coastal waters of Lake Michigan. By contrast, offshore areas of Lakes Superior and Huron, where human population and development are not as concentrated, exhibit lower environmental stress.
"The Great Lakes have been dying a death of a thousand cuts," says McIntyre. "The maps we've produced, the first of their kind, can help us devise better ways to stem the bleeding."
Indeed, the team reports that many different combinations of environmental problems lead to the degradation observed around the Great Lakes, with most areas experiencing at least a dozen different types of challenges.
"What our team has done is to gather the best data on each of these stressors, and put it all together in a cumulative way," explains McIntyre, who began work on the study as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan and is now a professor at the UW-Madison Center for Limnology.
At present, the federal government's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has successfully identif
|Contact: Peter McIntyre|
University of Wisconsin-Madison