Indicators of Coastal Ecosystem Integrity
Aquatic insects (mayflies, dragonflies, whirligig beetles, water striders, and many others) and other invertebrates (snails, aquatic worms, leeches, scuds, crayfish, clams, etc.) form an important part of Great Lakes nearshore and coastal wetland ecosystems. Although we usually think of these animals as "fish and duck food," aquatic invertebrates play a crucial role in recycling nutrients.
The life cycle and feeding habits of aquatic invertebrates bring them into close contact with bottom sediments, which may contain persistant toxic chemicals. In addition, many invertebrates are sensitive to changes in habitat resulting from erosion and sedimentation, loss or alteration of wetland plant species, nutrient additions, and exotic species. These characteristics make aquatic invertebrates good indicators of the condition of aquatic habitats and ecosystems.